Israel launches raid on eastern Lebanon
CBC News | August 19, 200
Israeli commandos launched a raid on eastern Lebanon on Saturday and battled Hezbollah fighters in the first large-scale violation of Monday's UN ceasefire.
At least one Israeli soldier and three Hezbollah fighters were killed in the clashes in the Bekaa Valley, outside the village of Boudai west of Baalbek.
The Israelis were said to have moved deep into a Hezbollah stronghold. The raid was aimed at stopping the smuggling of arms to Hezbollah from Syria, the Israeli military said.
"If the Syrians and Iran continue to arm Hezbollah in violation of the [ceasefire] resolution, Israel is entitled to act to defend the principle of the arms embargo," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said.
Lebanese PM decries Israeli action
Lebanon's prime minister, Fuad Saniora, called the Israeli action a "flagrant violation" of the ceasefire.
The Israelis destroyed a bridge, witnesses said.
Late Friday, Israeli military planes and aerial drones were seen flying over the area and over the north of Lebanon.
The planes came under anti-aircraft fire but didn't open fire themselves, said news reports from the region.
The Bekaa Valley was hit heavily during the 34-day conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, which ended Monday under the terms of a United Nations truce. The terms include the presence of 15,000 Lebanese troops and a 15,000-person-strong UN force.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, French soldiers began landing in Lebanon to join the UN force.
About 50 French troops helped prepare for the arrival of about 200 more soldiers who are expected next week, Cmdr. Bertrand Bonneau, a French military spokesman, told reporters.
'A first step'
"Today this is the first step," he said. "France is the first country to deploy additional troops in the region."
Italy has approved sending a contingent of troops that could number up to 3,000, which would make it one of the biggest contributors to the force.
Turkish news reports say Ankara could send up to 5,000 troops. Other countries that have offered to send troops include Bangladesh, Nepal, Finland, Norway and Brunei.
A number of other countries have said they are considering how to contribute to the force, which could include sending land troops, logistical support or naval vessels.