Four Israeli soldiers killed on second day of major Maroun er Ras battle in S. Lebanon Thursday: Major Binyamin Hilman, 27, from Raanana, 1st Sgt. Rafan-El Muskal, 21, from Mazkeret Batiya, 1st Sgt.

All four, members of the Egoz Special Operations unit, were killed Thursday, July 20, and 6 soldiers injured, in heavy fighting against Hizballah just inside the Lebanese border opposite Avivim north of Safed. Hizballah suffered heavy losses. They fired rockets at Safed from inside the Lebanese mountain village. The HIzballah crews hide in dozens of tunnels and lay in ambush for Israeli forces, claiming six Israeli soldiers` lives.
Earlier Thursday, 3 Israeli soldiers were injured, one seriously, by Hizballah anti-tank missiles in the same sector.
Maroun er Ras is also where 1st Sgt. Yonatan Hadasi, 21, from Kibbutz Merhavia, and 1st Sgt. Yotam Gilboa, 21, from Kibbutz Maoz Haim lost their lives in a fierce battle with Hizballah Wednesday, July 19. Nine members of the unit were injured.
debkafile‘s military sources report the epic battle evolved from a small Israeli special forces operation just inside Lebanon at noon Wednesday, July 19, to blow up Hizballah positions and destroy small fortified tunnels riddling the hills.
The tunnels were assumed to be unoccupied. The Israel force were horrified to find the first packed with Hizballah fighters heavily armed with automatic weapons, mortars and anti-tank missiles. The force took casualties in the first blast of fire. At least one tank was blown up. The combat quickly spread to additional sectors of the warfront, joined by Hizballah fighters who sprang out of more secret tunnels which the Israeli force had not known were there.
After several hours of heavy exchanges, Israel’s top brass and northern command were forced to look at a number of painful facts:
1. Hizballah had pulled the wool over their eyes. While pretending to be forced back by massive Israeli air attacks, its fighters went underground. When chief of staff Dan Halutz and other generals announced the Hizballah’s first line of fortifications had been flattened, the line had simply dropped out of sight. Building small tunnels over large areas to conceal small fighter squads was a favorite Vietcong ruse against the Americans in the 1960s and 1970s.
2. Hizballah was not fighting a static war out of the tunnels but working to an organized mobile battle plan. As the fighting grew fierce, and the IDF pumped reinforcements into the battle arena, so too did Hizballah, moving them nimbly from tunnel to tunnel in defensive and offensive roles.
3. By afternoon, the engagement had escalated from a contest over the Maroun er Ras tunnels to a decisive battle between Hizballah and the IDF for control of the Lebanese-Israeli border.
4. The two sides were locked in such close combat that the Israelis were constrained from bringing their helicopter gunships into play for decisive strikes against Hizballah fighters. The same difficulty confronted IDF tank guns.
5. In addition to engaging Israeli special forces at three points in south Lebanon from Maroun er Ras in the east to Rosh Hanikra in the west, Hizballah commandos staged incursions of their own. They made repeated attempts to breach the Israeli border and capture stretches of land in Western Galilee. Israeli forces engaged them in heavy battle Wednesday afternoon at Rosh Hanikra.

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