In some of the heaviest fighting in the south this year, Hizbullah fighters launched a massive offensive Saturday, over-running an outpost, capturing an SLA militiaman and an armored personnel carrier and causing several casualties among the occupation troops.
In a well-organized and pre-planned assault, Hizbullah fighters hit around 14 SLA and Israeli outposts simultaneously at 5am Saturday.
The offensive concentrated on the western sector with the fighters launching a ground assault on the ‘old’ Beit Yahoun compound. Security sources said that while a team of fighters advanced on the SLA-manned compound, Hizbullah units laid down heavy covering fire, pinning down the militiamen in the neighboring ‘new’ Beit Yahoun position and nearby outposts at Haddatha and Braachit. As one squad approached the outpost, crossing a minefield and cutting barbed wire barricades, a second team headed towards the Beit Yahoun crossing point to seize the gate from the SLA.
Video footage released by Hizbullah showed the guerrillas shooting up the compound with machine guns while a fighter used a loud hailer to urge the militiamen to surrender. One blood-spattered SLA member heeded the attackers’ advice and was hauled over the wall of the compound by the resistance fighters. The militiaman was identified as Mohammed Bassam, 19, from Ain Atta.
Under covering fire, a guerrilla clambered into the compound and drove off with an armored personnel carrier. One militiaman was killed in the assault and seven others wounded. Israeli artillery meanwhile staged a heavy bombardment north of Beit Yahoun, wounding Zeinab Nasr, 15, and Dibeh Ghazzawi, 17, in Aita Jabal. Warplanes also fired rockets in the area around Jbaa in Iqlim al-Touffah. Israeli helicopter gunships approached the scene and fired four missiles, but were warded off by guerrillas firing surface-to-air missiles.
One Israeli soldier and a civilian were wounded when the radar station at Biyada came under mortar fire. Another militiaman was reported captured Sunday when Hizbullah guerrillas snatched Assad Tormos from the Tallousa outpost in the central sector.
The success of the high-profile operations are expected to help reverse last week’s propaganda set-back, when clashes between the resistance and the occupation forces left a number of civilians dead and wounded. But security sources said Saturday’s attacks would have required several days of planning and were not a direct response to the civilian casualties. The assaults would appear to be part of Hizbullah’s present strategy of maintaining “qualitative” operations casualty inflicting close-quarter attacks rather than routine long-range shelling.