Israeli soldiers captured after guerrilla rocket attack

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The Independent Online

The pro-Iranian Hezbollah said its guerrillas captured a number of Israeli soldiers on Saturday.

The pro-Iranian Hezbollah said its guerrillas captured a number of Israeli soldiers on Saturday.

"Members of the resistance have captured a number of Israeli soldiers," a Hezbollah statement carried by the group's Manar television station said.

The kidnapping came shortly after guerrillas fired rockets Israeli positions in the disputed Chebaa farms near the Israeli border.

State-run television TeleLiban had reported the abduction earlier, saying, "According to exclusive information, a number of enemy soldiers have fallen prisoners in the hands of the Lebanese resistance," said a TeleLiban report.

It did not give further information.

The abduction of the Israeli troops followed an attack with rockets by unidentified guerrillas against three Israeli military positions in Sammaka, Ruweisat Alam and the Chebaa gate in the disputed Chebaa farms near the Israeli border.

The pro-Iranian Hezbollah has warned its attacks on Israel could resume if Israeli forces remained in the disputed Chebaa farms region that Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and that Syria and Lebanon have said should be returned to Lebanon.

The shooting marked the first time that rockets have been fired from the Lebanese side since Israel ended its 18-year occupation of south Lebanon in May.

The attack came shortly after Israel opened fire on demonstrators that had arrived by buses from Palestinian refugee camps, gathering at the Yarin Gate, a former border crossing, to protest Israeli actions in more than a week of clashes with Palestinians.

At least one person was killed and 14 people were injured by Israeli fire around Yarin. Two of the wounded were in serious condition and were rushed to a hospital in the southern port of Tyre, according to the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The demonstrators continued to throw stones and shout obscenities at the Israelis following the shooting, said the witnesses.

Later, they lobbed Molotov cocktails at a fortified Israeli position a few meters (yards) across the border. As flames erupted from the position, Israeli soldiers were seen abandoning it, according to witnesses.

The demonstrators also burned tires as they chanted "Allahu Akbar" (God is Great).

In Israel, officials said the army had been prepared for such an onslaught since Friday night. Maj. Gen. Gabi, the Israeli army commander for the border area, spoke with a commander from the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon and asked him to tell the Lebanese government that Israel would use an iron hand in repelling any attempt to enter.

The Israeli army believed the demonstrators wanted to storm the Israeli border community of Sarit, said the officials on condition of anonymity. Israeli army trucks equipped with loudspeakers called on the protesters to return to Lebanon, firing in the air and then at their feet.

The Israeli army confirmed that live ammunition was used in the confrontation.

Srulik Tayeb, a Sarit resident, told Israel army radio that the protesters began banging on the fence, and Israeli troops eventually opened fire.

"About 11 or 12 buses reached the border fence. About 500 to 600 people got out, some with flags," Tayeb said. "They marched toward the fence. They began banging on the fence."

He said the protesters were wounded as they "tried to climb the fence and tried to come over to our side."

"We are all scared," added Tayeb. "Everyone has taken their kids; we are putting them into (underground) shelters. The whole community is in shock."