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ABC Australia :: Last Update: Sunday, August 20, 2006. 5:49pm (AEST)
Israel says it will continue to carry out raids in Lebanon aimed at halting the flow of weapons to Hezbollah, despite complaints from Lebanon and the United Nations that a raid yesterday violated the UN-mandated cease-fire.
Israeli Environment Minister Gideon Ezra says his country’s Army will not stop its flights to the region to stop the transfer of arms from Syria as long as the Lebanese Army and international forces are not deployed.
An Israeli Lieutenant Colonel was killed and another officer was seriously injured in the helicopter-borne raid near the town of Baalbek in eastern Lebanon.
Three Hezbollah guerillas were also killed.
Israeli war planes fired missiles to keep Hezbollah fighters at bay while helicopters extracted Special Forces Unit commandos, who were masquerading as a group of Lebanese soldiers, along with their vehicles.
The UN envoy to the Middle East, Terje Rod Larsen, says he is worried the raid could damage the UN’s efforts to expand the peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon.
“Such incidents projects an image of insecurity in southern Lebanon, which does not motivate the necessary troop contributors to come forward with troops which are necessary for this international force,” he said.
Lebanon has also warned it could suspend the deployment of troops to the south in the wake of the raid.
Implemented on Monday, the cease-fire ended almost five weeks of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah that killed at least 1,183 Lebanese people and 157 Israelis, most of them soldiers.
The UN resolution also mandated a strengthened UN peacekeeping force of 15,000 troops, alongside an equal number of Lebanese soldiers in south Lebanon.
The UN wants to field an advance force of 3,500 troops by September 2 and the entire complement by November 4.