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Late News: Nine Israeli soldiers were killed in southern Lebanon, and 27 others were believed to be wounded in fighting in Bint Jbeil, a town in southern Lebanon that military officials had described as being under almost total Israeli control. China asked the U.N. Security Council to condemn Israel's killing of four U.N. peacekeepers. Israel said the attack was an accident and promised to investigate. The U.S. will honor its commitment to provide Israel with precision-guided missiles, President Bush said when asked about a report in The New York Times that the U.S. was rushing Israel a standing order so that Israel could more effectively strike Hizbullah targets in Lebanon.


Nine IDF Soldiers Killed in Bitter South Lebanon Fighting

By Ha'aretz

Nine Israel Defense Forces soldiers died Wednesday and 27 others were injured in the hardest day of fighting in southern Lebanon since the war began two weeks ago. Five of the injured soldiers are in serious condition. The IDF believes that Hizbullah lost 15 of its fighters in Wednesday's fighting.

Eight of the IDF dead - five soldiers and three officers - were from the Golani Brigade; they were killed in fighting in the town of Bint Jbail. The ninth soldier, a paratrooper, was killed Tuesday night in Maroun Ras.

The IDF began its operation against Bint Jbail on Monday morning. By Tuesday evening, troops from the Golani and Paratroops Brigades had taken up positions on the outskirts of the town, and Golani soldiers had also entered some of the homes.

According to initial reports, the terrorists managed to ambush the IDF forces as they approached several homes on the outskirts of the town. Many of the Golani casualties occurred during this initial encounter, which took place at very close range.

The initial battle raged for about an hour. During the next three hours, other platoons entered the area in an attempt to extricate the force that was pinned down. Hizbullah forces fired antitank missiles and threw grenades at the force it had caught in its ambush, and it also used mortars to attack the supporting IDF units.

A total of 22 soldiers suffered injuries, including two platoon commanders. Three of the casualties were seriously wounded, four were moderately hurt and 15 had light wounds. The evacuation of the injured was particularly difficult because of the heavy fire in the area.

The IDF's Northern Command was initially reluctant to deploy attack helicopters in the battle, due to concerns that Hizbullah might succeed in shooting down one of them. However, the delay in the evacuation of the wounded led to a decision to deploy the helicopters.

The evacuation, which was finally accomplished only six hours after the start of the battle, utilized four Blackhawk helicopters that landed two kilometers from the scene of the fighting. The soldiers carried their injured comrades on foot to the improvised landing strip.

While the operation was being carried out, Bint Jbail was subjected to heavy and sustained fire, and the helicopter landing area was covered in smoke in order to conceal the choppers' presence from Hizbullah snipers and missiles. The helicopters stayed on the ground no more than a minute each before evacuating the wounded to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.

The fighting in the town continued into the evening, and included aerial attacks on the center of the town by the Israel Air Force.

Later in the evening, in the nearby town of Maroun Ras, Hizbullah terrorists fired an antitank missile at a force of paratroopers, killing one and seriously wounding two others. Another paratrooper suffered moderate injuries and two others were lightly hurt. All were evacuated to Rambam Medical Center in Haifa.

Maj. Gen. Udi Adam, the GOC Northern Command, said Wednesday that "the soldiers displayed sangfroid, bravery and professionalism after they came under fire, and they succeeded in killing many terrorists. In the IDF, we estimate that at least 15 Hizbullah were killed in the village. There are also assessments that put the number of casualties on the Lebanese side at 40 to 50 dead fighters."

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert plans to meet with the security cabinet Thursday morning to discuss the possibility of expanding the IDF operation in southern Lebanon.

Olmert convened a late-night meeting Wednesday with the group of seven ministers who are part of the security cabinet to discuss options and exchange views about the continuation of the operation in view of the rising casualties in battles against Hizbullah and the continued Katyusha rocket attacks against northern Israel.

It appears that the army is gradually moving away from its previous tactic of raids targeting specific positions along the border, in favor of one of capturing and temporarily holding a security zone whose aim would be to push the rocket launchers further north. This strategy will not completely prevent the rocket attacks, but it will limit the scope of the threat against northern Israel.

At Thursday's cabinet meeting, a number of ministers are expected to express bitter criticism of the handling of the war in the north, including its aims and the nature of the ground operations particularly following the heavy casualties in Wednesday's operations.


23 Reported Dead in Israeli Strikes on Gaza

By IsraelNationalNews.com

IDF tank, artillery and air force units killed at least 11 Arab terrorists in the Gaza region Wednesday. Twelve others also died in the raids as the IDF intensified efforts to find Cpl. Gilad Shalit, whom Hamas terrorists kidnapped last month.

Among the killed terrorists were from the Hamas organization, one from Islamic Jihad and one from the Popular Resistance Committee. No IDF casualties have been reported.

In all, some 200 Hamas terrorists in Gaza have been killed so far in the past weeks of anti-terror warfare. Israel Air Force aircraft attacked terrorist stockrooms in Gaza City. No breakthrough in the destruction of the terrorist infrastructures in Gaza has been reported, but a gradual decrease in their capabilities has been noted.

Lt.Col. Guy Biton told Ynet, "The fighting is very complex. Terrorists are firing anti-tank rockets at us. They come to within 100 meters in order to hit our vehicles and weapons."

Three Kassam rockets were fired from Gaza and hit the community of Netiv HaAsarah Wednesday afternoon. Earlier, a Kassam was fired towards Ashkelon, and another one towards the western Negev; no damage or casualties were reported. Two Kassams were fired on Tuesday, lightly wounding one person, and several others were launched on Monday.


Rabbis and Kabbalists Lead Thousands In Prayer

By IsraelNationalNews.com

Thousands of Jews turned out at prayer vigils on Tuesday to entreat the God of Israel to protect and defend the Jewish State. Tuesday marked the eve of a new Hebrew month - the month of Av - a day that is traditionally set aside for special prayer.

The massive attacks on Israel's civilian population and army along the Lebanese border in the north and the border with Gaza in the south brought out Jews of all types to pour out their hearts in supplication.

The main vigil was held at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, led by the Chief Rabbis of the State of Israel and other leading rabbinic figures. Earlier at the Wall, Rabbi Daniel Dov HaCohen Stavsky gathered together 400 worshippers to recite the special Tikun Hatzot [Midnight Rectification] prayer.

Throughout the year, the Tikun Hatzot is recited exclusively after midnight, but according to a tradition instituted by the father of modern Kabbalah, the late Rabbi Yitzhak Luria of Tzfat, it is to be recited in the afternoon during the three weeks leading up to the Ninth of Av. This day of traditional Jewish mourning commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples. The 400 participants recited Tikun Hatzot with their shoes removed and seated on low stools or on the ground, as is customary for mourners.

At nightfall, a large crowd participated in the traditional march around the former gates to the Holy Temple in the Old City of Jerusalem, an event that is held near the eve of a new Hebrew month.



Former Israeli Prime Minister Sharon Transferred to Intensive Care

By VOA News

Israeli medical officials said former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has been transferred to the intensive care unit of a Tel Aviv hospital for kidney dialysis.

The 78-year-old former political leader has been in a coma for six months, since suffering a massive stroke on January 4.

A hospital spokesperson, Anat Dolev, said Sharon was taken to intensive care Wednesday so doctors could remove excess fluids that have accumulated in his body as a result of kidney failure. Earlier in the week, hospital officials said that Sharon's condition had deteriorated, noting the accumulation of fluids and changes in his brain tissue.


Canadian-Israeli Professor Arrested on Suspicion of Spying for Hizbullah

By Ha'aretz

A Canadian-Israeli professor has been held by Israeli authorities for 18 days without access to a lawyer, on suspicion of spying for Hizbullah and Iranian intelligence agents. A gag order on the case was lifted Wednesday after Ha'aretz appealed to Nazareth Magistrates Court.

Prof. Ghazi Falah was arrested while touring the Rosh Hanikra area, on July 8, four days before the outbreak of the current conflict in Lebanon. He was approached by individuals who identified themselves as security officials, and who instructed him to stop photographing. Falah refused, and after an argument, was arrested.

Falah, a professor of geography at the University of Akron, said he had taken the pictures as part of his academic research.

Before Wednesday, Falah had not been permitted to speak to his lawyer, Hussein Abu Hussein. The police and the Shin Bet security service repeatedly refused to lift the gag order placed on this case, despite wide publicity in media sources in Canada, the U.S. and Britain.

According to security officials, Falah is suspected of "spying for hostile sources, with the goal of harming state security," apparently in reference to his alleged connections with Hizbullah and Iranian intelligence.

They hinted that Falah was allegedly sent by these sources to photograph various locations and to report where rockets have landed in Israel.

Security officials said Falah was photographing a military antenna in Rosh Hanikra. He recently took a trip to Beirut, and two years before visited Iran.

Falah has denied all suspicions against him, claiming the purpose of his trip to Beirut had to been to organize an international conference on geography in the Arab world. Falah said his trip to Tehran had been in the company of Alex Murphy, former head of the American Geography Association, and was solely for academic purposes.

"I am a geographer and an Academic researcher, and I have never made any connections secret or illegal with intelligence or terror sources," Falah told Ha'aretz in a statement given by his lawyer.

Falah said all the pictures he had taken along the length of the strip outside of Nahariya were designated for his research, and the rest of the pictures were similar to those he took during his visits in Lebanon from Tyre southward until Israel. Falah's remand was extended Wednesday by four days. His lawyer, Hussein, has appealed to the Haifa District Court against the extension.


Is Hizbullah Sending Text Messages to Israelis?

By YnetNews.com

"Now Now Now ..Go out from your home Hizballah willing shelling of the area. Israel Government cheating you and refuse recognition defeat," reads a text message received by dozens of Orange cell phone service subscribers Wednesday. Dozens of Israeli customers of the service provider received those unexpected SMS messages on their phones Wednesday evening.

It was not yet clear whether Hizbullah operatives were in fact behind the messages of intimidation, or whether the messages were no more than a joke in poor taste by other network subscribers.

Upon receiving the message, Shlomit Morad from Or Akiva next to Caesarea, told Ynet, "I immediately understood that someone managed to break into the Orange database and that it of course wasn't a personal message. This is their psychological warfare. The message came from a foreign number and not a recognized number."

Hizbullah rockets have not hit the Or Akiva area, some distance south of Haifa, although the terror organization has threatened to target areas south of Haifa such as Netanya and Tel Aviv. "I immediately understood that it was related to the events here. My daughter also got the same message to her cell phone. I called Orange to report it, and they took all the details," Morad added.

Regarding how she felt upon receiving the message, Morad said, "I'm generally stressed by the situation. But we can deal with this – it's not as horrible as all the other things happening in this war." But all the same, she did not completely disregard the cautions. "Maybe now it is our turn. We're getting ready," she said.

Uri Goldberg, a resident of Herzliya near Tel Aviv also received the SMS. "I was surprised by the message, a little amused, but not particularly frightened. I'm not taking it seriously. I don't think someone would send would send me a little message to warn of future bombardments. But I give them credit – they really could be sending text messages, it's not completely unrealistic."

Rani Rahav, a spokesperson for Orange, responded that the text messages were coming from a small service provider "somewhere out there in the Pacific Ocean. We are working right now to block the provider from transmitting further messages to Orange customers."
















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