Four soldiers killed in fighting; Pilot killed as 2 helicopters collide

Friday, July 21, 2006 |  Staff Writer
Four Israeli soldiers were killed in heavy fighting with Hizballah terrorists in the Lebanese village of Maroun al-Ras, near Israel’s Moshav Avivim, where much fighting has taken place in recent days. Six soldiers were wounded.

The rescue attempt of the wounded soldiers was carried out under heavy fire. During the operation, Israeli forces struck at least six terror cells containing dozens of terrorists.

The army said that the area is difficult to navigate and Hizballah is taking advantage of this for the element of surprise. Israeli intelligence officials believe Hizballah is operating in large forces within the villages and is guarding weapons stored there.

An initial investigation into the attacks Thursday evening found that terrorists spent a long planning the attack. "There were a number of sniper positions," an officer said.

In an unrelated incident, two Apache combat helicopters on the way to Lebanon crashed in mid-air south of Kiryat Shmona, killing the pilot of one and wounding three soldiers.

Circumstances of the incident were unclear, but Israeli officials said they believe the crash was an accident and not caused by Hizballah firing at the choppers. According to an initial investigation, the helicopters apparently made contact in mid-air and then prepared for an emergency landing that went bad.

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