IDF inquiry indicates soldier stepped on Hezbollah landmine

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JERUSALEM — The Israel Defense Force's preliminary inquiry into last Friday's botched raid in south Lebanon indicates that a member of the naval commando unit stepped on a Hezbollah mine, subsequently drawing gunfire and triggering off at least one of the explosives they were carrying.

According to Israel's Channel 1, the IDF report claimed that the unit split up into small groups and, as four commandos crossed the road toward their target, one of them stepped on a mine.

Following the raid that left 11 dead, one missing and presumed dead, and four wounded, Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Amnon Lipkin-Shahak appointed an inquiry headed by Maj. Gen. Gabi Ophir. Although the inquiry has not released its official findings, the Channel 1 report claimed that information the panel has collected points to a serious intelligence failure. Intelligence officers should have known about the mines laid by Hezbollah in the area.

In addition, the report stated that the commando unit was carrying three explosive devices with them. One, carried by Third Petty Officer Itamar Ilya, exploded; another was returned with the unit; it is still unclear what happened to the third.

The IDF spokesman refused to comment on the report, stating that the inquiry is still carrying out its investigation. Members of the investigating team have questioned commandos and compared the types of explosives and the injuries suffered by the unit.

Meanwhile, in a televised press conference, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah hosted the 30-man unit that fought the commandos. The unit's commander, speaking with his back to the camera, said, "We knew they were coming; we heard the Israelis speaking in Hebrew and detonated the explosives."

Nasrallah also confirmed reports that he had been approached by several parties regarding the return of Ilya's remains. He refused to elaborate but stressed that any exchange would involve "live" Lebanese detainees held by Israel and the South Lebanese Army.