Cycle of violence continues: 4 Israelis dead in Lebanon

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JERUSALEM — Two Israeli soldiers were killed early Sunday morning by a roadside explosion in southern Lebanon.

Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it came in response to the death of 18-year-old Hadi Nasrallah, the son of Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, during an earlier clash last weekend.

Two other Israeli soldiers, and at least three Hezbollah fighters, died in clashes Friday of last week.

Meanwhile, six Lebanese army soldiers were killed last Friday by Israeli air strikes that were launched after troops reported that Lebanese soldiers were fighting alongside Hezbollah units.

There was speculation in Israel of a swap of Hadi Nasrallah's body for the remains of Itamar Ilya, a naval commando who died in a failed commando raid north of the security zone on Sept. 5. Eleven other commandos died in that raid, but Ilya's was the only body not returned to Israel.

The deaths of the two Israeli soldiers early Sunday — Staff Sgt. Ofir Basoul, 21, of Kfar Saba, and Staff Sgt. Roslan Yosipov, 21, of Nesher — brought to 15 the number of Israeli troops killed in southern Lebanon during the past two weeks.

A total of 33 Israel Defense Force soldiers have been killed in Lebanon since the start of the year.

The recent rise in the number of fatalities has renewed debate in Israel over the army's presence in the security zone. Defenders of the policy say it is necessary to protect Israel's northern settlements until a political agreement is reached.

But critics of the Israeli presence in Lebanon have argued that it only leads to more casualties.

Labor Party Knesset member Yossi Beilin recently joined forces with a grassroots group of mothers of IDF soldiers, demanding that the army pull out of the security zone.

Public Security Minister Avigdor Kahalani said Sunday that he favored a pullout of Israeli troops, which would be replaced by a multinational force.

Kahalani warned that the continued IDF presence in the security zone would only lead to more losses and further demoralization of the public.

The IDF chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Amnon Shahak, said Sunday that there was no clear answer to the situation in Lebanon.

"There are definite signs of fatigue in Israeli society. There are some who want a quick and clear solution. I don't believe we have definitive, sharp and agreed solutions that can be implemented quickly without taking risks."