Hezbollah fire kills 3 Israeli soldiers in security zone

Three Israeli soldiers were killed and three others were wounded in a long-range Hezbollah mortar attack in the south Lebanon security zone on Thursday of last week.

The soldiers were identified as Capt. Assaf Rosenfeld, 21, of Akko; Staff Sgt. Ronen Eshel, 21, of Rishon Lezion; and Staff Sgt. Ronni Diviri, age not available, of Tel Aviv.

Those killed were from the same Givati Brigade unit as Sgt. Nikolai Rappaport, who was killed in a Hezbollah ambush earlier last month. Rosenfeld was his commanding officer.

The last fatality prior to Rappaport's death was in October. Since then 23 soldiers have been wounded.

The attack sparked heavy exchanges in the region, with Israeli Defense Force gunners blasting suspected Hezbollah targets north of the security zone.

Reports from Lebanon said at least two Hezbollah gunmen were killed in a separate clash.

Major Gen. Amiram Levine said the soldiers staffing the position, including the unit commander, had followed regulations and had entered bunkers and protected rooms.

Questions, however, are likely to be raised over the recently improved protection for IDF and South Lebanese Army outposts since this site apparently did not withstand the test of fire.

Levine maintained that the incident did not mark an escalation in the fighting. He noted, however, that there had been an increase in Hezbollah firing from north of the zone.

This was primarily due to the heavy losses suffered by Hezbollah in recent weeks, which forced the organization to use long-range fire instead of trying to infiltrate the zone.

Levine maintained that the IDF is in control in the field and along the routes in the security zone, although there are sometimes serious attacks.

Meanwhile, the Four Mothers movement is holding demonstrations outside the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Haifa and elsewhere in the country as part of its campaign pushing for the IDF's withdrawal from south Lebanon.

Knesset members from the Movement for a Peaceful Departure from Lebanon also visited the dead soldiers' outpost. MKs Yossi Beilin and Nissim Zvilli, both of Labor, and Naomi Chazan and Dedi Zucker, both of Meretz, met with soldiers and officers at the position.