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Israeli Soldiers Killed in Lebanon

January 31, 2000

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ Guerrillas attacked an Israeli patrol near a major outpost in southern Lebanon today, killing two Israeli soldiers and wounding five others, Lebanese security officials said.

Before and after today’s attack on the patrol, Israeli warplanes staged air raids against suspected guerrilla positions in areas facing the Israeli-occupied zone in southern Lebanon. There was no immediate word on casualties from the airstrikes.

The guerrilla attack on the patrol occurred shortly before midday near the Israeli outpost at Beaufort, a Crusader-era mountaintop castle with a commanding view of southern Lebanon and northern Israel, the officials said in southern Lebanon.

There were conflicting reports as to whether the guerrillas had planted a roadside bomb _ a favorite weapon against Israeli troops and allied militiamen _ or staged an ambush by guerrillas firing rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, or a combination of both tactics.

The attack occurred on a road between Taibe village and Deir Mimas, more than two miles south of the castle.

Israel made no immediate comment.

In Beirut, officials of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrilla group claimed responsibility for the attack, which came a day after Hezbollah guerrillas killed a senior commander of the South Lebanon Army, a militia armed and paid for by Israel.

SLA fighters were preparing today to bury Col. Akl Hashem, who was killed by a bomb outside his house in the Israeli-occupied zone. He had been considered the No. 2 man in the militia.

Another soldier was killed Tuesday in a guerrilla rocket attack on one of the outposts along the northern edge of the Israeli-occupied zone.

Israeli leaders have warned that rising hostilities in Lebanon could undermine chances for peace with Syria, the main power broker in Lebanon.

The SLA’s 2,500 soldiers help 1,500 Israeli soldiers control a swath of South Lebanon occupied by Israel. Israel calls the area a security zone, using it as a buffer against guerrillas attacks on its northern towns. Hezbollah is leading the war to liberate the area.

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