IDF Counterattacks on Second Front, Reserves Called Up

IDF tanks and ground troops entered Lebanon after two IDF soldiers were captured and eight killed in an attack on Israel's northern border Wednesday. The army and air force called up reserves.

Hana Levi Julian and Ezra HaLevi, | updated: 12:55

The counter-attack came in the wake of a massive multi-pronged assault in which the Hizbullah terror group launched a series of attacks on Israeli military positions and northern towns Wednesday morning. Israel is now fighting battles on two fronts - Gaza and the northern border.

Katyusha rockets slammed into northern Israel, threatening communities along the border, while heavy artillery shelled targets in Israel as well.

An Israeli tank drove over a landmine, killing four soldiers instantly, with a fifth later dying of his wounds after trying to pull his buddies out of the burning tank.

In addition, three soldiers were killed when their armored jeep was attacked. Two more soldiers in the same jeep, also wounded, were taken captive by the terrorists and transported to a remote location. Their whereabouts and condition remain unknown at this time.

Channel 10 reported Hizbullah has demanded the release of thousands of imprisoned terrorists, forming a united front with the kidnappers of Cpl. Gilad Shalit in their demands. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert responded that Israel holds the Lebanese government fully accountable for the attacks and welfare of the soldiers.

Late Wednesday morning a full IDF division received "Order 8s" - immediate emergency call-up orders for reservists. By Wednesday evening IAF reservists were also called to active duty.

Israel Air Force planes bombed bridges leading northward from Lebanon’s southern border in order to prevent the movement of the kidnappers. Meanwhile IAF helicopters and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) combed the air above Lebanon searching for the captured soldiers as well.

Israeli bombers were spotted early Wednesday afternoon flying over the Lebanese capital of Beirut. Massive shelling by IDF artillery on both land and sea was reported – striking at least 17 targets across southern Lebanon, including a bridge. Two Lebanese civilians and one Lebanese soldier were killed in the attack. IAF aircraft later struck a guerilla base reportedly linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) near the city of Sidon.

Residents in the northern communities of Nahariya and Kiryat Shemona were ordered by the IDF into shelters and "secure rooms" for the night. Throughout the evening, IDF ground forces continued to search the area in an effort to gather the remains of their comrades.

Defense officials sought approval for a much wider offensive which was discussed at Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's emergency Security Cabinet session Wednesday evening. The full cabinet met shortly after, and Olmert was set to meet with Knesset opposition leader, Likud party Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu. Sources in the IDF Chief of Staff's office quoted COS Dan Halutz as calling for Lebanon's infrastructure to be reverted back fifty years. Olmert called the attack "an act of war" by a sovereign nation.

This is the first time the IDF has launched a large-scale re-entry into Lebanon since then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak initiated a unilateral IDF retreat from the region in May, 2000. Since then, Hizbullah has kidnapped three IDF soldiers, launched several cross-border attacks and fired missiles at northern Israeli towns. The group has thousands of missile batteries deployed all along the border facing Israel.

The National Union and National Religious Party lost no time in annoucning its support for the government in the current security situation, saying there would be no preconditions and no demand for cabinet portfolios.

Yisrael Beitenu party Chairman Avigdor Lieberman voiced similar sentiments: “In times like these, there is no opposition and no coalition. We are one people, committed to restoring security for Israel’s citizens.”

Knesset member and former Speaker Reuven Rivlin (Likud) said, “We must come to grips with the fact that we are at war and act accordingly.”