MARJAYOUN, Lebanon (Reuters) – Hizbollah guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers and killed up to seven Israelis in violence on either side of the Lebanese border on Wednesday, further inflaming Middle East tensions.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert described the Hizbollah attacks as an "act of war" by Lebanon and promised a "very painful and far-reaching" response.
Two Lebanese civilians were killed and five people wounded in retaliatory Israeli air strikes after Hizbollah announced it had captured the Israelis.
Israeli ground forces crossed into Lebanon to search for the captured soldiers, Israeli Army Radio said. Hizbollah and the Lebanese authorities said there was no large-scale incursion.
Israeli troops have not struck deep into Lebanon since they withdrew from a southern border strip in 2000 after waging an 18-year war of attrition with Hizbollah’s Shi’ite fighters.
Israel is already engaged in an expanding military offensive in the Gaza Strip launched after Palestinian militants captured a soldier in a cross-border raid on June 25.
"Fulfilling its pledge to liberate the (Arab) prisoners and detainees, the Islamic Resistance … captured two Israeli soldiers at the border with occupied Palestine," the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Hizbollah said in a statement.
"The two captives were transferred to a safe place," it said, without stating what condition the soldiers were in.
A senior Lebanese political source said Hizbollah was willing to discuss exchanging prisoners held in Israel with the two Israeli soldiers captured on Wednesday. A Hizbollah spokesman refused to comment.
Israellycool is liveblogging the latest news.
I guess with all the back and forth going on between Hamas and Israel, poor ol’ Hezbollah has been feeling neglected … methinks they’re going to be very, very sorry they’ve done this.