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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Israel Retaliates for Hezbollah Attack

MARJAYOUN, Lebanon -- Hezbollah guerrillas have killed five Israeli soldiers and wounded six in a daybreak ambush in occupied south Lebanon in the deadliest violence in the area in two months, security sources said.

Israeli forces retaliated Monday by shelling Shiite Moslem villages and guerrilla trails near the market town of Nabatiyeh, killing a Lebanese soldier and wounding a civilian man, police in Nabatiyeh said.

The Iranian-backed Hezbollah, or Party of God, claimed responsibility for the hit-and-run ambush between the villages of Dabshe and Ali Taher in the central sector of the south Lebanon border enclave occupied by Israel.

"Our [holy warriors] ambushed and raked an Israeli patrol with rocket and machine-gun fire at Dabshe area, killing and wounding all enemy soldiers of the patrol," said a Hezbollah communiqu?.

Hezbollah guerrillas are spearheading a war of attrition to dislodge Israel from the enclave it has held since 1985 to protect its northern towns from cross-border guerrilla raids.

An Israeli-backed militia deployed in the area, the South Lebanon Army, or SLA, is also a guerrilla target.

The reported death toll makes Monday's clashes the deadliest shootout in the area since a U.S.-brokered cease-fire halted Israel's 16-day bombing blitz against Lebanon-based guerrillas in April. At least 165 people, mostly Lebanese civilians, were killed in the Israeli onslaught.

The cease-fire prohibits attacks on civilians on both sides of the Lebanese-Israeli border but does not preclude operations against military targets in the enclave.

Four Israelis -- three army officers and one soldier -- were killed in a guerrilla ambush the day after Israelis elected hard-line leader Benjamin Netanyahu prime minister on May 29.

The Israeli patrol was returning to base after a night mission to track guerrilla infiltrators when it was caught in Monday's 20-minute ambush, security sources said on condition of anonymity from inside the enclave.

Security sources in a UN-policed area straddling the enclave confirmed the Israeli casualties on Monday.

There was no immediate word from the Israeli army on the clashes, but outgoing Prime Minister Shimon Peres and the armed forces chief of staff, Lieutenant General Amnon Shahak, met with senior army commanders in northern Israel Monday.

Peres was scheduled to discuss the south Lebanon situation later Monday in a meeting with Netanyahu. The Israeli victims were evacuated by helicopter to northern Israel, sources said. Two of the wounded were reported to be in serious condition.

A United Nations spokesman in south Lebanon said Monday's clash was serious.

"Our position observed a clash of a major magnitude breaking out in the Ali Taher area in south Lebanon in the early morning hours," spokesman Timur Goksel said. "UN observation posts could not determine the number of victims."

On Sunday, at least two soldiers were injured when a pair of roadside bombs ripped through military patrols belonging to Israel and the SLA militia.

No one claimed responsibility for the first attack, but Hezbollah said it was behind the second.

Israeli forces responded by shelling nearby villages and guerrilla routes.