- The Washington Times - Monday, August 7, 2006

TEL AVIV — Israel said yesterday it has captured one of the Hezbollah militants whose cross-border raid started the 26-day-old war, raising hopes that his interrogation will yield clues to the whereabouts of two kidnapped Israeli soldiers.

Hezbollah rockets, meanwhile, claimed their heaviest toll of the war, killing 12 reserve soldiers in a direct hit on their position near the Lebanese border and three civilians in a barrage on the city of Haifa.

Israel’s military intelligence chief announced the capture of the Hezbollah guerrilla during a regular weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

Maj. Gen. Amos Yedlin said the army had discovered during their interrogation of the man that he had participated in the abduction of soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. Eight Israeli soldiers were killed in the July 12 operation and a retaliatory Israeli raid.

The army hopes that the captured guerrilla will provide it with valuable information regarding the whereabouts of the two soldiers. Israel has made their safe return a key condition of any deal to end the war.

The fighting continued relentlessly yesterday as both sides sought to score gains ahead of an expected U.N. resolution, with Israel suffering its heaviest one-day military loss at the village of Kfar Giladi, just outside the Lebanese border.

A rocket exploded among a group of reservists who were mustered in the village awaiting orders to move into Lebanon, where some 10,000 Israeli troops are battling yard-by-yard against well-entrenched Hezbollah forces.

“We arrived with a large team, and we saw a difficult scene,” first-aid official Eli Peretz told the Ynet news Web site. “A whole group was hit, part of it very hard.”

Initial reports said the strike killed 12 of the soldiers and wounded five.

Hezbollah also unleased its heaviest rocket barrage yet on Haifa, Israel’s third-largest city, which had been relatively quiet for the past week. The rockets brought down two buildings on their residents, killing three and wounding at least 40 others.

Footage of the bombardment showed a small mushroom cloud of fire in the middle of the city.

Israel later reported its air force had destroyed the launchers used in the attack. Media reports said the rockets were fired from Qana, a village in southern Lebanon, where Israeli fire a week ago killed 28 civilians, many of them children.

Israeli said Hezbollah was responsible for the deaths because it placed its rocket launchers in civilian neighborhoods.

Israeli air strikes were also reported in the southern suburbs of Beirut — a Hezbollah stronghold — and just outside the southern coastal city of Tyre, where many journalists and relief officials are based.

Five members of one family were crushed in their home and others were reported trapped under the rubble of buildings, with rescue workers unable to reach them because of continued bombing.

The Associated Press said 12 civilians, one soldier and a Palestinian militant were killed on the Lebanese side yesterday. It said the war has now killed 93 Israelis — including 45 soldiers, the 12 reservists and 36 civilians.

Israel’s attacks on Lebanon have killed at least 591 persons, including 509 civilians, 29 Lebanese soldiers and 53 Hezbollah guerrillas, the AP said.

Mr. Goldwasser’s family members said they were encouraged by the capture of the Hezbollah militant and hoped it would lead to the rescue of the kidnapped soldier.

“I would like to know what he says about the kidnapping, if Ehud was in good shape, if he was wounded, where he was last time that he saw him, things like this,” said Shlomo Goldwasser, the father of the kidnapped soldier.

“I want — the bottom line, I want a sign of life from him.”

Soon after the July 12 kidnappings, a Lebanese Cabinet minister said he had heard the two soldiers were in good condition, but since then there have been no reports about them.

Israel has captured eight Hezbollah members in almost four weeks of fighting, possibly in the hope of using them as bargaining chips to strike a deal for the return of the two Israeli soldiers.

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