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Israeli Troops Move to Take Hezbollah Stronghold


Israeli troops backed by military aircraft moved into southern Lebanon Monday in an effort to take control of a stronghold of Hezbollah guerrillas.

Israeli forces and guerrillas engaged in fierce battles near the town of Bint Jbail.

Israeli military officials say two soldiers and several Hezbollah fighters were killed. They say at least 13 Israeli troops were wounded in the fighting, including some hit by friendly fire.

Two Israeli pilots also died when their military helicopter crashed in northern Israel. Initial reports said the helicopter hit an electric wire, but officials later said they were investigating the cause of the crash, including possible enemy fire.

Israeli air raids killed at least seven people in Hezbollah-dominated southern Lebanon, while the guerrilla group fired more rockets into northern Israel, injuring at least two people.

Meanwhile, the UN humanitarian chief has ordered Hezbollah to stop what he called "cowardly blending" among Lebanese civilians, as Israel carries out airstrikes in the country.

Speaking to reporters in Cyprus after a visit to Beirut, Jan Egeland said he heard Hezbollah guerrillas were proud because they had lost few fighters and because civilians were bearing the brunt of the conflict. He said no one should be proud of
having many more women and children dead than armed men.

Egeland has also called Israel's military offensive "a violation of international law."

Israel began its offensive against Hezbollah after guerrillas captured two Israeli soldiers, triggering a battle that killed eight Israelis. The violence has since claimed the lives of at least 373 Lebanese and 37 Israelis. Hundreds of Lebanese and Israelis have been wounded.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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