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Israel: Raid targets weapons transfer

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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- The Israeli military says it conducted a successful operation deep inside Lebanon Saturday aimed at preventing and disrupting the transfer of weapons from Iran and Syria to Hezbollah.

One Israeli officer was killed and two were wounded in the morning operation carried out by an elite unit in Bekaa Valley, the Israel Defense Forces said.

After successfully landing vehicles by helicopter in Bouday, located in the Bekaa Valley, IDF forces reportedly clashed with Hezbollah forces, a Baalbeck Civil Defense official said.

The fighting resulted in Israeli airstrikes in the area. The official was unable to immediately comment on Lebanese or Hezbollah casualties.

Lebanon's prime minister condemned the Israeli operation, calling it a violation of the U.N.-sanctioned cease-fire, officials with the prime minister's office said.

Prime Minister Fouad Siniora wants to meet with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan if he visits Lebanon, CNN's Nada El-Husseini in Beirut reported.

Cease-fire agreement

This latest development comes amid a U.N.-backed cease-fire agreement that outlines the gradual withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon's southern region -- the former stronghold of the militant group Hezbollah.

The IDF said that despite the cease-fire, terrorist activities will continue until the regulating and monitoring forces are present at the border.

"The cease-fire is based on (U.N. resolution) 1701 which calls for an international arms embargo against Hezbollah," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Saturday.

"In the absence of that presence, arms transfers to Hezbollah are a clear violation of 1701 and Israel is entitled to respond. When the international forces and the Lebanese Army are enforcing the embargo, Israeli action becomes superfluous."

The Lebanese Cabinet approved the deployment of 15,000 soldiers to the border between Lebanon and Israel, beginning Thursday.

Additionally, U.N. officials said Tuesday they plan to deploy between 3,000 and 3,500 troops within 10 to 15 days as a "vanguard force" to consolidate the cease-fire. The mission eventually could number 15,000.

The troops will bolster a new incarnation of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon. The French-led force observer mission has 200 troops in Lebanon as part of UNIFIL and has pledged 200 more.

After a meeting Thursday with representatives from 49 countries that could potentially contribute troops, three predominately Muslim countries -- Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia -- offered a few battalions of infantrymen.

But European nations have been reluctant to commit their own troops. Germany offered only a naval and aerial force to secure Lebanon's borders.

  • In figures updated Saturday, Lebanese Internal Security Forces reported 1,069 people were killed in Lebanon during the 34-day conflict with Israel, with another 4,055 injured. Israel has put its death toll from fighting and rocket attacks at 159.
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