JERUSALEM,(Reuters) – Israeli forces pulled out on Saturday of the Lebanese border town of Bint Jbeil but may return, an Israeli military source said.
Israeli troops had raided the Hizbollah stronghold, located 4 km (2.5 miles) from the Israel-Lebanon border, earlier in the week as part of a major offensive against the guerrilla group, which has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel in recent weeks.
“There are no soldiers in Bint Jbeil, but it’s possible they will be back for pinpointed operations,” the Israeli military source said, adding that Israeli troops were still operating on the ground in southern Lebanon against Hizbollah.
Israel Radio quoted a senior Israeli commander as saying the offensive against Hizbollah guerrillas in Bint Jbeil was only meant to last three days and that the army had no intention of occupying the town.
At least 469 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Lebanon since the start of the violence. Hizbollah attacks have killed 51 Israelis.
Israeli military Sergeant Yoad Mor, who was wounded in the fighting with Hizbollah in Bint Jbeil, said troops found a large cache of weapons and munitions in the town. He added that heavy clashes made it difficult to evacuate him to Israel.
“It was very dangerous,” he told Israel’s Channel 10. “It was a good rescue. I immediately called my father. I said … ‘Listen, it sounds strange but I went in and came out (of Lebanon).’ He said, ‘No problem, which hospital are you at?'”
The army, which had suffered its biggest losses in fighting in Bint Jbeil and nearby areas, had said Israeli troops killed 15 Hizbollah men in the town during its incursion. A military source said dozens of fighters from the group were killed.
Hizbollah says the Israeli claims are exaggerated and that only 31 of its fighters have died in the 18-day-old conflict.
The violence began after Hizbollah fighters captured two Israeli soldiers and killed eight in a cross border raid on July 12.