Israel Says Guerrilla Was in Destroyed Ambulance
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ISRAEL-LEBANON BORDER - Israel justified its attack on an ambulance in south Lebanon Saturday in which six civilians were killed, saying a Hizbollah guerrilla was also travelling in the vehicle.
A Reuters reporter who witnessed the attack said the ambulance was packed with civilians fleeing Israel's assault on south Lebanon. Two women and four young girls were killed.
But Israel's army chief said the vehicle was travelling from one Hizbollah position to another, in an area which the Jewish state had told civilians to evacuate.
"We hit a car in which a Hizbollah activist was travelling," Lt.-Gen. Amnon Shahak told reporters while touring Israel's northern border.
"The car was travelling in the exact area...where Katyushas were fired only a few hours earlier," he said.
Asked if the eyewitness account was fabricated, Shahak said: "I am not saying that it is a lie. I'm sure that we'll know all the facts. I'm telling the facts that I know now -- that a Hizbollah member was in the ambulance."
Shahak said Israel would continue to strike at vehicles travelling in the area.
The raid was launched on the third day of Israel's onslaught against the Islamic Hizbollah group in south Lebanon which has rained Katyusha rockets at communities along the Jewish state's northern border.
Around 200,000 residents of south Lebanon have fled the area, streaming north toward Beirut.
The raid raised the casualty toll as a result of Israeli air and artillery strikes to 21 dead and 48 wounded, most of them civilians, according to Reuters count.
The Reuters reporter said the ambulance, which was white with a red logo and a siren, was engulfed in a huge ball of fire. It was hurled 20 yards off the road and into the front room of a house.
An army spokesman said a Hizbollah guerrilla was wounded in the helicopter attack.
"If other individuals in the vehicle were hit during the attack they had been used by the Hizbollah as a cover for the Hizbollah activities," the spokesman said.
Four Israelis were wounded, one of them severely, in Katyusha attacks Friday. Thousands of Israelis fled their homes in northern Israel while others spent most of the time in bomb shelters.
Hours after the helicopter raid, the army told residents of Kiryat Shmona in northern
Israel over loudspeakers to go back to the bomb shelters which some had left briefly
during the day.