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Israel Says 24 Soldiers Killed Saturday in Southern Lebanon


The Israeli military says 24 soldiers were killed in clashes with Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon Saturday, including five Israeli troops whose helicopter was shot down.

Hezbollah says it brought down the helicopter with a missile in southern Lebanon late Saturday. Israel confirmed the attack and said the five crew members were missing and feared dead.

The Israeli military losses were the heaviest in one day since the conflict began a month ago. Israel says it killed more than 40 Hezbollah guerrillas Saturday as the military offensive widened in southern Lebanon.

Lebanese officials say Israeli warplanes struck roads and bridges in the northern region of Akkar early Sunday. Authorities say Israeli air strikes also hit targets in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Helweh.

Israel says 30,000 troops are operating in Lebanon, and some have already reached the Litani River, about 30 kilometers north of the Israeli border.

Israel is trying to push Hezbollah beyond the Litani before a ceasefire is declared, most likely beginning Monday.

Israeli helicopters airlifted hundreds of soldiers onto the battlefield Saturday.

Hezbollah also fired rockets at northern Israel Saturday, causing injuries but no deaths.

At least 900 Lebanese, most of them civilians, have been killed since the fighting began. More than 140 Israelis, most of them soldiers, have died since Hezbollah kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, triggering the fighting on July 12.

Some information for this story was provided by Reuters, AP and AFP.

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