Israel has launched a major military incursion into southern Lebanon to search for two Israeli soldiers abducted by Hezbollah guerrillas, early Wednesday. At least three Israeli soldiers were killed in the clash, and Israel has warned Hezbollah it will pay a heavy price for its actions.
The announcement of the abduction of the two Israeli soldiers came from the Hezbollah al-Manar television station.
The station says the two soldiers were abducted in a cross-border raid, early Wednesday.
In response, Israeli ground forces entered Lebanon to search for the missing soldiers. Israel also is carrying out air and artillery strikes against Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon.
Speaking to reporters outside the Israeli Foreign Ministry, spokesman Mark Regev says Hezbollah is responsible for the violence.
"It appears we have an escalation in the North," he said. "It is very clear that the escalation started on the Lebanese side of the border, and Israel will respond appropriately."
Speaking at a reception for the visiting Japanese Prime Minister, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says Hezbollah guerillas will pay a heavy price for their actions, warning Israelis to expect difficult days ahead. Israel's Defense Minister says Israel will hold the Lebanese government directly responsible for the safety of the abducted Israelis.
News of the violence along Israel's northern border came as Israel carried out an air strike on a building in the Gaza Strip that killed at least six Palestinians. A senior Hamas militant Mohammed Deif was wounded in the attack. The air strike took place as Israeli ground forces moved further into central Gaza, effectively cutting the Gaza Strip in half.