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Israel to move more troops into S Lebanon -radio

Written by: Staff

JERUSALEM, July 23 (Reuters) Israel will move more troops into southern Lebanon today as it presses an offensive to drive Hizbollah guerrillas away from the border, Army Radio said.

This would amount to a broadening of ground operations just inside the border, Army Radio said.

The army declined to comment on the report, but said forces were continuing to carry out ''pinpoint'' operations at specific locations close to the Israeli border in southern Lebanon.

An Israeli general said soldiers took control yesterday of the strategic Lebanese hilltop village of Maroun al-Ras, which overlooks both sides of the border and where six Israeli commandos were killed in heavy fighting last week.

''I can only confirm at the moment that troops are in Maroun al-Ras,'' an army spokeswoman said.

''We are talking about pinpoint actions in certain villages, but due to operational restrictions, I cannot give any details.'' Despite a major military build-up at the border, the army has said no full-scale ground invasion was imminent.

Army Radio did not say how many additional troops would enter today. Military sources have said several hundred soldiers were inside southern Lebanon trying to destroy guerrilla hideouts, weapons stores and rocket-launching sites.

At most, Israeli forces were operating one or two kilometres inside Lebanese territory, the army has said.

The crisis erupted on July 12 when Hizbollah abducted two Israeli soldiers and killed eight others in a cross-border raid.

Reuters SRS VA VV1201

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