JERUSALEM (CNN) — Hezbollah guerrillas killed seven Israeli soldiers and captured two more Wednesday, prompting Israeli airstrikes and military raids inside southern Lebanon, Israeli officials said.
Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah told reporters that “direct negotiations” would be the only way to return the soldiers and their capture was “our natural, only and logical right.”
He demanded the soldiers be swapped for jailed Palestinians held by Israel, which is what Palestinian militants are demanding to free Cpl. Gilad Shalit who was captured in Israel last month.
Nasrallah said the two soldiers taken Wednesday had been moved to “a faraway place.” Israel has repeatedly refused to consider any swap for its jailed Palestinians.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the Hezbollah attacks were an “act of war” and blamed the Lebanese government, which he said would be held responsible.
He promised a “very painful and far-reaching” response, The Associated Press reported.
I expect that we are going to see a very aggressive response. Israel cannot sit on its hands and should not be asked to do so. You can expect to see many changes soon. It is a very fluid situation.