Left: Israeli soldiers preparing to fire into southern Lebanon; photo courtesy of Reuters.
(Tel Aviv) Israel conducted air strikes and Israeli troops and tanks invaded southern Lebanon today, while the Hezbollah television channel al-Manar ("The Beacon") announced that its guerrillas abducted two Israeli soldiers along the Israel-Lebanon border.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called the raids by Hezbollah guerrillas an "act of war" by Lebanon and threatened "very painful and far-reaching" action in response to the abductions.
"I want to make it clear, the events of this morning are not a terror attack but an act by a sovereign state which attacked the state of Israel without reason or provocation," said Olmert, who announced an emergency cabinet meeting.
Hezbollah, a major player in Lebanese politics and a group named by the United States as a terror organization, demanded a prisoner swap for the captured soldiers.
"Fulfilling its pledge to liberate the [Arab] prisoners and detainees, the Islamic Resistance ... captured two Israeli soldiers at the border with occupied Palestine," Hezbollah said in a statement. "The two captives were transferred to a safe place."
Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz responded to this incident along the Israel-Lebanon border in a written statement.
"The State of Israel sees itself free to use all measures that it finds it needs and the [Israeli Forces] have been given orders in that direction," he said. "If the soldiers are not returned we will turn Lebanon's clock back 20 years."
The incursion into Lebanon marks the second front in what appears to be a widening war. Israeli troops marched into the Gaza Strip three weeks ago in an attempt to rescue captured soldier Gilad Shalit.
Nine civilians and seven Israeli soldiers have been reported killed during the military actions in Lebanon.
There is a growing sentiment around the globe that the US and the United Nations have not done enough on the diplomatic front to maintain peace in the region, and that - if unchecked - Israel's military actions may draw players such as Syria and Iran into a much wider Middle East war.