BEIRUT, Lebanon – Israel turned over to Lebanon the remains of three Hezbollah guerrillas on Friday in an effort to defuse tensions after the heaviest border clashes in years.
International Red Cross vehicles brought the bodies to southern Lebanon's Naqoura border crossing where they were transferred to Lebanese ambulances as U.N. peacekeepers monitored the process and Hezbollah guerrillas in black uniforms saluted the caskets.
Four guerrillas were killed and 11 Israeli soldiers were wounded in Monday's fighting on the south Lebanon border, the worst in several years. Israeli warplanes and artillery bombarded Hezbollah positions, and the guerrillas fired missiles at Israeli military outposts.
Israel killed three guerrillas who crossed the border. A fourth guerrilla, who was wounded and retrieved by his comrades, died on the Lebanese side.
The fighting briefly resumed Wednesday when an Israeli civilian in a hang glider drifted across the border and landed inside Lebanon. Israeli troops shot at Hezbollah guerrillas apparently trying to capture him. He managed to run back to Israel.
Earlier Wednesday, Israeli planes dropped thousands of anti-Hezbollah leaflets over Lebanon, angering its neighbor which has repeatedly complained of Israeli overflights. On Wednesday, the U.N. Security Council appealed for restraint on both sides.
Israel, under military pressure from Hezbollah, withdrew its army from a border buffer zone in southern Lebanon in 2000, ending 18 years of occupation.
Hezbollah, a militant Shiite Muslim group, is a close ally of Syria and is backed by Iran.
An escalation of tensions in the region could strengthen Syria's hand with the United Nations by underlining the need for Syrian influence in maintaining peace.
Syria is facing an international probe into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.