TEL AVIV (May. 25)
Israeli patrols and a small armored unit consisting of four tanks crossed the Lebanese border on three separate occasions today. A military spokesman said the operations were part of the intensified security precautions undertaken in the Israel-Lebanese border region since last Friday’s fatal ambush of an Israeli school bus by terrorists based in Lebanon. None of the Israeli forces penetrated more than a mile inside Lebanon, the spokesman said. The patrol actions may have given rise to reports from Beirut that Israel mounted a new invasion of southern Lebanon this morning. There was no confirmation of the report from any Israeli sources. (In New York, a United Nations spokesman said that no word had been received from either Lebanon or Israel about renewed fighting.)
Israel Air Force jets attacked Egyptian positions in the Suez Canal zone for an hour this morning and returned safely to their bases. The latest raids followed five hours of intermittent pounding of Egyptian targets yesterday afternoon and night. A military spokesman said Egyptian artillery was inactive during the night. A spokesman describing today’s action on the Lebanese border said a seven man Israeli patrol crossed into Lebanon at about 3:30 a.m. local time in search of saboteurs. At six a.m. a second patrol consisting of 20 men went into Lebanon to track down possible ambushers. At noon four tanks entered Lebanon and destroyed a recoilless gun that was fired at one of the tanks. A short time later, three tanks on the Israeli side of the border were fired on from Lebanon. They returned the fire and destroyed two Lebanese bunkers, the spokesman said.
This morning’s reports from Beirut reflected a panicky situation in the Lebanese capital as thousands of villagers poured out of the border regions and headed north in anticipation of a new Israeli assault. According to Beirut, Israeli armored units, supported by tanks and jets, invaded Lebanon at 6:45 a.m. near the village of Bint Jbeil. Beirut said Lebanese tanks were engaging Israeli forces north of Yaroun village. But there was no further word of fighting during the day. A heavy retaliatory blow by Israel has been expected since last Friday’s school bus ambush, which shocked and enraged Israelis more than any other event in recent years. Premier Golda Meir, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and Deputy Premier Yigal Allon all made it clear that Israel holds the Lebanese government fully responsible for outrages committed by terrorists based on its territory. Roads leading out of the border region were reported clogged with vehicles carrying household goods. Red Cross convoys carrying food and medicine were turned back by refugees shouting “We want defense, not food.” according to reports reaching here. According to Lebanon’s Interior Minister, Kamal Jumblatt, about 15.000 persons had left southern Lebanon by late Sunday. The Beirut newspaper An Nahar put the number at 30,000.