TEL AVIV (Sep. 5)
Israeli security forces have taken the initiative against terrorists in southern Lebanon after two clashes this week with terrorist infiltrators on the Israeli side of the border. Israeli units crossed the border late yesterday to carry out a house-to-house search in two Lebanese villages Dahira and Battashmeh, suspected of sheltering terrorists. One villager was taken back to Israel for questioning. At the same time, Israeli artillery shelled Djabiyeh village, a terrorist stronghold some 15 kilometers inside Lebanon.
The measures were taken following the clashes in which two Israeli soldiers and four terrorists were killed and two terrorists captured. Documents found on the infiltrators identified them as members of Naif Hawatmeh’s Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine which has headquarters both in Beirut and Damascus The Hawatmeh gang, said to number 400, was responsible for the Maalot massacre last May.
Its latest mission was to capture Israeli hostages who were to be exchanged for 20 terrorists in Israeli jails and for the Greek Catholic Archbishop Hillarion Capucci, indicted in Jerusalem Monday for smuggling arms to terrorists in Israel. The nature of the mission was confirmed by Hawetmeh in an interview published in a Beirut newspaper today.
Earlier, terrorist broadcasts in Beirut claimed that a large number of Israelis had been taken hostage and were stain when Israel refused to free Capucci and the others. Israeli authorities called the reports an “Arabian Nights fantasy.” Late last night Hawatmeh’s headquarters in Beirut admitted it had “lost contact” with the terrorist unit inside Israel.
The increased terrorist activity along the Lebanese border was answered by the Israeli initiatives yesterday. Israeli units searching the two Lebanese villages confiscated 15 rifles and machine guns in the raid that was unopposed. Meanwhile, the Arab League Council, meeting in Cairo yesterday, called for international action to end Israeli raids into southern Lebanon. The appeal urged world governments and international organizations to intervene immediately to put an end to Israeli “acts of aggression.”