TEL AVIV (Aug. 19)
Israeli forces attacked terrorist bases across the Litani River in south Lebanon last night and this morning and destroyed 26 buildings used by terrorists and part of their military equipment. Three Israeli soldiers were killed and 12 injured in the twin operation.
At least 40 terrorists were killed and three terrorists were brought back by the Israeli forces as prisoners. In retaliation, terrorists fired shells from the Lebanese town of Nabatiya toward the southern region controlled by the Christian militia under Maj. Sood Haddad.
Two of the Israeli fatalities were identified as Capt. Meir Knisbah, 23, of Netanya, and Sgt. Guy Shalev of Kibbutz Kfar Menachem. The third fatality was not immediately identified.
Chief of Staff Gen. Rafael Eitan, who watched the operation from his command past along with Premier Menachem Begin, who is acting Defense Minister, said it was the largest Israeli operation into south Lebanon since Operation Litani in March, 1978, when Israel took over all of south Lebanon. He said all targets were captured and destroyed.
ACCOUNT OF THE OPERATIONS
According to an army spokesman, the operation last night was directed against four targets in the Amount plateau north and west of the Litani River: the villages of Amoun, Hamma, Tibnit and Jabel Tahara. The Israeli forces reportedly arrived after midnight, surprising the terrorists in their bases. An advance force of the Golani Infantry Brigade was the first to confront a unit of terrorists. After a brief exchange of fire the Israeli force overcame the terrorists. Once near the targeted bases the Israel forces comprising infantrymen and paratroopers simultaneously attacked the terrorists and blew up their bases.
Early this morning the Israel Air Force bombed the Beaufort fortress, a 12th Century Crusader castle, west of the Litani from which the terrorists carpool Marj Ayon Valley. The fortress, which in the central military position of the terrorists in the area, was reportedly bodily damaged in the aerial attack. The army spokesman said today the operations were part of several preventive measures being taken by the Israel Defense force against the terrorists in south Lebanon to destroy their organization and prevent them from carrying out renewed strikes against Israel.
This was the second operation against the terrorists in less than a week. Israel launched a combined land, air and sea attack last Thursday against two bases north of Tyre and north of Sidon and leveled them. A number of terrorists were killed and all Israeli forces returned safely to their bases. This raid was also taken within the context of preventive action.
AREA HONEYCOMBED WITH TERRORISTS
The actions last night and this morning covered an area in which 150 to 200 terrorists staff several bases operated by various terrorist organizations, particularly El Fatah, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Syrian-backed Al Saika.
It is from these bases that the terrorists prepare for sabotage activities access the border into Israel, and direct most of their shellings against the area controlled by Haddad. This is the area known as “Fatah and” and there are an estimated 6000 terrorists in the region between Israel’s border with Lebanon and the Zoharani River.
Since the IDF evacuated south Lebanon in 1978, the terrorists have launched 48 strikes, killing nine civilians, two soldiers and wounding 31 civilians and 20 soldiers. During the some period, terrorists shelled Israeli settlements 29 times and penetrated Israel nine times by sea. In clashes with the IDF 31 terrorists were killed and 22 were taken prisoner.
Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir said today that despite the dangers and sacrifices, Israel cannot survive without such operations that help prevent acts of terrorism against Israel. Eitan said the operation last night and today was part of Israel’s policy of preemptive attacks against terrorist targets. He said it had been successful in surprising the terrorists.
Meanwhile, life in northern Israel was normal today despite being on special alert for terrorist shells. Explosions could still be heard from the Litani River area where the Israelis had attacked last night.