TEL AVIV (Dec. 21)
Israeli official tended today to play down the Syrian shelling of villages in the Christian enclave in south Lebanon yesterday and last Thursday as a one-time affair that did not herald a serious deterioration of the situation. Syrian artillery opened fire Thursday apparently in retaliation for the deaths of three Syrian soldiers during an Israeli attack on terrorist targets in south Lebanon several hours earlier.
One Israeli soldier, a corporal, was killed and three were wounded in the strikes against six terrorist strongholds and supply bases by paratroopers and elements of the crock Golani Brigade. An estimated 10-15 terrorists were killed and a considerable quantity of military equipment was destroyed, the army announced Friday.
An army spokesman said the attacks were in line with Israel’s declared policy at hitting terrorist targets preemptively to forestall attacks on Israel before they can be launched. Israeli settlements were shelled Friday from Palestine Liberation Organization bases in south Lebanon. No casualties or damage were reported.
The State Department said Friday, “We have made it clear and will make it clear again that we oppose preemptive attacks by Israel against targets in Lebanon and that we support Lebanon’s territorial integrity.”)
Israel expressed regret that three Syrian soldiers were killed during its attack and two others wounded. “If the Syrians were harmed, it was because they were in an area where they should not be stationed,” an army source said. The Syrian soldiers were outside the are a in which the Syrian army, forming the Arab peacekeeping force in Lebanon, normally operates.
ISRAEL WANTS NO CONFLICT WITH NEIGHBORS
Deputy Defense Minister Mordechai Zipori said today that he hoped the incident was isolated and stressed that “Our encounter is with the terrorists only. Israel wants to avoid a conflict with its neighbors.”
(The U.S. State Department said Friday that it did not have independent confirmation of the incidents but warned that “any action by the Israel Defense Force involving Syrian forces represents a dangerous new element” in the south of Lebanon It called on “all involved to exercise restraint and self-discipline” to reduce tension in the are a
An Israel army spokesman denied a Damascus radio report that Syrian artillery shelled Israeli tank concentrations in south Lebanon yesterday. According to the spokesman there were no Israeli tanks in Lebanon. He said the Syrians fired about 1000 shells, mainly at Christian militia concentrations. Israeli sources said some buildings were damaged but they denied earlier reports of casualties.
The latest round of fighting a south Lebanon was touched off last Wednesday hen the Christian forces of Maj. Saad Haddad launched a massive attack on PLO positions, Haddad is an ally ? Israel.
Meanwhile, the army updated its account of a terrorist attempt to infiltrate Israel last Sunday. A spokesman disclosed that two members of El Fatah were captured when a group of five was intercepted trying to break through the border fence near Zarit. The army had reported previously that a terrorist was killed and an Israeli soldier was wounded in that encounter.