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Israeli Aircraft Destroy Syrian Missile Launcher Following Ambush Killing of 6 Israeli Soldiers

Israeli aircraft destroyed a Syrian SAM-9 anti-aircraft missile launcher in Lebanon today. A military spokesman said the attack was at Deir el-Beida, east of Beirut and just north of the Beirut-Damascus highway. But government sources insisted it was not in retaliation for the ambush in the same vicinity yesterday in which six Israeli soldiers were killed and 22 wounded.

The sources said the missile launcher was knocked out in the context of standing policy to destroy such weapons whenever the Syrians introduce them into Lebanon in contravention of agreements. They warned, however, that Israel would not pass over the ambush in silence. Israel would respond to the “one-sided breach of the cease-fire” at a time and place of its choice, the sources said.

Yesterday’s ambush occurred near Aleh village, a mountain resort east of Beirut. Israeli forces placed a curfew on the town yesterday while they combed the area for terrorists. It was lifted today. Army sources said tonight that a number of suspects had been detained in the Aleh area for questioning.

The Cabinet met briefly this morning, apparently to discuss the ambush. The ministers sat as a ministerial defense committee, the deliberations of which are classified, and no statements were issued. The meeting was attended by Chief of Staff Gen. Rafael Eitan and other senior officers.

TALKS CONTINUE ON FOREIGN TROOPS WITHDRAWAL

Negotiations are continuing, meanwhile, for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon. U.S. special envoys Philip Habib and Morris Draper are acting as mediators in the discussions involving Israel, Lebanon and Syria. Draper was due here today for meetings with Israeli ministers and other officials. Habib was in Damascus over the weekend and flew from there to Washington. He is expected to report that Syria is ready to pull its forces out of Lebanon.

One of the difficulties is Israel’s insistence that the PLO remnants leave Lebanon before Israeli and Syrian forces depart. The Syrians are balking.

Israel Radio quoted “official sources” here as saying that the ambush yesterday “proved” how vital it was to get the PLO out of Lebanon. The sources did not blame Syria directly for the attack although it occurred less than two miles from the cease-fire line separating Israeli troops from Syrian and PLO forces.

Army sources said the ambush appeared to have been carefully planned. The second of two civilian buses transporting Israeli soldiers east from the Beirut area came under bazooka rocket and small arms fire from surrounding hills. According to the army, the attackers apparently were familiar with Israeli movements, were probably aided by local townspeople and received support from PLO bases behind the Syrian lines.

The army said that of the 22 wounded soldiers, II were seriously hurt and the rest sustained only slight wounds. The ambush was the second attack on Israeli troops in the Aleh area since Friday night. The earlier one amounted to no more than an exchange of fire with no casualties reported.

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