TEL AVIV (Jan. 24)
An Israeli soldier was slightly wounded while standing guard at the approaches to the Lebanon Beach Hotel in Khalde shortly before Israeli, Lebanese and American negotiating teams began their weekly round of talks in the hotel this morning.
The soldier was at a roadblock about 400 yards from the hotel when he was struck by stone or metal fragments sent flying by a projectile fired toward the building from an area south of Beirut patrolled by U.S. marines. Israeli sources said the projectile could have been a Katyusha rocket, a mortar or a bazooka shell. According to experts it was a 107 mm. Katyusha rocket.
The incident had no effect on the negotiating session which began on schedule a half hour later. But it could aggravate the recent tension between Israeli forces and the marines who are part of the U.S.-French-Italian multinational force patrolling sections of Beirut and its environs.
Israeli spokesmen say the situation is due to the presence of Palestine Liberation Organization forces in the American patrolled area. Incidents which American sources have described as “dangerous confrontations” occurred when Israeli soldiers on early morning patrol, fired live ammunition into shrubbery and abandoned buildings along a road over which Israeli convoys were due to pass.
The bullets have come close to marines whose zone is near the road. In some cases marines and Israeli soldiers reportedly had angry, noisy exchanges over these incidents.
The Israelis insist they patrol only those areas assigned them by agreement and complain that marines sometimes enter their zone without prior notification. Israel is expected to use today’s incident to demand stricter U.S. control of the area to prevent PLO infiltration.