TEL AVIV (Feb. 21)
A severe winter storm with blizzard conditions has taken over 100 lives in Lebanon where Israeli troops are helping in rescue operations, it was reported today. In addition to clearing roads, including the section of the Beirut-Damascus highway which they control, the Israel soldiers were extricating people from villages buried in snow drifts yards deep and from stranded vehicles.
There have been no casualties among the Israelis who are equipped with winter clothing and sheltered in heated huts and glass-walled observation posts. But soldiers are finding routine patrols difficult and uncomfortable.
Chief of Staff Gen. Rafael Eitan claimed yesterday that “certain elements” may be deliberately keeping the roads blocked with snow and doing nothing to rescue stranded motorists in danger of freezing. He did not elaborate but was believed to be referring to the Syrians.
The Israeli meteorological services forecast a slight let-up in the storm over the next two days but predicted a return of blizzard conditions by the weekend.
The storm conditions did not prevent an ambush attack on an Israeli Merkava tank west of Aley village, last Friday. A rocket propelled grenade (RPG) fore a hole in the tank’s armour but caused no casualties. The tank returned the fire in the direction of the attack but its commander said the fog and heavy snow prevented him from seeing if any hits were scored.