TEL AVIV (Jun. 12)
The Israel army’s fatalities in Lebanon reached the 500 mark Friday when three more soldiers were killed in a roadside ambush northeast of Tyre. Two soldiers had been killed two days earlier in a car bomb explosion in Beirut.
Two soldiers were injured at noon today when an explosion damaged a military truck in a convoy near Aley in the Shouf mountains. Army sources said the explosives were detonated by remote control. Another roadside blast south of Sidon today caused no casualties.
Military sources said that of the 500 dead, 379 were killed by enemy action, 45 in highway and training accidents and 76 in the explosion that leveled the local army headquarters building in Tyre last October. The latter was also officially listed as an accident.
In addition, 2,717 Israeli soldiers have been wounded since the invasion of Lebanon one year ago. More than 500 bear permanent injuries including the loss of one or more limbs, loss of eyesight or other serious disabilities. Army sources said the past week was particularly bad, with five soldiers killed and three wounded in 20 separate attacks and another three soldiers killed in accidents in Lebanon.
ARENS VISITS SCENE
The ambush near Tyre was aimed at two Israel patrol vehicles. The lead vehicle was hit, causing the casualties. Soldiers from the second vehicle opened fire on the attackers and searched the area. A curfew was imposed on nearby villages and house-to-house searches were made. Defense Minister Moshe Arens visited the scene of the attack later in the day, accompanied by Chief of Staff Gen. Moshe Levy and the commander of the northern region, Maj. Gen. Amir Drori.
Arens also visited the Galerie Semaan, the intersection between east and west Beirut where two Israeli soldiers were killed Wednesday when a boobytrapped car exploded only a few yards from their armored personnel carrier.
(The U.S. State Department, commenting on the latest casualties in Lebanon, said,” Any loss of life is tragic and underscores the need for the resolution of the problem” in Lebanon. But the Department’s deputy spokesman Alan Romberg said there were no immediate plans to send either Presidential envoy Philip Habib or Deputy Secretary of State Kenneth Dam to the Middle East.)
RABIN BLAMES LEBANESE
Former Premier Yitzhak Rabin, speaking in the border town of Kiryat Shemona over the weekend, said the majority of attacks on Israeli troops in Lebanon were carried out by anti-Israel Lebanese, not the Palestine Liberation Organization. The Lebanese are believed to be members of Walid Jumblat’s Druze forces or of pro-Syrian leftwing Moslem groups, including the Shi’ite Amal organization.
Rabin also said there have been a number of unpublicized attempts to attack Israeli towns in northern Galilee in recent months in addition to reported rocket attacks that were made public.
CIVILIAN FUNERALS HELD
Civilian funerals were held Thursday for Sgt. Moshe Edelstein, 31 and Yosef Ben-Or, 33, killed in the Galerie Samaan car explosion. Edelstein was buried at his home, Kibbutz Ramat David. The commander of his battalion, speaking at the open grave, observed, “We remain fewer and fewer soldiers on more and more land. This is not the place and time to express all that the heart feels.” Edelstein is survived by his wife and 14 month-old child. His family rejected military honors, including the firing of salvoes over the grave because they wanted no reminder of how their loved one was killed.
Ben-Or, whose home was Kibbutz Givat Haim, was also buried without military ceremonies. He left a Canadian-born wife and two children, aged eight and two. A friend, who spoke at the graveside, said: “We have no grievances against the Israel Defense Force. We are convinced that without a strong IDF our very existence would be at stake. But by this grave we raise an outcry to the ears of a deaf government. Let it take the army out of this valley of tears that is Lebanon. “
Meanwhile, Israeli officials strenuously denied reports that Palestinian and left-wing Lebanese interned in the Ansar prison camp in south Lebanon have been mistreated and that three were shot to death by their guards recently. The PLO has used those allegations as an excuse to place the six Israeli prisoners it holds in solitary confinement.
Prisoners at the Ansar camp rioted on the first anniversary of the start of the Lebanese war June 6, and burned down tents. But Israeli army officers stress that the International Red Cross has a permanent office in the camp and has reported no ill treatment of the prisoners. They denied allegations made to the media by released detainees that three camp inmates committed suicide as a result of brutal treatment.
(State Department spokesman Romberg said Friday, with respect to the disturbances at the Ansar camp, “We remain concerned about prisoners held by both sides. We are hopeful that their release can be successfully negotiated at an early date.” He added, “We have made that concern known a number of times before and made it clear that we are active on that issue from time to time whenever it is appropriate.”
(Romberg said the U.S. is continuing to take “an active role” on the possibility of a prisoner exchange.)