TEL AVIV (Feb. 21)
Israel Air Force jets blasted targets in Lebanon today for the second time since Sunday as armored patrols of the Israel Defense Force continued their probes well north of the Awali River line, into territory controlled by Druze and Shiite Moslem militias which have been battling the Lebanese army.
According to a military spokesman, today’s air raids, like those of Sunday, were directed against installations allegedly used by units of the Palestine Liberation Organization for attacks on IDF patrols in south Lebanon. They were also a warning to the PLO not to redeploy itself in areas vacated by the IDF and a warning to the Druze not to allow the PLO in to those regions, military sources said.
The Israeli planes hit four buildings in two target areas — one south of Behamdoun and the other near the Beirut-Damascus highway. All aircraft returned safely to their bases. Only light anti-aircraft fire was encountered, the military spokesman said.
On Sunday, the planes struck targets in the Hammana and Behamdoun areas, north and south of the Beirut-Damascus highway, identified as training bases for PLO units. Another target was a multi-story building east of Damour, believed to have been taken over by the PLO after Moslem forces ousted the Christian Phalangists from Damour.
PURPOSE OF THE ATTACKS
The IDF has been sending tanks and armored personnel carriers along the coastal road as far north as Damour for the past few days. The force was described as “small strength.”
But Defense Minister Moshe Arens told Likud party members that today’s armored patrol was in greater strength than usual. He said the purpose was to ensure that no terrorists have returned to the area. According to Arens, the fact that the patrols have not come under fire proved that the sweeps north of the Awali River are correct policy.
But Labor MK Yossi Sarid charged today that such activities will embroil Israel in new political and military adventures in Lebanon. He sent a telegram to acting Premier David Levy protesting the IDF movements north of its Awali River line. The government has learned nothing from its past mistakes and the “dream which has already been shattered still holds and leads to new adventures,” he said referring to the crumbling of Israel’s accord with President Amin Gemayel’s government.
The IDF, meanwhile, denied a series of reports from Beirut of IDF troop activity in the immediate vicinity of the Lebanese capital. The reports mentioned tank landings just south of Beirut, ground activity and bombardment by Israeli naval vessels off shore while spotter helicopters flew overhead.
The IDF suffered some casualties in south Lebanon, none serious. A soldier was slightly wounded by small arms fire yesterday as his convoy approached Sidon from the south. Three Israeli soldiers were slightly wounded Sunday when a grenade was thrown at their patrol in the center of Sidon. They were treated on the spot and returned to their duties.
Local sources said a resident of Sidon was wounded when the Israeli patrol opened fire, hitting a bank building and a parked car. The area was sealed off and 10 workers were detained, all of them Egyptian citizens.
A grenade was thrown at two Israeli army trucks in south Lebanon yesterday without causing casualties or damage. The newspaper Maariv reported Sunday that Shiite Moslem leaders have instructed their men to attack IDF patrols north of the Awali River if they approached the “Khalde triangle” just south of Beirut. Lebanese Druze leaders reported yesterday that the Khalde area and Damour have been cleared of Phalangists and urged Druze civilians who had fled to return home.
Israeli sources said the Druze have reached an unwritten agreement with Israel not to allow PLO fighters to enter the Druze strongholds in the Shouf mountains.