TEL AVIV (Feb. 11)
The Israel Defense Force sustained three fatalities in south Lebanon yesterday and four soldiers were slightly wounded. The Israel Air Force meanwhile struck at terrorist targets in the Bekaa valley today for the second successive day.
A military spokesman said two reserve soldiers were killed by a roadside explosive only two kilometers north of the Israeli border town of Metullah in Upper Galilee yesterday and one was killed when his patrol was ambushed near the Zaharani River.
Military sources said four soldiers have been killed and 18 wounded in south Lebanon in the last 10 days during which there were 51 attacks or attempted attacks on IDF units. The IDF death toll now stands at 611 since the invasion of Lebanon in June, 1982.
The Air Force today hit the same area in the Bekaa valley that it bombed yesterday. The latest target was identified as the command post of the Abu Moussa, leader of the Syrian-backed Palestine Liberation Organization dissidents opposed to Yasir Arafat. It consisted of a tent camp, huts and an anti-aircraft battery. The target of yesterday’s raid was identified as the local headquarters of Nayef Hawatmeh’s Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
RAIDS CALLED PREVENTIVE ACTION
Although the air attacks were aimed at Palestinian terrorists, military sources acknowledge that most of the recent attacks on the IDF are believed to have come from Lebanese Shiite Moslems.
Premier Shimon Peres indicated, however, that the latest air raids were preventive measures. “Whenever we have concrete information about a group of terrorists preparing to cross the border or to cause some damage, we take preventive action,” Peres said yesterday.
RABIN CITES ‘PLONTA’ IN LEBANON
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin addressed himself to what he called the “plonta” (Yiddish for mess) in Lebanon and admitted there was no “ideal solution.” He told an audience in Haifa, “The plonta is a serious plonta” and the phased withdrawal of the IDF from south Lebanon is the least of possible evils.
Rabin explained that the IDF’s strength lay in offensive operations. Withdrawal make it vulnerable. Israeli soldiers are thinly spread in south Lebanon and make an easy target.
He noted that the Shiite suicide bomb phenomenon could become a serious problem. It inflicted heavy losses on U.S. and French forces in Lebanon in 1983 in and around Beirut. There have been five suicide car-bomb attempts on the IDF, Rabin said, adding that he was not sure this was the end of them.
Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir maintained, however, that yesterday’s attack that cost the lives of two soldiers near Metullah, almost within walking distance of the Israel border, was evidence that the IDF should not be withdrawn from Lebanon at this time.
Military correspondents suggested that the opposite may be true. They said the terrorist attacks appear to be signalling Israel that as long as the IDF stays in Lebanon its soldiers will be targets. They noted there have been no terrorist attacks inside Israel.