TEL AVIV (Feb. 20)
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin warned yesterday that Israel may have to endure a new wave of terrorist attacks by Iran-inspired Islamic fundamentalists during the withdrawal of the Israel Defense Force from south Lebanon and even after the withdrawal is completed. He said the IDF would respond to such attacks even if it meant re-entering Lebanon temporarily.
Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir said last night that Israel would take all necessary measures, even the most severe, to protect its soldiers. Both men were addressing an international conference of Conservative Jews in Jerusalem.
This morning, the IDF conducted extensive searches in Shiite Moslem villages where two Israeli senior officers and one non-commissioned officer were killed in the first 48 hours after the IDF completed the first stage of its withdrawal from south Lebanon Saturday.
Col. Avraham Hido, 41, of Kibbutz Shefayim, was mortally wounded when his convoy was ambushed in Salim village north of Nobatiya on Monday. Maj. Shaul Zehavi, 27, of Petach Tikva, died on the same day when a roadside bomb detonated as his jeep patrol entered Al-Bazouriye village east of Tyre. Sgt. Shlomo Oleg Avrumov, 23, was killed on the same spot Sunday, also by a roadside explosive.
ATTACKS ATTRIBUTED TO SHIITES
In the past two weeks, seven IDF officers and men have been killed and scores wounded in south Lebanon in ambushes and roadside bombings attributed to Shiite Moslems. Two soldiers were wounded in the incidents that took the lives of Hido and Zehavi.
Three attacks on the IDF last night and this morning caused no casualties. One was carried out with rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) near Ansar and another with RPGs and automatic weapons near Deier Khanun. The target of this morning’s attack was the IDF liaison office in Nabatiya which has been hit several times in the past week.
Amid growing demands in Israel for tougher measures against terrorists and guerrillas in Lebanon, heavily armed IDF units combed at least four Shiite villages today, carrying out house-to-house searches. All male residents were rounded up and questioned in village squares.
During the search of Al-Bazouriye, two terrorists were killed and a third was captured while trying to flee from Israeli forces. An army spokesman said quantities of arms and sabotage material was found in their homes and on their persons. A gasoline station at the entrance to the village, near where Maj. Zehavi was killed, was destroyed by the IDF.
Shamir, who is Acting Prime Minister in the absence of Shimon Peres, currently on a visit to Italy and Rumania, said, “The recent increase in the number of attacks against our forces is in large measure due to the competition between the various terrorist organizations to prove which is more active against the Israeli forces and which will control the areas we evacuate.”
Shamir stressed in his speech to the Conservative Jews and later in remarks to reporters, that the attacks are absolutely pointless and unjustified. “It is terrorism without any reason, without any justification, because the terrorists know exactly that we are going to leave Lebanon… There is no reason for it but we have to do all possible to stop it, “he said.
Asked if he thought the IDF pullout from south Lebanon should be speeded up, Shamir replied, “We will have to consider our plans in the near future (for the second stage of the withdrawal) and we have to take into account the security of the Galilee.”
Robin, who spoke earlier, predicted “more painful days before us in Lebanon” and a long road ahead before tranquility is restored to Israel’s northern border. He said it was far from certain that terrorism would end when the last Israeli soldier leaves Lebanon.
POSSIBILITY OF A NEW TERRORIST ALLIANCE
The extremist wing of the Shiite Moslems, under the influence of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran, might cooperate with the Palestine Liberation Organization and, with the blessings of Syria, persist in their terrorist acts, he said.
Robin observed that the Shiite Moslems in south Lebanon were responsible for 90 percent of the recent attacks on the IDF. Some embarked on suicide missions, blowing themselves up in booby-trapped cars.
“I hope they will not carry out terrorist attacks in Israel,” Robin said, “but there will be extreme elements, organized, financed, and inspired by the Iranian regime of Khomeini and the Islamic fundamentalists like the Revolutionary Guards who, during the war in Lebanon, sent 1,500 of their soldiers into Lebanon to continue the fight. They may cooperate with the PLO, and no doubt Syria may even increase its support and encourage them.”
If terrorism continues after the withdrawal is completed, the IDF would not hesitate to re-enter southern Lebanon, Robin said. If terrorists return to the border to shell Israeli town, “we will prevent this from happening, even if it requires going back into Lebanon temporarily, bombing the area, shelling it.”
Speakers at a Tel Aviv University symposium on Lebanon Monday stressed that there are two trends among Shiite Moslems — moderates who are interested in hastening the IDF’s departure but whose main objective is political power in Lebanon; and extremists who seek bloodshed for its own sake.
According to the speakers, the mainline Shiite Amal movement may eventually cooperate with Israel to prevent Palestinian terrorists from returning to south Lebanon and resist the extremist trend which represents the hard-line Khomeini-inspired fundamentalists.
The Lebanon army is trying to restore order in Sidon where Shiite extremists rampaged Sunday and Monday after the IDF left the town. Today, the Lebanon army turned back a convoy of buses and trucks carrying Shiites from Beirut to Sidon.