Rabin: IDF in South Lebanon Will Respond Swiftly to Any Assault

Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin told a Knesset committee today that Israeli forces in south Lebanon have taken on a more aggressive policy and were now not merely waiting to react to attacks on its troops, but would meet any assault with a speedy response.

Speaking before the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee, Rabin said that in the past week since the Israel Defense Force introduced its “iron fist” policy, 15 guerrillas had been killed, 22 wounded and 19 expelled north from the areas still controlled by Israel.

Rabin noted that since the hardline policy had been introduced, no IDF casualties had been reported. In the first 48 hours after Israel completed the first stage of its three-stage withdrawal from south Lebanon on February 16, two senior officers and one non-commissioned officer were killed.

NIGHT CURFEW IMPOSED ON ENTIRE REGION

Meanwhile, spokesmen for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said today the IDF has imposed a night curfew throughout the entire south Lebanon region. Leaflets dropped by helicopter over the area instructed the local inhabitants that the use of motorcycles is forbidden, cars may not travel with only one driver, and there must be at least two persons per car. The restrictions were aimed at preventing the operation of suicide bombers.

Cars, the leaflets instructed, may not be parked on the roadsides. Any vehicle parked without a driver would be immediately destroyed.

The curfew imposed tonight followed the continued searches by the IDF of Shiite villages in south Lebanon. Searches of two such villages yesterday yielded large quantities of weapons and explosives, according to a military spokesman. The villages, Harouf and Shabriha, east of Tyre, were used as bases for recent attacks on the IDF.

All residents were yesterday ordered into the central squares for interrogation while Israeli soldiers carried out house-to-house searches. Three villagers were shot and wounded when they tried to escape. An undisclosed number were detained for further questioning and one building in Harouf was destroyed by the IDF.

The weapons found included grenades, missiles, mortar shells, hand guns, percussion caps, dynamite and other explosives.

ATTACKS CONTINUE ON THE IDF

Attacks on the IDF continued yesterday and today. A bomb exploded at a roadside this morning as a border police patrol passed near Kleya village. A Katyusha rocket was fired at an IDF post near Kassemiyeh village and an IDF patrol encountered small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades in Tyre yesterday. None of the incidents caused casualties.

Meanwhile, two persons were injured in the Israeli coastal city of Ashdod today when a bomb exploded in a building supplies store. Police investigating the bombing could not say immediately whether it was a terrorist act or a crime involving underworld elements.

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