TEL AVIV (Jun. 18)
Military activity continues in the south Lebanon security zone two weeks after the Israel Defense Force officially completed its withdrawal. Three Katyusha rockets were fired at IDF troops in the Shakif el-Hardoun region of the zone yesterday.
The IDF responded by firing eight mortar shells in the direction of the rocket-launcher, Lebanese sources reported, and IDF infantry aided by helicopters searched the area for the attackers. But the IDF had no comment on these operations. Its policy apparently is to play down reports of Israeli forces still active inside Lebanon.
Two soldiers of the Israel-backed South Lebanon Army (SLA) were wounded yesterday by mortar fire in the security zone. Small arms fire was also aimed at an SLA position near Hasbaya.
SLA commander Gen. Antoine Lehad said meanwhile that he did not think the security situation in south Lebanon would be affected if Israel released more than 700 Shiite guerrillas, demanded by the hijackers of TWA Flight 847 in exchange for the American hostages they are holding in Beirut.
The Shiites were captured in Lebanon and transferred to the Atlit detention camp near Haifa after the IDF withdrew from south Lebanon. According to Lehad, “generally, we find that once a man has spent time in detention he does not return to terrorist activity.”
Relations between the SLA and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) have improved since the SLA freed 21 Finnish UNIFIL soldiers it seized two weeks ago. UNIFIL is now allowing SLA units to pass unhindered through its check points. Previously it would try to disarm the SLA men because the UN force does not recognize the Israel-backed militia.