TEL AVIV (Jul. 14)
Israel Air Force jets attacked terrorist bases in south Lebanon Monday. It was the second air strike in five days, triggered by escalating terrorist activity in which the Israel Defense Force sustained casualties. Israeli leaders are blaming Syria for the escalation.
A military spokesman said Monday the targets were in the Shouf area between Beirut and Damur. Israel Radio, monitoring reports from Lebanon, said they were located near the Druze village of Einab and three neighboring villages. They included buildings used by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terrorist group headed by George Habash.
According to Lebanese sources, the air raid lasted about 30 minutes and was carried out by American-made F-16s and Phantom jets. The Israel Air Force attacked four terrorist bases outside Sidon last Thursday afternoon, using combat helicopters.
The attack Thursday was in retaliation for an attempted terrorist infiltration of Israel by sea. The terrorists were forced ashore in the south Lebanon security zone by Israel Navy patrol boats and engaged in a fire-fight with an IDF unit. Two Israeli soldiers were killed and nine wounded. Four terrorists were killed and as many as 10 more were reported killed by the air strike later in the day.
A military spokesman said Monday’s air raid was not retaliatory but in line with Israel’s policy of striking terrorist targets at will, It followed the wounding of three IDF soldiers Sunday when their vehicle struck a mine in the security zone. The Shiite Moslem Amal militia said it had planted the mines. Three soldiers of the Israel-backed South Lebanon Army (SLA) were wounded by Katyusha rocket fire in the security zone Sunday. According to SLA sources, the rockets were fired from positions in the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon.
SYRIA HELD RESPONSIBLE
Israel, meanwhile, is apparently holding Syria responsible for the upsurge of terrorist activity in south Lebanon. Premier Shimon Peres said in a Voice of Israel Radio interview Sunday that even if Syria’s role in the infiltration attempt was passive, the command headquarters of the terrorist organizations are in Damascus “and they cannot do a thing without the consent of the Syrian authorities.”
Peres told a public gathering in Jerusalem last Friday that the infiltration attempt was carried out by Habash’s group in conjunction with the Nationalist Social Party, a Lebanese militia backed by Syria. He stressed that Israel would seek political means to discourage Syrian support for the terrorists before resorting to other means.
But Peres seems less than optimistic about the situation. Addressing a conference in Jerusalem Friday of the Washington-based Institute for Near East Policy, he stated, “I think Syria is preparing for war. ” He advised Israelis to remain calm. The IDF will contain the dangers posed by Syria and the terrorists, he said.