JERUSALEM (Jan. 6)
Israeli officials are worried over the mounting casualties suffered by the Israel-backed South Lebanon Army (SLA) in recent days. Four SLA soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb ambush in the south Lebanon security zone Monday and a fifth died of his wounds Tuesday.
Six SLA soldiers were killed and two were wounded last Friday when their positions at Barashit village were overrun by forces of the pro-Iranian Shiite extremist group Hezbullah. More than 100 SLA soldiers have been killed and 100 wounded in the security zone since May 1985. Premier Yitzhak Shamir promised Monday that Israel would assist the SLA in its present difficulties. He said on a television interview that the SLA commanders were competent officers who understand their mission is not to abandon the local population to terrorists. According to Shamir, the existence of the SLA is in no danger.
Foreign news reports said the Israel Air Force staged a second helicopter attack on Hezbullah strongholds in south Lebanon Monday, following a helicopter attack Sunday. A military spokesman denied the second attack.
Meanwhile, Minister-Without-Portfolio Moshe Arens accused Christian forces in Lebanon of collaborating with the Palestine Liberation Organization to permit PLO fighters to re-infiltrate Lebanon. He told reporters that the Christian Phalangists, once an ally of Israel, would suffer most if they continued to support terrorists.
A spokesman for the Christian militia denied Arens’ charge. But similar charges were leveled by other Israeli officials in recent days. Last Friday the Israel Navy halted two Cypriot car ferries on the high seas on the suspicion they were carrying armed PLO terrorists to Lebanon. The ferries ply between Larnaca and the Christian-controlled Lebanese port of Junieh, north of Beirut.