TEL AVIV (Jan. 4)
Military sources said Monday that Saturday night’s extensive air raids on terrorist targets in southern Lebanon were not retaliation for the hang glider attack of Nov. 25 in which six Israel Defense Force soldiers were killed at a military base in upper Galilee.
The sources said “the IDF has abandoned the policy of revenge.” The air raids, they said, were intended to keep the various terrorist groups in southern Lebanon off balance and were the result of “good intelligence information” which made them opportune.
The targets hit included bases of Al Fatah, the terrorist wing of the Palestine Liberation Organization; the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, headed by Ahmed Jabril; and Hezbollah, the pro-Iranian extremist group.
Druze positions were also hit, but Israel has apologized to the Druze, saying they were not intended targets, Maariv reported Monday.
Jabril’s bases received the heaviest pounding, which apparently gave rise to news media reports that the raids were Israel’s belated response to the attack by one of Jabril’s terrorists, who used a motorized hang-glider to scale the Israel-Lebanon border and struck at the IDF base nearly two months ago.
SWIFT RESPONSE IN PAST
The retaliation scenario also was given credence by the fact that Israel has mounted no air raids in Lebanon since the Nov. 25 incident, whereas in the past it has always responded swiftly to terrorist attacks inside Israel.
According to the IDF, air force jets and helicopter gunships scored hits on buildings in the Ein Hilwe refugee camp south of Sidon, on Hezbollah positions in Mayoun and Ein-El-Tin, on the small harbor at Jiyeh, halfway between Sidon and Beirut, and on Barja village, near Jiyeh in the foothills of the Shuf mountains.
The planes and helicopters encountered antiaircraft fire and rocket-propelled grenades, but all returned safely to their bases, the IDF reported.
Jiyeh and Barja, and positions near Damour in the Sidon area, are controlled by Druze militia. According to Maariv, senior defense officials advised the Druze that the attacks were not directed against them. The Druze are not targets for Israeli attacks, even though they are known to be cooperating with terrorists in the region, the officials said.
They added, however, the air force will not refrain from bombing terrorist targets located within Druze concentrations, Maariv reported.
According to Lebanese sources, Israeli naval craft also took part in the attacks.
Various casualty reports were issued in Lebanon. Lebanese police reported 10 killed and 20 injured in the raid on Jabril’s base, which lasted more than an hour. Later reports put the dead at 32 and said searches were going on for additional bodies.