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Israel Again Bombs Lebanon Bases, but Rabin Rules out Other Steps

In response to renewed terrorist activity in southern Lebanon, Israeli air force jets attacked selected targets in southern Lebanon on Wednesday, for the third time in less than a week.

The targets of the latest raid were terrorist bases north of the Mieh Mieh refugee camp, in the hills surrounding the coastal city of Sidon. Unconfirmed reports from Lebanon said Israeli jets also struck bases near Damour and Khalde, south of Beirut.

A military spokesman said direct hits were scored on local headquarters and staging areas of Al Fatah, the fighting arm of the Palestine Liberation Organization controlled by Yasir Arafat. All aircraft returned safely to their bases.

Early reports from Lebanon said four people were killed and 18 injured in the raid. They said it was carried out by Israeli F-16 jets.

Wednesday’s raid and air strikes on Monday and last Friday against PLO and Hezbollah bases in southern Lebanon are a response to a sharp escalation in terrorist activity in the region.

Last week, eight Israeli soldiers died and seven were wounded in a car-bomb attack on an Israel Defense Force convoy in the border security zone patrolled by Israel. Hezbollah, a Shiite extremist group backed by Iran, whose name means Party of God, claimed responsibility for the car-bombing.

EXTENDING SECURITY ZONE

On Monday, Israeli forces captured seven Al Fatah terrorists from Sidon who were headed on a hostage-taking mission to a kibbutz in northern Israel.

Two other terrorists were captured Monday in the Har Dov area. They were identified as members of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The upsurge in terrorism has prompted some members of the Knesset to suggest expanding Israel’s border security zone in Lebanon and sealing it off from the rest of that country.

But Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin told members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that such measures were unrealistic.

If the security zone were sealed off, Rabin said, the 200,000 people living there would be deprived of their water supply and electricity, which originate further north.

Extending the zone northward would “simply cause trouble with the Lebanese population and would not increase security,” he said.

The security zone was established in 1985, when the IDF completed its phased withdrawal from Lebanon. The zone’s purpose is to serve as a buffer between Israel’s northern villages and towns, and hostile elements in southern Lebanon.

The zone is policed jointly by the IDF and the South Lebanon Army, a largely but not exclusively Christian force consisting of about 2,600 men armed, trained and financed by Israel.

(JTA correspondent Gil Sedan in Jerusalem contributed to this report.)

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