TEL AVIV (May. 29)
The Israel Defense Force thwarted a well-organized terrorist attempt early Sunday morning to infiltrate Upper Galilee through the southern Lebanon security zone.
Two terrorists were killed and two were wounded in the clash with IDF soldiers, which occurred less than four miles from the Israeli border, between E1-Khiam village and Marjayoun.
Two others may have escaped, IDF sources said. There were no casualties among IDF troops or the South Lebanon Army unit that assisted them.
Military sources described the attempted infiltration as one of the most sophisticated and best equipped operations of its kind.
It included a diversionary Katyusha rocket attack on Saturday night on the Galilee panhandle town of Metulla, in which an 8-month-old boy, Assaf Savitzky, received slight injuries from flying glass.
The terrorists were apparently a mixed gang of Palestinians and members of the Lebanese Shiite extremist group Hezbollah (Party of God).
IDF sources said interrogation of the captured terrorists and papers found on them established that the objective of the infiltration was to invade Metulla and kill as many Israeli civilians as possible.
Most terrorist infiltration attempts in the North are for the purpose of taking hostages or sabotage, but this was for sheer murder, the IDF sources said.
The infiltrators used bangalore torpedoes and wire-cutters to penetrate the border fences. They were equipped with Kalashnikov assault rifles, dozens of hand grenades and LAW anti-tank missiles, and plentiful supplies of food and water, the IDF said.
TWO FACTIONS CLAIM CREDIT
The gunmen were dressed commando-style and wore flack jackets and headbands with slogans typical of Hezbollah, such as “God is great,” “We are on our way to Jerusalem” and “Down with Hussein,” the king of Jordan.
Two radical groups within the Palestine Liberation Organization but opposed to Yasir Arafat’s peace initiative issued a joint statement Sunday in Beirut claiming credit for the aborted attack.
They are George Habash’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Damascusbased faction of the Palestine Liberation Front led by Talaat Yacub.
The mother of the infant in Metulla told reporters a Katyusha rocket landed in their garden, less than a yard from the window of the room where Assaf was sleeping.
She said the child was saved from serious injury by flying glass, because he was heavily blanketed against the chilly weather. The child was hospitalized and discharged after being treated for cuts and scratches.
In southern Lebanon, meanwhile, panic was reported in areas just north of the security zone, where residents fled in fear of possible Israeli reprisals.
The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon reported “low-level supersonic flights” over the area by Israeli fighter planes.
Touring the Metulla region Monday, Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin issued a stern warning to villagers north of the security zone to avoid assisting attempted terrorist attacks against Israel.
Repeating his oft-stated policy, Rabin said, “If we cannot live peacefully, they will not live peacefully, too.”