TEL AVIV (Apr. 22)
The Islamic fundamentalist group that released American hostage Robert Polhill on Sunday warned that Israeli attacks in southern Lebanon could prevent the release of additional American hostages.
The statement was issued in Beirut by the Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine two days after Israel Defense Force troops on Friday killed six Hezbollah gunmen in a pre-emptive foray into their stronghold, just north of the southern Lebanon security zone.
There were also unconfirmed reports Friday of an attack by Israeli helicopter gunships on Hezbollah positions in the Beka’a Valley.
Hezbollah, or the Party of God, is an Iranian-backed movement of Shi’ite fundamentalists that encompasses a number of radical factions, including the Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine.
An Israeli military spokesman said Friday’s ground action was carried out by specially trained troops of the Givati Brigade on difficult terrain near the deserted village of Ein Atineh, near the town of Maidoun.
Two heavily armed Hezbollah men were killed in a clash at close range Friday morning, and the four others were killed in a separate encounter Friday afternoon, the IDF spokesman said.
There were no Israeli casualties.
The Hezbollah men wore uniforms with battle pouches and were armed with Kalachnikov assault rifles, ammunition and hand grenades. They carried communications equipment.
The spokesman said the operation was intended to keep hostile groups off balance, disrupt their training and preparation, and demonstrate they can be hit at any time in their own territory.
RISING HEZBOLLAH ACTIVITY
Gen. Dan Shomron, the IDF chief of staff, said Sunday that the army took action because of concern over Hezbollah’s increased activities in Lebanon.
But the statement issued Sunday by the kidnappers in Beirut warned that “the continuation of Israeli attacks will definitely lead to severe repercussions on this (hostage) issue and other issues.
“We hope that we will not be forced to escalate again and blast all what has been achieved,” the statement said.
Shomron, who briefed military correspondents Sunday, said Israel is also concerned about the growing presence of terrorist organizations in Jordan.
But he thought King Hussein should be even more worried, because they threaten the stability of his regime.
Shomron estimated the chances of war in the Middle East in the near future to be very low, even though Iraq is arming for chemical and bacterial warfare, and Syria has not given up the idea of a swift military blow to recapture the Golan Heights from Israel.