TEL AVIV (Jul. 17)
Three Israel Defense Force soldiers were killed and four wounded Tuesday night in an ambush by Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon.
Three or four guerrillas were killed in a subsequent exchange of fire.
Wednesday evening’s belated announcement of the encounter followed two Israeli air force raids on Hezbollah targets north of the southern Lebanon security zone Wednesday. All aircraft returned safely to their bases from that mission, a military spokesman announced.
He said the first raid Wednesday hit vehicles of the pro-Iranian Shi’ite fundamentalist group at about 9 a.m. local time. The second struck Hezbollah bases near Jebl Fassa, described as a staging area for incursions against Israel and a Katyusha rocket-launching site.
The air strike was the 13th by Israel against targets in Lebanon so far this year but the first since the Lebanese regular army took control of areas of southern Lebanon, including the port cities of Sidon and Tyre a week ago.
According to Beirut radio, the air raids were followed by Israeli artillery attacks, which pounded the same targets just hit by the planes.
But until the IDF casualties were announced, the public was not told specifically why Hezbollah was targeted for aerial attack. Also unexplained were reported IDF movements on the ground.
Lebanese sources in Tyre reported that IDF patrols left the security zone to search near the Lebanese villages of Kleibi and Mansouri.
The Voice of Lebanon radio station said an IDF mobile unit moved north of the zone into the Maronite Christian enclave around the town of Jezzine, which is controlled by the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army.
The unit caught in the ambush was described as one of the IDF’s regular patrols that routinely search out and destroy terrorist bands in southern Lebanon.
“We came under fire from both sides of the road and we suffered casualties,” one of the soldiers told Israel Radio on Wednesday night.
PLO KEPT HALF ITS WEAPONS
The IDF denied reports of an Israeli air raid over southern Lebanon on Tuesday, and the Lebanese Defense Ministry subsequently withdrew a complaint to that effect.
UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, confirmed the Israeli denial, although its Nepalese component reported Israeli aircraft flew low over their positions north of the security zone Tuesday.
In other ground action, the SLA lost one man and killed one and possibly two Hezbollah guerrillas Wednesday in a skirmish near Majdal Zum, on the boundary of the security zone.
Meanwhile, the Lebanese defense minister, Michel Murr, charged that the Palestine Liberation Organization had surrendered only half of its heavy and medium weapons to units of the Lebanese army surrounding Palestinian refugee camps near Tyre.
Murr told reporters he had complained to the U.N. undersecretary-general, Marrack Goulding, who is currently visiting Middle East capitals. He is due in Israel next week.
Goulding is discussing, among other things, extension of the UNIFIL mandate, which expires this month, and Lebanon’s demand that Israel comply with Security Council Resolution 425 of 1978, demanding its withdrawal from southern Lebanon.