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Forces Hoping to Spoil Peace Talks Linked to Rise of Violence in Lebanon

A sharp escalation of fighting in southern Lebanon this week is attributed here to efforts by Hezbollah and other radical groups to sabotage Arab-Israeli peace moves begun in Madrid.

In the latest action Thursday, Israeli air force jets blasted a base of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine near the Rashidiya refugee camp, south of Tyre on the coast.

The terrorist group, headed by Nayef Hawatmeh, is believed to be working in concert with the Islamic fundamentalist Hezbollah. The base was destroyed and all planes returned safely after “successful operations,” an Israel Defense Force spokesman said.

Despite warnings of severe retaliation by the IDF regional commander, Gen. Yitzhak Mordechai, Hezbollah continued to harass the IDF and its allied South Lebanon Army.

A roadside bomb exploded Wednesday near an SLA outpost at Rashaf village in the southern Lebanon security zone. Two additional explosive charges found later elsewhere in the zone were safely dismantled.

Although no casualties or damage resulted, the SLA and IDF fired more than 30 mortar rounds at Haditha village north of the security zone, which is believed to shelter Hezbollah guerrillas. No casualties were reported there.

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon reported that more than 100 shells were fired Wednesday night into Shi’ite villages said to be harboring Hezbollah gunmen.

In Beirut, Hezbollah publicly urged the Lebanese government to pull out of the bilateral peace talks with Israel started in Madrid last weekend because of the Israeli shelling.

Israeli observers say the newly aggressive action by Hezbollah is intended to goad Israel into retaliation, which could give the Lebanese government, and the Syrians who control it, an excuse to pull out of the peace talks.

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