Two IDF Soldiers Killed in Lebanon As Red Cross Retrieves 17 Deportees

Two Israeli soldiers were killed and a third sustained light injuries when a roadside bomb exploded while they were on patrol Saturday in the border security zone of southern Lebanon.

The bombing incident occurred hours after Red Cross officials flew 17 of the 415 Palestinians deported last month to Lebanon back into Israeli-controlled territory, after receiving permission from the Israeli government.

In the bombing attack, near Ruman village in the northeastern sector of the security zone, the three Israeli soldiers were on patrol in an armored vehicle that apparently triggered a roadside charge.

Both the mainstream Shi’ite Amal militia and a group calling itself the Believers’ Resistance claimed responsibility for the attack.

The two dead soldiers were identified as Sgt. Amir Sheikh, 19, a Druse from the mixed Druse-Moslem village of Abu Sinan in western Galilee, and Pvt. Chai Kalomiti, 19, of Hadar Yosef in Tel Aviv.

Israel Defense Force and allied South Lebanon Army artillery units retaliated for the attack by shelling Al-Tufach village near Nabatiya township, north of the zone in Lebanon.

Reports from Lebanon said IDF helicopter gunships flew over the area, but there was no Israeli confirmation that the helicopters fired missiles at the villages.

MEDICAL SUPPLIES REFUSED

Earlier Saturday, Red Cross officials arranged with the British air force to evacuate 17 Palestinians who were in the group of more than 400 Moslem fundamentalist deportees now stranded in southern Lebanon between checkpoints manned on one side by the Lebanese army and on the other by the IDF and the SLA.

Israel agreed to take back 13 men who it said were deported Dec. 17 “by accident” and place another four sick men under care at a hospital inside the Israeli-controlled border security zone.

The Red Cross was forced to ask the British Royal Air Force to ferry the deportees out of the tent camp after the United Nations refused the Red Cross the use of its own helicopters.

The British helicopters, which were taken from a base on Cyprus and already bore Red Cross insignia, were denied permission to fly over Lebanese airspace. They landed at a makeshift landing pad some 1,000 feet from the deportees’ camp.

The helicopters brought a team of Red Cross personnel and doctors, medical supplies and equipment. They also brought the deportees about 800 letters from relatives in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

However, the deportees refused to accept the medical supplies, saying it would compromise their demand for immediate return to their homes in Israel, under a resolution adopted by the U.N. Security Council last month.

Of the 13 Palestinians returned to Israel, all but two were to be imprisoned for anti-Israel activities.

An additional two men whom Israel said it would accept back declined the offer, saying they preferred to remain in Lebanon rather than be returned to Israel, where they would face life imprisonment for terrorist activities.

The British pilots told reporters in Haifa they had found the deportees to be in a better condition than expected from reports by the news media.

Elsewhere in the security zone Saturday, two Arab guerrillas were killed while planting a roadside explosive charge near Markaba. SLA troops discovered and detonated two other charges they discovered in the zone.

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