TEL AVIV (Jul. 8)
Two Israeli soldiers were killed and three others wounded, one of them seriously, in a clash Thursday with Palestinian guerrillas in southern Lebanon.
There were also unconfirmed reports late Thursday night that an Israeli settler had been shot to death in his car near the West Bank settlement of Tekoa. No further details were immediately available.
Ahmed Jabril’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command announced in Damascus that its men had carried out the assault in Lebanon, and evidence uncovered by Israeli soldiers at the site of the ambush confirmed the group’s involvement.
The incident occurred in the eastern sector of the southern Lebanon security zone when a patrol of Givati Brigade soldiers was struck by a roadside bomb and automatic weapons fire near Al-Shiyeh.
The Israeli patrol returned the fire, killing at least one guerrilla.
Israeli and allied South Lebanon Army gunners shelled guerrilla bases suspected of launching the attack.
The wounded soldiers were brought by helicopter to Rambam Hospital in Haifa where, despite a strike by government employees, special teams were on duty to deal with emergencies.
Reports from Lebanon said that later in the day several Katyusha rockets were fired from north of the security zone toward the scene of the clash, and heavy exchanges of fire between Israeli and SLA forces and guerrilla gunmen continued into the afternoon.
Thursday’s engagement was the latest in an escalating series of clashes in and near the south Lebanon security zone.
Roughly half the attacks against Israeli or SLA targets have been carried out by the Iranian-supported Hezbollah organization, with the rest by a variety of other groups, including Palestinian terrorist groups such as the PFLP-GC.
Rafael Eitan, a former Israel Defense Force chief of staff and now head of the right-wing Tsomet party, was touring the northern border region at the time of the clash and demanded that the government halt peace negotiations with Syria because the Jabril organization is based in Damascus.
He implied that Jabril’s activities could be halted if the Syrians wished to do so.