IDF Soldier, 3 Gunmen Die in Southern Lebanon Clash

One day before an Israeli soldier killed in southern Lebanon was laid to rest, the new army chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, said Palestinian rejectionist groups have stepped up their activities in southern Lebanon.

Staff Sgt. Yair Tsafrir was killed during a clash Tuesday between members of the Golani Brigade and the fundamentalist group Hezbollah.

Reports from Lebanon said three Hezbollah gunmen were killed and another wounded during the clash, which took place just north of the security zone, Israel Television reported.

In response to the incident, Israeli helicopters and artillery fired on the area.

In his first appearance as chief of staff before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Shahak said Hezbollah has increased activities against the Israel Defense Force and its ally, the South Lebanese Army, throughout the security zone.

On the issue of Israeli-Palestinian relations, Shahak said the IDF does not have any plan to separate Israelis and Palestinians. The idea has been floated by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and his aides in the wake of the Jan. 22 suicide bombing near Netanya.

Shahak also said the security forces are not preparing for any pullback from Palestinian population centers in the territories.

If security arrangements in the West Bank are based on those in Jericho and Gaza, he said, security forces will have a difficult time entering Palestinian areas to carry out arrests or searches.

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