TEL AVIV (Sep. 15)
Two members of the U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon were killed and six were wounded in separate encounters with heavily armed Palestinian terrorists over the weekend.
The most serious incident occurred Friday in Israel’s so-called security zone in southern Lebanon. The fatalities were a Swedish soldier of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon and one of six seaborne terrorist raiders.
Five Swedish and French UNIFIL troops and one terrorist were wounded and four terrorists were captured in a gun battle UNIFIL seems to blame on Israel Defense Force soldiers or their South Lebanon Army allies, who were nearby.
In the second incident, Saturday, one Nepalese soldier of UNIFIL was killed and another wounded when their patrol was fired on by two terrorists near Yatar village, just north of the security zone.
One of the gunmen was killed by return fire while the other escaped. No identification papers were found on the body.
But the terrorists involved in the earlier events belonged to the mainstream Al Fatah wing of the Palestine Liberation Organization, according to one of them, who was captured by the SLA and handed over to the IDF for questioning.
The other three, captured by UNIFIL, were turned over to the Lebanese army in Beirut.
Their mission was to attack the Israeli coastal city of Nahariya from the sea, “to kill citizens,” the man held by the IDF said at a news conference Saturday in Tel Aviv.
But because of a “navigational error,” they landed at Nakoura, on the southern Lebanon coast just north of the Israeli border, he said. He denied a UNIFIL report that the raiding party was driven off by Israeli gunboats.
The six marauders came in two motorized dinghies. The first three men to land were captured without a fight by French UNIFIL troops.
The second boatload, which came ashore about 1,600 feet from the Israeli border, surprised unarmed French soldiers on an early morning jog and Swedish soldiers taking a driving lesson. The Swedes had arrived in the region the day before.
A French colonel came to negotiate for the release of the UNIFIL men, who were taken hostage. At that point, versions of events differ.
A UNIFIL spokesman said IDF and SLA forces nearby had been asked not to intervene for the safety of the hostages. Nevertheless, fire was opened leading to a general shooting match in which the casualties occurred, according to the UNIFIL officer.
He said the initial shot was fired “probably by an SLA man.”
The SLA and IDF have denied they fired any shots.
ORDERED TO DENY FATAH LINK
The terrorist questioned by the IDF identified himself as Rabia Salman Awad Abu Shebab, 21. He said he was a Palestinian born in Jordan to parents from Bethlehem who originally lived in Beersheba.
Abu Shebab — “shebab” means “guy” or “youth” and is the sobriquet used commonly among intifada activists — said he joined the PLO in Jordan in 1989 and was sent to Libya the following year for five months’ training in the use of boats and personal weapons.
He said his trainers were Libyan soldiers, who wore no insignia of rank, and a Fatah officer named Sheik Akram Harawi. He said it was Harawi who gave final instructions to the leader of his mission, Abu Imad.
He said they were ordered to deny membership in Al Fatah if captured and say they belonged to a newly formed group called the Salaam (peace) Organization.
“The Fatah movement didn’t want to be identified with the operation if it failed,” said Abu Shebab.