Overnight Gunbattles In Beirut, Israeli Raid In South Lebanon
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ Christian and Moslem militiamen traded gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades in downtown Beirut today, and a U.N. spokesman said Israeli forces raided another village in occupied southern Lebanon.
Police said they had no clues yet on the whereabouts of any of the nine Westerners kidnapped in Lebanon during the last two weeks. U.N. spokesmen denied reports that United Nations non-Lebanese personnel had been instructed to evacute after the latest wave of gunpoint abductions.
Police said two civilians were injured in the overnight exchanges at Beirut’s bomb-shattered commercial district before a ceasefire was arranged shortly before dawn.
State-run Beirut Radio said the Cabinet was expected to endorse at its regular weekly meeting today a plan drawn up by the military command to disengage militias along the demarcation line.
The plan provides for the dismantling of rebuilt militia fortifications on both sides of the green line and the deployment of integrated Moslem and Christian army units in expanded mid-city buffer zones.
U.N. Spokesman Timur Goksel said an Israeli force searched the village of Chahour at around 6 a.m. today, rounded up about 100 men for questioning and searched houses for arms.
Chahour is 10 miles east of Lebanon’s southern port of Tyre and lies within the Finnish zone of the U.N. peacekeeping forces. Security sources, who spoke only on condition they not be identified, said the Israeli force moved into the village in 20 military vehicles, including 10 armored personnel carriers.
This was the latest raid in Israel’s five-week crackdown to check Shiite Moslem guerrilla attacks on its occupation army.
The security sources said a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at an Israeli army unit north of the village of Humaire Tuesday evening, causing no casualties. Humaire is about a mile southwest of Chahour.
Goksel said none of the Beirut-based staff of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon has been evacuated as a result of the kidnap wave. ″There has been no change in our status at all,″ he added.
Goksel said the 5,600-strong UNIFIL was not involved in any evacuation of United Nations personnel.
The 10-nation UNIFIL has 20 non-Lebanese employees working at administrative offices in Beirut, Goksel said.
The latest victim of the kidnap wave was British writer Alec Collett, 63, who was snatched on Monday at a highway junction south of Beirut while on an assignment for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency.
″We don’t have any new information at all on his whereabouts,″ a spokeswoman for the U.N. agency said today.
Although she denied reports that the 13 or 14 non-Lebanese personnel have been ordered to leave Lebanon after Collett’s abduction, she said two have already left the country ″because they are British.″
The decision that they should go, she said, was taken before Collett’s kidnapping.
The kidnap wave started on March 14 with the abduction of British metallurgist Geoffrey Nash in mostly Moslem west Beirut. Another Briton, businessman Brian Levick, was kidnapped the next day and American journalist Terry A. Anderson, Chief Middle East Correspondent for The Associated Press, was snatched the day after.
Gunmen then abducted French Vice Consul Marcel Fontaine as he was buying morning newspapers on his way to work at the French Embassy last Friday. The French Embassy protocol officer, Marcel Carton, and his daughter, Danielle Perez, a secretary at the embassy, disappeared the same day.
The Jihad Islami, or Islamic Holy War, organization, believed to be made up of Shiite Moslem extremists loyal to Iran, claimed it had kidnapped the three French nationals as well as Anderson, Nash and Levick.
Another underground group, the ″Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Factions,″ claimed it had kidnapped another French national, Gilles Sidney Peyrolles, in Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli.
Peyrolles, who served as director of the French Cultural Center in Tripoli, was last reported seen on Saturday in the second largest Lebanese city, 50 miles north of Beirut.
The Rev. Nicolas Kluiter, 44, a Dutch Roman Catholic priest, disappeared on March 14 while traveling in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa Valley, where several radical Shiite groups have bases. A note was left in his car saying he had been seized by the ″Vengeance Party,″ a previously unheard of group.
Jihad Islami had also claimed it still was holding four other Americans it abducted last year and in January of 1985. They are U.S. Embassy political officer William Buckley, Presbyterian minister Benjamin Weir, American University of Beirut librarian Peter Kilburn, and Catholic priest Lawrence Jenco.