Precede SRIFA New Israeli Action Reported in South Lebanon
KFAR DOUNINE, Lebanon (AP) _ Tank-led Israeli forces and local militiamen clashed in this southern Lebanese village today, and a Ghanaian soldier in the United Nations peacekeeping forces was seriously wounded, a U.N. spokesman said.
The fighting came on the fifth day of the Israeli search for two soldiers captured by Shiite guerrillas Monday. Israeli sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Ghanaian soldier was hit accidentally during a firefight after guerrillas opened fire on Israeli troops.
Reporters near the village said loud explosions rocked the area and smoke billowed into the sky. It was not known, however, whether the explosions were caused by shelling or by Israelis blowing up houses of suspected guerrillas.
Kfar Dounine is the headquarters of the Ghanaian battalion of the nine- nation U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL.
Israeli Maj. Gen. Ori Orr, who is directing the search operation, said on Israel radio that ″we will continue to search until we have evidence about our soldiers.″ Israeli military sources said the soldiers may stay through the weekend.
The Ghanaian soldier was the second man in the 5,500-strong force to be wounded in the Israeli sweep. An Irish soldier was shot in the hip in the town of Braachit on Thursday night.
Timur Goksel, the UNIFIL spokesman, said the Irish soldier underwent surgery in Naqoura during the night. He said the Ghanaian soldier was wounded in the lower abdomen and was evacuated to Naqoura.
Meanwhile, the Beirut weekly Al-Ahd, organ of the radical Shiite Hezbollah, or Party of God, today published what it said was a photograph of the two seized Israeli soldiers.
Al-Ahd said the picture was taken before Wednesday night, when the Islamic Resistance Front claimed to have killed one of the men. The front, a coalition of Shiite zealots loyal to Iran, said the soldier was killed when the Israelis ignored an ultimatum to end their search of southern Lebanon.
The group did not say which prisoner was killed, and no body has been found. The Israelis have identified the captured men as privates Yossi Fink and Rahamim al-Sheikh, both 21.
The photo published in Al-Ahd showed one man with his head bandaged and both men receiving intravenous fluids. The men were covered in sheets, with only their heads and arms visible, and were in a room plastered with pictures of Shiite religious leaders, including Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
There was no way to immediately authenticate the picture or the identity of the men.
The fighting in Kfar Dounine, five miles north of Israel’s self-proclaimed security zone in southern Lebanon, came a day after Israeli troops fought a four-hour battle with Shiite Moslem guerrillas in Srifa, three miles to the north.
The military command in Tel Aviv said one Israeli soldier and eight guerrillas were killed in Srifa. An Israeli sailor aboard a gunboat off the port of Tyre was killed Tuesday by gunfire from shore.
State-run Beirut Radio and Shiite militia communiques claimed 20 Israelis were killed or wounded in Srifa, but there was no independent confirmation.
An estimated 1,500 Israeli troops backed by tanks and helicopter gunships are involved in the search of southern Lebanon.
Lebanon’s state radio said Israeli tanks hammered Srifa with fresh barrages of tank cannon fire at daybreak today, but Goksel said there had been no major action there since the previous night.
Western reporters said in telephoned dispatches that Israeli troops and tanks rolled down from Srifa to the Kfar Dounine area during the night.
Fighters of the largest Shiite militia, Amal, claimed they attacked two Israeli positions near Froun, 10 miles north of the Israeli-occupied buffer zone, during the night. The militia said it suffered no casualties.
Most of Israel’s tank fire at Srifa on Thursday was aimed at 30 houses on the village’s northeast flank. Shiite fighters there had fired rocket- propelled grenades and machine guns at Israeli units.
Israeli gunships over Srifa, a hilltop town with a population of 2,500, apparently directed the tank fire.
The Israelis have searched 20 villages in the UNIFIL zone.
Guerrilla communiques said nine fighters have been killed and 17 wounded. Another 327 men were listed as missing, presumed detained by the Israelis.
Goksel confirmed 130 Lebanese had been rounded up and apparently taken south for interrogation.
The Israeli sweep is the army’s biggest military operation since Israel withdrew the bulk of its army last June after a three-year occupation.