Reports Moslem gunmen disarmed U.N. Peacekeeping Troopers With AM-Israel-Infiltration
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ Four Shiite Moslem gunmen disarmed Finnish soldiers and looted a shelter of the U.N. peacekeeping forces during fighting between Israeli troops and Shiite militiamen, a U.N. spokesmen said Sunday.
″It was really war out here,″ said a spokesman for the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) of Saturday’s battle in southern Lebanon in which 18 guerrillas were reported killed. ″I haven’t seen anything like that since I came here.″
The official, who spoke with the condition he not be identified, said he has been with UNIFIL since 1979, a year after the 5,800-man force from nine nations was deployed in southern Lebanon to separate Israeli forces and Palestinian guerrillas. He was reached by telephone at his office in UNIFIL’s command headquarters in the Lebanese border town of Naqoura.
He said a Finnish U.N. position manned by 14 soldiers was attacked by Shiite militiamen who disarmed and robbed the soldiers after taking two other Finns hostage.
The spokesman gave this account:
Four assailants in a station wagon were crossing the Qaaqayeh bridge, on the edge of the U.N.-policed zone at the eastern sector of the Litani River at 4 a.m. Saturday. They were stopped by two Finnish soldiers at a checkpoint and were advised not to cross the bridge because of the fighting.
″The gunmen then grabbed the two Finnish troops on the bridge checkpoint and marched them at gunpoint to the nearby Finnish position, where they disarmed the rest of the Finns.″
The soldiers at the underground shelter could not shoot at the gunmen because they were holding the two hostages.
″The four guys disarmed all soldiers at the position and looted everything, radios, money, everything. It was quite a lot. The incident lasted one and a half hours.″
The gunmen then left after freeing the two hostages, and presumably joined their comrades in the fighting in and around Israel’s self-designated ″security zone″ in southern Lebanon.
″All U.N. battalions in the area of the fighting were ordered into underground shelters throughout the fighting, except for those who were on duty,″ the spokesman said.
Israel invaded Lebanon in June 1982 to drive out guerrillas of the Palestine Liberation Organization. It withdrew most of its forces thre years later, but maintains a ″security zone″ in southern Lebanon just north of the Israeli border.
Israel has kept about 1,000 soldiers in the buffer strip that ranges up to seven-miles wide, and they are aligned with some 1,500 predominanly Christian militiamen of the South Lebanon Army. The buffer zone at points overlaps the areas policed by the U.N. forces.
Saturday’s fighting pitted Israeli troops and South Lebanon Army militiamen aainst some 60 Shiite guerrillas of the Iranian-backed Islamic Resistance.
An Israeli military spokesman, insisting on anonymityi, said the guerrilla death toll was the highest in a single battle since the security zone was established. He said four Israeli soldiers suffered slight wounds in the fight but gave no casualty figures for the South Lebanon Army.