5 Guerrillas Killed, 4 Israelis Wounded In South Lebanon
MARJAYOUN, Lebanon (AP) _ Five Palestinian guerrillas were killed and five Israeli soldiers wounded in a shootout today in an Israeli-occupied enclave in south Lebanon, security sources said.
It was the deepest guerrilla penetration into the security zone this year. The guerrillas belonged to Ahmed Jibril’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, which is backed by Syria and rated among Israel’s deadliest enemies.
They were spotted by Israeli troops and engaged at Rob 30 hill, about five miles inside the eastern sector of the enclave, which Israel calls its ``security zone,″ said the Lebanese sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
There were no guerrilla survivors. The five bullet-riddled bodies, armed with shoulder-fired rocket-propelled grenades, automatic rifles and hand grenades, lay for more than three hours on the battleground.
Israeli investigators were on their way to the scene to examine the bodies before they were removed.
A communique from the guerrilla group said its guerrillas raked the Israeli patrol with rocket-propelled grenades, destroying two Israeli Merkava tanks, a halftrack and a jeep.
It said the attack was in retaliation for a massive Israeli air raid Sunday on the group’s main base south of Beirut in which three guerrillas were killed and four civilians wounded.
The clash flared just two miles north of Israel’s border town of Miskaf Am, which appeared to be the target of the ill-fated guerrilla foray.
About 150 Israeli troops rushed to the scene to reinforce the targeted Israeli patrol, made up of two armored personnel carriers, a jeep and a water tank, said the Lebanese sources, who spoke by telephone from Marjayoun, provincial capital of the security zone.
Israeli artillery blasted suspected guerrilla hideouts and infiltration trails facing the security zone’s eastern flank with about 50 rounds of 155mm howitzer fire after the clash, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Guerrrillas of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah responded with six Soviet-designed Katyusha rockets on a hilltop Israeli army position in the village of Qantara. But the projectiles missed, the sources said.
Today’s casualties raised the toll in the border enclave this year to 10 killed and 15 wounded. The wounded included eight Israeli soldiers.
Nine of those killed were Shiite Muslim and radical Palestinian guerrillas. The other belonged to the South Lebanon Army, a militia trained, equipped and bankrolled by Israel.
Radical Palestinians opposed to Yasser Arafat’s limited self-rule pact with Israel have teamed up with the Shiite Muslim Hezbollah in a campaign to scuttle the accord.
The Iranian-backed Hezbollah, or Party of God, opposes the U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace process and has been spearheading a guerrilla campaign to dislodge Israel from the security zone.
The zone, which has a predominantly Shiite population of 200,000, was carved out in 1985 to shield Israel’s northern flank from cross-border raids.
The enclave is routinely patrolled by 1,200 Israeli troops and 2,500 SLA militiamen.