Guerrillas Killed in Clash With Israeli Troops
TYRE, Lebanon (AP) _ Israeli troops killed at least three Palestinian guerrillas in south Lebanon early today in a gunbattle illuminated by parachute flares after a chase through hills near Israel’s border.
It was the second day in a row that Israeli troops had clashed with guerrillas in Israel’s self-proclaimed security zone that were headed for attacks in northern Israel.
The Israeli army showed reporters the bodies of three slain guerrillas at a base in northern Israel, displaying identification papers showing the dead men belonged to a Syrian-based PLO faction and saying they intended to attack an Israeli settlement.
The faction, the Palestine Liberation Front, said in a statement that the guerrillas were headed into Israel for a raid.
The Israeli military said the three were killed in a half-hour fight after a predawn chase of several hours through the hills. A Lebanese police spokesman said four guerrillas were killed.
The discrepancy could not immediately be resolved.
The police spokesman, who cannot be identified under standing rules, said the guerrillas were intercepted in Israel’s security zone at the village of Meiss el-Jebel shortly after midnight.
He said the Israelis fired about 600 parachute flares during the action.
In its communique, the Israeli military said air force planes dropped the flares to light the way for the troops after they spotted the guerrillas near Meiss el-Jebel, about half a mile from the Israeli border.
A soldier in the force, identified only as Ofer under army regulations, told reporters at the base in northern Israel that his sergeant opened fire on the guerrillas after spotting their hiding place about 20 yards away and the guerrillas fired back.
Then, he said, ″the whole force joined in and threw hand grenades. One of the terrorists opened fire and missed, and then he was killed.″
The names on the guerrillas’ documents were Ahmed Mohammed Atallah, Mazen Mohammed Shams Adin, and Khaled Mohammed Ibrahim.
Also displayed to reporters were leaflets carried by the men, which said their mission was ″to identify with the children of the stones,″ referring to the Palestinian uprising in Israeli-occupied territories.
The guerrillas carried AK-47 automatic rifles with several magazines, hand grenades, three small missiles, barbed wire cutters, and photographs of members of their faction killed in earlier raid attempts.
Today’s was the fourth clash between PLO guerrillas and Israeli soldiers in less than three weeks. On Sunday, Israeli soldiers killed two Palestinian guerrillas who entered the security zone.
At least 12 guerrillas have been killed in the clashes and no Israelis were injured.
Israel has cited the clashes in asking the United States to call off its dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization. It maintains they prove that PLO chairman Yasser Arafat is violating his renunciation of terrorism.
Maj. Gen. Yossi Peled, the head of northern command, told Israel radio today: ″We are talking about intensive activity by all the terrorist organizations. What happened last night is another stage. The aims of these organizations hasn’t changed. They want to hurt Israeli settlements.″
Washington ended a 13-year ban on dealings with the PLO and initiated a dialogue with the PLO in December after Arafat renounced terrorism and recognized Israel’s right to exist.
Arafat and his aides have said attacks against Israeli military targets are not included in the PLO’s definition of terrorism.
An Israeli Foreign Ministry official said today’s attempted raid indicated Arafat could not force his entire organization to stick to his renunciation of terrorism.
″It’s just one more indication that the PLO doesn’t control all the groups,″ said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The PLO serves as an umbrella group for eight guerrilla factions which sometimes fight among themselves and launch independent attacks on Israeli targets. The largest group is Arafat’s mainstream Fatah.
Israel established security zone up to 10 miles deep in south Lebanon to protect its northern border when it pulled most of its forces out of the region in 1985, ending a three-year occupation.