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Israeli Jets Strike in S. Lebanon

March 22, 2000

BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ Israeli jets struck guerrilla hideouts in southern Lebanon on Wednesday, while their allied militiamen exchanged mortar and rocket fire with guerrillas.

The airstrikes and exchanges followed a morning roadside bombing that Lebanese security officials said wounded two militiamen. Two civilians and an off-duty Lebanese soldier were injured in the militia shelling, the officials said on condition of anonymity.

In Jerusalem, Israeli security sources said dozens of Katyusha rockets and mortars had fallen on both sides of the border. The military said there were no casualties or damage on the Israeli side.

Most of the ground and air action occurred in the central sector of the front line, where Israeli warplanes flew three sorties over suspected guerrilla hideouts at Wadi Qaissiyeh, Lebanese security officials said. There were no reports of injuries or damage from the airstrikes.

Early Wednesday, militiamen from the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army were on a routine patrol near the village of Kfar Tibnit when Hezbollah guerrillas detonated a roadside bomb, the Lebanese officials said. One militiaman was seriously wounded and evacuated to Israel, while another suffered moderate injuries.

Soon after, militiamen closed the Kfar Tibnit crossing, one of several checkpoints linking the occupied area with the rest of Lebanon. They also responded with artillery and machine gun fire, the officials said.

The off-duty Lebanese soldier was struck in his home in Kfar Tibnit village, suffering shrapnel wounds to the face from militia fire, the officials said. Two civilians were also injured, one seriously with shrapnel wounds to the head, in Kfar Tibnit, which is about six miles north of the Israeli border.

The Israeli military and Hezbollah each accused the other of violating 1996 guidelines agreed by all sides to protect civilians from the fighting.

Hezbollah guerrillas are fighting to oust 1,500 Israeli soldiers and 2,500 SLA militiamen from the border zone held by Israel since 1985. Israel, which has said the zone is necessary to guard against cross-border guerrilla attacks, has promised to would withdraw its troops by July.

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