Tension Increases In South Lebanon Following Bombings, Raids With PM-Lebanon-High-Tech War,
Tension Increases In South Lebanon Following Bombings, Raids With PM-Lebanon-High-Tech War, Bjt
NABATIYEH, Lebanon (AP) _ Worried villagers stayed indoors today, fearing more Israeli raids on southern Lebanon in retaliation for the nine Israeli soldiers killed in Israel’s deadliest day of guerrilla attacks since 1985.
Bombing attacks by Iranian-backed guerrillas on Thursday and Israeli raids that followed have raised tensions on the only active Arab-Israeli front, which suffered an Israeli onslaught in July because of guerrilla attacks.
The fighting came less than two weeks before Middle East peace talks are to resume in Washington.
In Israel, officials of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s government rejected opposition demands today that it put more pressure on Syria, the powerbroker in Lebanon, to stop the attacks and urged that the peace talks move forward.
An Israeli army spokesman said a 22-year-old Israeli lieutenant died today of injuries sustained in Thursday’s bombings, raising the death toll from the attacks to nine. It was the highest one-day death toll since Israel carved out its self-styled ″security zone″ in south Lebanon in 1985.
Israeli warplanes patrolled the region overnight, sometimes lighting the sky with parachute flares, but no bombing raids were reported, said security sources in Lebanon, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The sources said about 2,000 villagers fled their homes, many heading to Beirut. But there was no sign that residents were repeating last month’s exodus, in which about 500,000 people fled to the north.
That migration began during a July 25-31 Israeli blitz that killed 147 people in Lebanon, and wounded almost 500. The Israelis launched the strikes after seven of their soldiers were killed in a series of guerrilla attacks.
″We’re puzzled. We don’t know how or when Israel will retaliate,″ said Hind Jaber in the southern market town of Nabatiyeh, which took the brunt of the shelling during Israel’s July assault.
″We will take maximum precautions. But I’m not going to leave like last time,″ she said. In July, she fled to Beirut with her husband and five children.
Thursday’s two guerrilla attacks, in the morning and at sundown, were claimed by Hezbollah, or Party of God, a fundamentalist Shiite Muslim group that has vowed to sabotage the U.S.-sponsored peace talks.
After the first attack, Israel responded with air strikes in hills surrounding east Lebanon’s ancient city of Baalbek and the village of Janta in the eastern Bekaa Valley near the Syrian border. Two guerrillas were killed, Hezbollah said.
In Israel, right-wing leader Binyamin Netanyahu said the understanding which halted last month’s fighting between Israel and Hezbollah had unraveled, and the government should force Syria to stop the guerrilla attacks.
″The government must come to the conclusion that there is no value to the agreements reached with Syria,″ said Netanyahu, leader of the hawkish Likud opposition.
In an Israel Radio interview, Rabin defended his government’s policy in Lebanon, saying it had taken Israel’s northern settlements ″out of the war of attrition″ that has long been waged in south Lebanon.
The U.S.-brokered cease-fire applied only to Israel’s northern border and not to south Lebanon where the soldiers were killed.