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Israelis, Lebanese Army Clash in 3-Hour Battle; Israeli Killed, 5 Lebanese Injured

March 08, 1985|CHARLES P. WALLACE | Times Staff Writer

BEIRUT — Israeli and Lebanese forces fought a three-hour battle with tanks and light weapons Thursday at the edge of Israel's occupation zone in southern Lebanon.

One Israeli soldier was killed and five Lebanese were reported wounded in the exchange.

The clash, the second between the two armies in about two weeks, took place at the village of Kawthariet Assayad, about 10 miles south of the Lebanese seaport of Sidon.

Conflicting Accounts

The two sides gave differing accounts of the battle.

A Lebanese army communique said the Israelis advanced on the village, which is the Lebanese army's forward line in the south, behind a screen of tank cannon fire at about 8:15 a.m.

The Lebanese returned the fire "with all available weapons," according to the communique. One report said regular Lebanese army troops were joined by Druze and Shia Muslim militiamen.

The fighting blazed for nearly three hours, according to Beirut radio stations, before the Israelis finally pulled back to their front-line positions in the town of Sharqiyeh to the south.

The Israelis said the fighting began after patrolling Israeli troops pursued a Lebanese car containing suspects after it did not stop at a checkpoint.

"In the course of the pursuit," an Israeli military statement said, "a Lebanese army force stationed in the area . . . opened fire on our soldiers." Military sources confirmed that the Israelis returned the fire, and an Israeli military spokesman reported that one Israeli soldier was killed.

Gunships Reported

At one point, according to Beirut radio reports, the Israelis brought in helicopter gunships to coordinate the artillery fire. Altogether, the Lebanese said, about 25 Israeli shells hit the village of Kawthariet Assayad, heavily damaging several houses in addition to wounding four militiamen and one Lebanese soldier.

The Lebanese, who had previously given the Israeli army wide berth, have been emboldened by the increasing attacks on the Israelis by Muslim guerrillas and have appeared more willing to stand their ground when challenged by Israeli forces.

In Beirut, meanwhile, Muslim gunmen battled government soldiers of West Beirut's predominantly Muslim 6th Brigade for three hours Thursday afternoon, forcing the closure of four crossing points along the "Green Line" that separates mainly Muslim West Beirut from Christian East Beirut.

There was no word on casualties.

U.N. Censure Asked

At the United Nations on Thursday, Lebanon proposed that the U.N. Security Council censure Israel for recent acts by its military forces involving civilians in the occupied southern sector, according to wire service reports.

A draft resolution condemning "the Israeli practices and measures against the civilian population" and declaring them violations of international law was submitted to the Security Council, which met later in the day and debated the issue without voting on it.

The United States has threatened to use its veto, if necessary, to block censure.

In a letter Thursday to U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar, Israel's U.S. delegate, Benjamin Netanyahu, defended his nation, saying Israel has acted responsibly to prevent terrorism in southern Lebanon.

Lebanon's proposal followed several violent incidents in the area, including an explosion Monday at a mosque in Maarake that killed 12 people and injured 34. Lebanon has accused Israel of being responsible for the blast, but Israel has denied any involvement.

Lebanon has also proposed that the United Nations set up a fact-finding mission to report to the Security Council on Israeli actions in southern Lebanon.

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