BEIRUT — At least two Israeli soldiers were killed and seven wounded Tuesday when Shia Muslim guerrillas attacked Israeli occupation forces across southern Lebanon.
The killings occurred when guerrillas attacked a patrol just north of the Qasmiyeh bridge, which crosses the Litani River about six miles north of the port city of Tyre and marks the northern boundary of the Israeli occupation zone on the Mediterranean coast.
Officials of the Shia militia known as Amal said six Israelis 15-minute gun battle. The Israeli military command said two were killed and two were wounded.
Israel radio reported that five guerrillas hiding in an orchard opened fire on the patrol at close range. It said that the Israelis ran after their attackers, firing as they went, but that the guerrillas escaped, apparently without casualties. The broadcast said the entire incident lasted only a few minutes.
Meanwhile, near Jezzine, a Christian mountain town about 24 miles southeast of Beirut, a car laden with explosives blew up accidentally before hitting its apparent target, a nearby Israeli patrol. The military command in Tel Aviv said the car's driver was killed and one Israeli soldier was wounded in the explosion.
A roadside bomb exploded in the same area a few hours later, injuring four more Israeli soldiers, according to the military.
The attack near the Qasmiyeh bridge took place only a few miles from the village of Zrariye, which Israeli troops stormed on Monday in the most violent example to date of Israel's "iron fist" policy aimed at reducing attacks by Lebanese guerrillas during the three-stage withdrawal of Israeli troops form southern Lebanon.
The death toll in the raid rose to 37 when three more victims were found in the fields around the hilltop town. Another 32 people were wounded and between 100 and 200 men were taken away by the Israelis for questioning.
Victims of the raid were buried Tuesday in two common graves dug by a bulldozer in a cemetery on the outskirts of town.
As mourning women tore at their hair in grief, a leading Shia Muslim cleric, Sheik Abdel-Amir Kabalan, promised to fight Israel "with our teeth, with our nails, to the end."
The Israelis said all those killed at Zrariye were guerrillas, but villagers said most were innocent civilians. Diplomatic sources said about half the people killed in the raid were believed to have been guerrillas belonging to Amal.
The sources said the town was a major stopping-off point on thee underground supply line ferrying arms to anti-Israeli guerrillas within the Israeli occupation zone about six miles to the south.
The sources said the guerrillas also suffered a major setback eight days ago when a bomb exploded in a mosque in the town of Maarake, killing two leaders of the anti-Israeli resistance as well as 10 other people.
One of the leaders, Mohammed Saad, was considered to be Amal's mainstay in the Israeli zone of occupation, according to the sources, and the other, Khalil Jaradi, was believed to be a high official of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah (Party of God) guerrillas. Both groups are composed of Shia Muslims.
"The death of Mohammed Saad was a real blow," said one source. "There are still 10 attacks a day against the Israelis, but now they are uncoordinated and without the same kind of effect."
The Israelis have denied any responsibility for the bombing. But Shia leaders hold the Israelis responsible for that blast and for a car bombing in Beirut's southern suburbs that left about 80 people dead last Friday.
Two days later, a suicide bomber now believed to have been a woman drove a car loaded with explosives into an Israeli convoy near the border town of Metulla, killing 12 Israeli soldiers and wounding 14 others.
Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir told reporters during a visit to Brussels on Tuesday: "We thought that after the decision to withdraw from Lebanon all terrorist attacks would cease. The contrary has happened."
Tuesday's casualties brought to 27 the number of Israelis killed since the government announced a three-phase withdrawal plan on Jan. 14, and the attacks reflected a stepped-up local resistance determined to force the Israelis out of Lebanon immediately. Prime Minister Shimon Peres urged at a meeting of the Knesset (Parliament) Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that the lawmakers demonstrate "unity and accord" on the pullout plan.