BEIRUT — The Lebanese army declared the sea off Lebanon's Druze-held Shouf mountains a military zone beginning today after a Druze militia refused to surrender a helicopter piloted by an army deserter.
The Lebanese action would amount to a blockade of the port of Jiye, run by the Druze Progressive Socialist Party. The port, south of Beirut, lies in the zone and supplies the Shouf region.
Air force Lt. Majed Karamah, who is a Druze, flew the French-made Gazelle helicopter from a military base north of Beirut to the Shouf on Wednesday. He said he deserted and took refuge with the Druze militia because the military is biased in favor of Christian President Amin Gemayel.
The army said the military zone will extend seven miles out to sea and run 19 miles down the Shouf coast from the town of Khalde, south of Beirut, to the Awwali River.