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Arab Guerrillas Penetrate Israel, Kill Two Soldiers

February 04, 1988|Associated Press

KIBBUTZ YIFTAH, Israel — Arab guerrillas on a hostage-taking mission penetrated Israel from Lebanon today and hurled grenades at Israeli soldiers. Two soldiers were killed before troops fatally shot one guerrilla and captured another.

A third Israeli soldier was wounded and a third guerrilla escaped back into Lebanon in the heavy pre-dawn fog, military officials said.

It was the fourth infiltration attempt in less than three months and brought to nine the number of Israeli soldiers killed in those attacks.

Israeli officials linked the attempt to eight weeks of violent Palestinian unrest in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Palestine Liberation Organization's mainstream Fatah faction claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement released in the coastal Lebanese city of Sidon.

'Pushing Harder'

Maj. Gen Yossi Peled, head of the northern command, warned Israelis living along the northern frontier to be prepared for further attacks because Palestinians, both in the occupied territories and at the borders, are "pushing harder" in their fight against Israel.

"The terrorists do not stop trying to hurt us but they have failed," Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir told reporters. "Still, alertness and security are needed and the Israeli soldiers are standing guard."

The guerrillas, carrying weapons and handwritten instructions for the operation, sneaked into Israel about two hours before dawn, army officials said.

As they were crossing an electrified fence at the border, they ran into an Israeli patrol, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A 20-minute fire fight broke out on a rocky hillside about one mile from Kibbutz Yiftah, a communal settlement of 550 Israelis about 120 miles northeast of Tel Aviv.

"They fired rockets at us and threw hand grenades," the force commander, Lt. Avi, said on Israel radio. "We charged twice."

3rd Guerrilla Flees

Avi, whose first name was not given, said one guerrilla surrendered, yelling "Stop! Stop!" in English, and soldiers searched on land and in the air for two hours before finding a second guerrilla, who was killed in a fight with grenades and automatic weapons.

Military officials said that the third guerrilla had not actually crossed the border fence when the patrol initially approached and that he ran back into Lebanon.

The army said that Pvt. Eliezer Shefer, 20, was killed at the scene and that Pvt. Avshalom Bashari, 19, was critically wounded and later died of his wounds.

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