Israeli troops killed a squad of five Palestinian guerrillas trying to infiltrate from Lebanon into Israel this morning, the military command announced.
Army sources said an Israeli patrol spotted the guerrillas across the border in Lebanon near Rosh Haniqra on the Mediterranean coast. The patrol chased the guerrillas and killed the entire squad, the military said. No Israeli casualties were reported.
According to military sources, the guerrillas apparently intended to attack Kibbutz Hanita, a collective farm just across the border from Lebanon.
The last clash betwen Palestinian infiltrators and Israeli troops occurred Dec. 14, when an Israeli patrol killed one guerrilla and captured two others 10 miles east of the Mediterranean. The clash today was close to that site.
The Israeli military was reportedly on high alert to fend off any Palestinian attacks intended to disrupt the Christmas celebrations.
An Israeli Army patrol spotted the guerrillas on the rough terrain of southern Lebanon as they approached a border fence, a miliary spokeswoman said. When the guerrillas saw the troops, they started running, she said. The soldiers gave chase and killed all five in a brief skirmish.
The guerrilla casualties were the most in any such operation since six guerrillas were killed trying to infiltrate near the Israeli settlement of Zarit on April 17, 1979.
"They were on their way to Israel for an attack," a military spokesman said of the guerrillas, who carried Soviet-designed Kalashnikov rifles, grenades, explosives and grenade launchers. "It was rather obvious they were coming for an assault."