Israeli bombers destroyed a surface-to-air missile battery near Beirut today after the battery, at a Palestinian guerrilla site, reportedly fired at Israeli reconnaissance planes.
The official Beirut radio said at least 25 persons were killed wounded in the three hours of raids against Palestinian targets here and in the nearby coastal town of Damour, about 10 miles south of the Lebanese capital.
The SA9 missile batteries here, reportedly supplied by Libya in early April to protect a Palestinian faction friendly to Libya, are not directly related to the larger, more powerful SA6 missiles whose deployment in eastern Lebanon by Syrian forces has produced a tense confrontation between Israel and Syria.
Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, however, let the bombing raid against the missiles here be seen as a possible warning to Syria, saying in Jerusalem, "First we took care of the Libyan missiles and now we are going to rest."
The raids came as Syrian Foreign Minister Abdul Halim Khaddam and Lebanese Foreign Minister Fuad Butros met in Chtoura, east of Beirut, to discuss ways of easing the Syrian-Israeli missile crisis.
Under discussion were the date and agenda for a four-party foreign ministers conference designed to ease the crisis by first finding a solution to the immediate issue, then tackling the longer-term problem of national understanding for this divided land.
Both ministers made positive statements about their talks, which were backed directly by Saudi Arabia and indirectly by the United States.
The renewed air raids were the first in a month of relative quiet brought about by the presence of U.S. special envoy Phillip C. Habib, who left for Washington yesterday after a mission of shuttle negotiations to prevent a war over the presence of the Syrian missiles.
The Israeli Army Command said in Tel Aviv that the raids destroyed all 16 SA9 missiles in the battery here.
Israeli officials, who have claimed that there are "several hundred" Libyan troops in Lebanon, said that the missiles destroyed today were being directed by Libyans at the scene.
Palestinian sources, however, said that the SA9s, a vehicle-mounted missle with about one-fourth the range of the SA6, were manned and fired by commandos of the pro-Libyan Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, which is commanded by a former Syrian Army captain, Ahmad Jibril.
Israel recently said Libya had provided Jibril with SA9s and other material, but informed sources here said the missiles were delivered before the Syrian-Israeli crisis erupted.
The Palestinian sources neither confirmed nor denied Israeli claims that a routine reconnaissance flight had been fired at. The Israeli military spokesman invoked such an attack to justify the bombing raids.
Correspondents watching the raids saw the Israeli planes in pairs take advantage of bright afternoon sun in the defenders' eyes to make run after run against their targets. The planes released thermal ballons at regular intervals to attract the heat-seeking missiles away from the planes.
Among targets hit were a two-story seaside building, which exploded in bright flame and plumes of gray smoke, and targets hidden behind hills inland. Nahme residents said targets there included antiaircraft guns.
Washington Post correspondent William Claiborne reported from Jenusalem:
Begin, in what some saw as an implied threat about the Syrian missiles, said tonight on Israeli Army radio, "They acted, and we are always prepared. sOur Air Force did what it knows how to do best, and we destroyed them."
When asked about the implications of today's air strike for the Syrian missiles, Begin replied, "Everything according to its order. As the saying goes, "Kill a Turk and rest.'" He was alluding to a Russian Jewish proverb based on a mother's advice to her soldier son meaning to take one thing at a time.