Israeli warplanes bombed and strafed Palestinian targets in southern Lebanon today as U.S. special envoy Philip C. Habib resumed his effort to defuse the Israeli-Syrian confrontation over the deployment of Syrian missiles in Lebanon.
The Israeli air strikes were the first since Egyptian President Anwar Sadat asked Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in a June 4 summit meeting in the southern Sinai to halt attacks in Lebanon. At the summit, Begin turned down Sadat's request, but the Israeli Air Force had not conducted sorties in Lebanon since then.
A spokesman for the Israeli Army Command said the Israeli jets attacked antiaircraft gun emplacements north of the Zaharani River, and a convoy of vehicles mounted with Katuysha rocket launchers moving south of the river. The Army Command said all Israeli aircraft returned.
Palestinian radio broadcasts in Beirut said that one person was killed and six were injured in the air strikes. The radio called the attacks "indiscriminate."
[Hours later, Palestinians rocketed the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona, and 13 persons were reported injured, The Associated Press reported.]
The attacks came as Habib, in his third shuttle mission to the Middle East to negotiate an end to the Syrian missle crisis, met with Lebanese Prime Minister Shafiq Wazan.
The crisis began when Israeli jets shot down two Syrian helicopters on April 28 while Syrian troops were attacking Israeli-supported Christian militias in central Lebanon. Syria then deployed surface-to-air antiaircraft missiles in the Bekaa Valley, and Begin threatened to destroy them.
Since Habib left the Middle East late last month, Syria has condemned the United States for failing to take a strong position against the Israeli strike at Iraq's nuclear reactor.
The United States is understood to have asked Israel not to launch operations in Lebanon that would complicate Habib's diplomatic mission.