Swooping waves of Israeli warplanes blitzed several dozen targets today, bombing along a 25-mile corridor from Naame, eight miles south of Beirut, to the port city of Tyre.
In what appeared to be a strategic blow at Palestinian transportation, Israeli planes peppered a main coastal highway here, pulverizing it at one point and hitting a busload of construction workers, four cars and a van.
Hospital sources said 15 people from the bus were killed. Rescue workers came minutes after the raid, which cut off access to the south through this highway.
A worker, with his neck bleeding profusely, was carried off on a stretcher to a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance. A severely injured woman was lifted from a nearby Mercedes, which was reduced to a mound of smoldering scrap metal.
Palestinian-manned antiaircraft guns fired away at the screaming planes, dropping behind them luminous bundles of thermal balloons to throw off defense weaponry.
Frightened taxi drivers refused to take their journalist passengers south of here on a hilly side road. Lebanese security sources said there was a small guerrilla naval base nearby. Palls of black smoke rose from both sides of the highway.
The nine-hour bombardment subsided at sunset, but the state radio said artillery duels continued through the night and Israeli gunboats pounded land locations.
The Palestine Liberation Organization's second-ranking leader, Salah Khalaf, who is also known as Abu Iyad, said the joint command of the eight Palestinian groups had decided to stop only when the Israelis stopped and to retaliate when attacked. The PLO said yesterday that its chief, Yasser Arafat, was in Saudi Arabia.
The radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said it vowed "to step up its confrontation and reserved its right to respond at any time and any place to Israel's aggression."
Lebanese Foreign Minister Faud Boutros and Yasser Abed Rabbo, head of the PLO information office, criticized other Arab countries for their lack of response to the two days of Israeli raids.
Boutros, on state television, scoffed at all Arab countries for not even bothering to call in their condolences, let alone verbal expressions of support.
"Revealing the source of and reasons for this indifference on the part of some of these states would not be in their interest," he said, without further explanation.
Boutros said he had only received a message from Arab League Secretary General Chadli Klibi, noting his deepest sympathies and condemnation of Israeli military action against Lebanon.
Rabbo chastized states of the hard-line Arab Steadfastness and Confrontation Front for inactivity. He pleaded with front members Syria, Libya, South Yemen and Algeria to shift from their "posture of spectatorship to a policy of solidarity and confrontation." The PLO is also a member.
Despite public statements of Syrian determination to protect Palestinians and Lebanese against Israeli incursions, nearby Syria sent no planes to combat attacking Israeli jets. Lebanese television reported that Israeli aicraft flew over the Bekaa Valley, where Syrian antiaircraft missiles are located. There were no reports that any of the Soviet-made missiles were fired.
Palestinian guerrillas in southern Lebanon traded artillery fire with Israelis and the PLO claimed it had shot down three Israeli jets: one near the banana-growing coastal town of Damour, another near the Beaufort Castle and the third inside Israel. An Israeli military spokesman said all planes returned safely.