Israeli warplanes today attacked two Palestinian guerrilla bases in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley in what was seen as a forceful reminder to the Palestinian leaders meeting in Amman, Jordan, of Israel's military power.
The attack, the first by Israeli aircraft in Lebanon since Sept. 10, was on bases of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a pro-Moscow faction led by Nayef Hawatmeh, according to radio reports from Beirut. The reports said six planes took part in the raid and that it killed seven persons and wounded nine.
[Abu Adawi, spokesman for guerrilla groups operating in the area, told The Associated Press in Beirut by telephone that only one guerrilla was killed and four were wounded.]
A brief Israeli military communique issued here said the targets were near the Lebanese town of Qabb Elias, about 20 miles east of Beirut, and that the bases served as "command posts and departure points for attacks" by Palestinian guerrillas. The statement said that all Israeli planes returned safely and that the pilots reported "direct hits" on the targets.
The last Israeli air attack in Lebanon on Sept. 10 was also on bases of Hawatmeh's Democratic Front organization.
The air strike came a day after Israeli security forces discovered the remnants of two Katyusha rockets in northern Israel. The rockets, which reportedly were fired from Lebanon on Sunday, caused no injuries or damage, authorities said.
The attack also came as Yasser Arafat and other leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization continued the 17th session of the Palestine National Council, the PLO's parliament-in-exile, in Amman. The meeting has attracted widespread press coverage in Israel and the Arab world, and, in the view of some observers, today's attack may have been meant in part as a reminder of Israel's military supremacy in the region.
The Israeli statement made no mention of the rocket attack or the continuing PLO meeting. In the past, Israeli officials have said they will strike at guerrilla bases in Syrian-controlled parts of Lebanon that are used to mount attacks on Israeli occupation forces in southern Lebanon.
But they have also acknowledged that most of the casualties suffered by their soldiers have been at the hands of Lebanese Shiite Moslems living in Israeli-occupied southern Lebanon.
The Associated Press reported from Beirut:
A statement by the Syrian Army command in Damascus said "some civilians were killed and some wounded" in the raid and that there was property damage. "Syrian air defenses confronted enemy planes and forced them to return southward. There were no casualties among Syrian forces," it said.
Lebanese reporters in the area said three buildings used by guerrillas of the Democratic Front were set afire at Qabb Elias.
Reporters in the area said Syrian air defenses opened fire with surface-to-air missiles against the attacking U.S.-made F15s and F16s but apparently did not hit any Israeli planes.
The reporters said Syrians fired SA7 and SA9 missiles but all were deflected by heat balloons released by the Israeli jets.
In a separate incident, a French U.N. soldier was wounded when his jeep was hit by gunfire south of Beirut, U.N. spokesman Timur Goksel said.