Four Israeli soldiers died today as a result of attacks in southern Lebanon, and Israeli warplanes attacked a suspected Palestinian guerrilla base in eastern Lebanon in apparent response to the casualties Israeli forces have suffered as they prepare to withdraw.
Israeli military authorities said two soldiers were killed today by a roadside bomb near the Israeli border, north of Metullah, Israel. Another soldier was killed and three wounded, authorities said, when a convoy was attacked with light weapons just north of the Litani River, in the area the Israeli Army is scheduled to evacuate next week. Israel also announced the death today of a soldier wounded in an attack Feb. 4.
The four deaths brought to 615 the total killed in Lebanon since Israel invaded in June 1982.
Beirut radio said one person was killed and two wounded in today's Israeli raid into Syrian-controlled territory. The raid was the first by Israel since Jan. 9, five days before the government voted to withdraw from southern Lebanon in three stages. The first stage, a pullback from the port city of Sidon and surrounding area, is scheduled to take place by Feb. 18.
A military statement issued here said today's air raid was on a one-story building near the village of Taalabaya, about two miles east of Chtaura on the Beirut-Damascus highway. Military officials said the building was a headquarters of the Syrian-backed Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and was used as a base for attacking Israeli troops in southern Lebanon.
The Israeli action came shortly after the ambush near Sidon and after the military command announced that Sgt. Baruch Ezra, 21, had died of the wounds he suffered Feb. 4 in the explosion of a roadside bomb south of Tyre, Lebanon.
Ezra was one of four Israeli soldiers wounded in southern Lebanon that day. Last Tuesday, 10 soldiers were hurt by the explosion of a booby-trapped automobile east of Tyre.
The pattern of attacks appeared to indicate not only stepped-up guerrilla activity against Israeli forces in southern Lebanon but a decision by local militias in the area to pressure Israel to accelerate its withdrawal timetable. Four attacks that resulted in the death of Ezra and the wounding of 15 Israeli soldiers all occurred east of Tyre, in an area Israel is not due to evacuate until the final stage of its withdrawal this summer or fall. The attack near Metullah today is well within the border area Israel plans to control as a special security zone.
In the area around Sidon, Israeli Army bases and outposts have been dismantled, heavy equipment has been removed and troop movements in the area have been kept to a minimum in preparation for the pullout of the last units next week.
Although Israel's response to guerrilla attacks is usually to strike by air against Palestinian bases in eastern Lebanon, military officials here acknowledge that most of the Israeli casualties have resulted from violence by local Shiite Moslem militias.
Following the booby-trapped car incident last week, the Israelis also arrested a number of people in a Shiite village east of Tyre.