Israeli troops swept into a village in southern Lebanon today and questioned residents of another village inside Israel's self-proclaimed "security zone" as they pressed their search for two missing Israeli soldiers, United Nations officials said.
Tanks and armored personnel carriers moved into Kfar Dounine and detained all the inhabitants of Shaqra, inside the "security zone," for interrogation. A resident who managed to escape told state-run Beirut radio that Israeli officers told the residents they suspected the missing soldiers were in Shaqra, which has been combed and searched three times since Monday.
A Ghanian soldier on peace-keeping duty with the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was seriously wounded near Kfar Dounine. He was the second UNIFIL casualty in as many days. Independent military observers in southern Lebanon said also that Israelis fired over an Irish UNIFIL convoy carrying water and provisions to Shaqra, preventing the supplies from reaching the village.
The repeated house-to-house searches in Shaqra indicated strong Israeli suspicions that the missing soldiers were being held there.
A weekly publication issued by the radical Shiite Moslem group Hezbollah printed a photograph showing two bandaged men in a hospital receiving plasma transfusions and said they were the missing Israelis. The men's faces were too dark for identification. The caption said the snapshot had been taken before one of the Israeli prisoners was executed.
The Islamic Resistance Front, a coalition of Lebanese Moslem fundamentalist factions led by Hezbollah, announced it had executed one of the Israeli hostages on Wednesday, after the expiration of its deadline for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from villages north of the security zone.
In Washington, a State Department spokesman said, "We strongly regret this renewal of the cycle of violence in southern Lebanon and grieve for its victims, which include civilians."
Israeli helicopters strafed the countryside near Deir Kifa, UNIFIL spokesman Timur Goksel said.
Three settlements in northern Israel reportedly were attacked with rockets this morning in retaliation for the Israeli sweep.
Israeli military sources said the 10 Soviet-made Katyusha rockets caused no damage but sent settlers into shelters during the night, United Press International reported.
Beirut radio reported that an attempt by Ghanaian UNIFIL troops to evacuate students from Bir Salasel was interrupted and that 35 children were still trapped in the village school.