SIDON, LEBANON, FEB. 6 -- The Lebanese army began to deploy in southern Lebanon today for the first time in 16 years as Israeli helicopter gunships carried out a second day of attacks on Palestinian guerrilla bases in the region.
The deployment by the army, which has not exercised control over the area since the outbreak of civil war in 1975, is intended to allow the Syrian-allied central Lebanese government to take control of the area traditionally used by guerrillas to launch assaults on Israel.
A Lebanese police spokesman said one guerrilla was killed and two wounded in today's raid, Israel's second in as many days against Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat's mainstream Fatah faction. On Tuesday, seven guerrillas and one civilian were reported killed.
In the first phase of the Lebanese army's deployment, about 1,000 troops in 38 tanks, trucks and armored personnel carriers drove along the coastal highway from Beirut into Sidon, 30 miles to the south.
Smiling soldiers raised their fingers in victory signs as the convoy drove through Sidon. Cheerful civilians applauded and threw rice and rose water to welcome them.
A Muslim radio station, Voice of the Nation, commented that "State authority returned to most of the south today. The authority of law will prevail."
The force established a camp at a seaside oil refinery. Its commander, Col. Qassem Siblini, said it would start on Thursday to fan out across the nearby hills of a region known as Iqlim Tuffah, seeking to fulfill a directive to extend the government's authority and protect civilians. It was not clear whether those plans would be delayed by today's attack.
Israeli officials have said they want the Lebanese army in the south to prevent attacks against Israel and the Israeli-sponsored South Lebanon Army (SLA) militia. Israelis and the SLA control a strip along Lebanon's southern border, which Israel calls a "security zone" to protect its adjacent territory.
About 1,200 guerrillas from the Fatah faction are in Iqlim Tuffah, six miles northeast of Zahrani, and deploying in the area would be a major challenge for the Lebanese army, which would be entrenched between guerrilla lines and Israeli forces.
Gen. Antoine Lahd, commander of the South Lebanon Army, threatened to attack the government force "if it allows terrorists to maintain their attacks"
The PLO commander in Lebanon, known by the code name of Col. Alaa, said the guerrillas do not object to the army deployment, but he did not promise to halt attacks on Israel and the SLA. Lebanese government sources said they believed the PLO would use continued attacks against Israel and the SLA to provoke an Israeli retaliation that would embarrass the army.
The mainstream Shiite Muslim militia, Amal, ordered its fighters to "turn over all your offices and checkpoints to the army. The army is in charge of the south." Amal, the dominant force in the south, "will not support any militiaman who challenges the army," its statement said.
A government statement said the pro-Iranian Hezbollah also has pledged to withdraw its militiamen and facilitate the army deployment in Iqlim Tuffah. Hezbollah has bases in the upper sector of the district, which abuts a narrow area connecting the "security zone" with the Christian town of Jezzine in central-south Lebanon.
In today's Israeli raid, the Lebanese police spokesman said the guerrillas were killed when a rocket hit their jeep, which was mounted with an antiaircraft gun. Fatah bases around the villages of Sarba and Houmine also were hit from the air and by long-range Israeli artillery on the border with Lebanon, he said.
The attack, Israel's third on Lebanon this year, was in apparent retaliation for a barrage of Katyusha rockets guerrillas fired before dawn at Israel's "security zone."