An Israeli officer and four Palestinian guerrillas died in an eight-hour firefight in southern Lebanon after the Israelis ambushed the guerrilla squad, police said Tuesday.
Police said two Palestinians, including the commander of the raiding party, were wounded in the ambush by about 75 Israeli soldiers and allied Lebanese militiamen in the foothills of Mount Hermon.A Lebanese army corporal driving along a nearby road was also hurt.
In Jerusalem, the Israeli army said 1st Lt. Yaron Yogev, 23, was shot and killed after his unit spotted and attacked the guerrilla squad Monday night.
The army statement also said a fifth guerrilla may have been killed in the firefight. It did not mention the participation of Israeli-allied Lebanese militiamen.
Police said the battle with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades raged under parachute flares for eight hours before the Israelis and the militiamen of the South Lebanon Army pulled back to the security zone Israel maintains north of its border.
A police spokesman said Israel and the South Lebanon Army must have been tipped in advance about the raid to lay the ambush for the 14 raiders, who belonged to Samir Ghoshe's Palestine Popular Struggle Front.
The Front, backed and financed by Libya, is among the most militant hard-line factions of Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization. But the group had seldom been involved in attacks against Israel or its security enclave in south Lebanon in the past.
Israel has controlled the 440 square mile zone since it withdrew the bulk of its army from Lebanon in 1985 after three years of occupation. Israel said it needed a buffer area against guerrilla raids, but Lebanon frequently accuses Israel of seeking to expand its territory permanently.