Israeli troops battled Palestinian guerrillas for nine hours Friday after landing in this coastal town to raid a guerrilla base. Israeli helicopters rescued four surrounded soldiers, Israeli officials said.
One Israeli soldier was killed and three wounded in the battle, which involved air, naval and ground forces, Lebanese and Israeli officials said. Israel's chief of staff said at least 20 guerrillas were killed and dozens wounded.Lebanese police said eight pro-Syrian guerrillas were killed and 16 wounded in what they called the deepest Israeli incursion into Lebanon since September 1983, during the Lebanon war. Israel did not say why it launched the raid.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, the target of the attack, said only two of its fighters were killed. It claimed in a communique it was holding 17 Israelis, but Israel said all its men were rescued.
Speaking on Israel army radio, Israel's chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Dan Shomron, denied reports from Lebanon that Israeli troops exchanged gunfire with Syrian forces stationed along the Lebanese coast.
According to an Israeli army spokesman, troops launched the raid by sea at about 9 p.m. Thursday. They broke into smaller units and attacked different targets.
Army officials said the commandos had to march inland from the Mediterranean coast near Naameh, nine miles south of Beirut and 16 miles north of Sidon.
But Israeli military sources said the force encountered unexpected obstacles and bogged down. As daylight approached, the main force was separated from four soldiers who were cut off and pinned down by guerrilla fire.
The main force was evacuated, but helicopters were sent in to rescue the trapped Israelis.