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The latest fighting in Lebanon

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On June 3 Israeli gunboats shelled that part of the coast of Lebanon which lies between Sidon and Beirut while Israeli bombers hit inland. Both sea and air operations were aimed at places used by Palestinian militia units in the fighting which has been endemic between Israelis and Palestinians for years.

Then there was a lull on that part of the Arab-Israel front. There were a few minor brushes, but no serious Israeli attacks on Palestinians in Lebanon, or by Palestinian forces against Israel. But on June 7 Israeli aircraft did attack , and knock out, Iraq's nearly finished nuclear reactor near Baghdad.

That attack jolted the outside world. The United STates joined in condemning Israel for the attack. The Soviets increased the number of their ships in the eastern Mediterranean. The State Department in Washington was particularly anxious to head off if possible any more fighting before the Israeli election on June 30. Strong words were used to the Israelis. Secretary of State Alexander Haig personally asked UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim to speak to PLO leader Yasser Arafat and express the hope that his people would refrain from any offensive action against Israel or Israelis until after June 30, and longer if possible. Mr. Arafat agreed.

Thus in effect there was a truce on the Lebanon front from June 4. And it was observed by both sides until July 10. So the latest round of violence dates from July 10 when the Israelis bombed PLO places in Lebanon from Sidon to Nabatiya. On July 12 ISraeli warships shelled coastal points from Naameh to Damur. On July 14 their bombers hit PLO targets around Nabatiya and Damur. Casualty reports at the time put the number of Arabs killed by those three forays at 36. Many more were reported wounded.

The Palestinians retaliated on July 15 with rockets which hit several Israeli towns just over the Lebanon-Israel frontier. Israelis reported 3 killed and 25 wounded.

On the following day, July 16, the Israelis mounted a two-hour bombing attack which ranged far and wide over southern Lebanon during which, for the first time , bridges were deliberately knocked out thus isolating substantial civilian centers from their normal sources of supply. The number of planes engaged, the duration of the attacks, and the spread of targets -- including refugee camps -- marked another step-up in violence.


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