JERUSALEM -- Guerrillas in southern Lebanon killed three Israeli soldiers and a pro-Israeli militiaman in overnight ambushes, and Israeli warplanes struck back yesterday by bombing two Shiite Muslim villages.
An Israeli patrol was hit near the town of Jezzin in what Israeli officials described as a well-planned ambush. The attackers were identified as part of Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed organization that is believed to hold several Western hostages in Lebanon.
In retaliation for the Jezzin ambush, in which two officers and a sergeant died, Israeli jets hit the nearby hamlet of Toumat Neeha with 10 missiles, reports from Lebanon said.
In response to the attack on the Israeli forces' ally, the South Lebanon Army, jets bombed a village in southwestern Lebanon, destroying at least three houses. One SLA member was killed in the ambush.
Jezzin lies north of Israel's self-described security zone created onthe Israeli-Lebanese border in 1985. In a new policy, Israel has been sending armed groups north of the 6- to-10-mile buffer zone to interdict guerrillas heading south. The overnight ambush foiled one of those "initiated actions," Israel radio said.
Israel has struck Lebanon by air at least 12 times this year and unleashed numerous artillery barrages.
The ambushes and counterattacks underline the volatile atmosphere in southern Lebanon, where numerous armed groups are engaged in a shifting contest of control.