A car bomb exploded on Wednesday at a produce market in Zahlah, a Christian enclave in the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley. At least 15 people were killed and about 50 were wounded.
Three hours later, Israeli planes attacked a Palestinian guerrilla base six miles southwest of the town--the 11th Israeli air strike on Lebanese territory this year. Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv said the base--at Qabb Elias, just south of the Beirut-Damascus highway--was a key post of a Libyan-backed group called the Palestinian Arab Revolutionary Committee.
The two incidents were apparently not connected. However, Israel’s bombing raid followed by a day the stabbing murder of an Israeli soldier in the largely Arab West Bank city of Hebron. It also followed an urging Tuesday by hard-line Israeli Cabinet member Ariel Sharon, defense minister in the Lebanon invasion of 1982, that Israel “track down terrorists (and) kill them.”
In the car bombing in Zahlah, 25 miles east of Beirut, Lebanese civil defense officials reported that one of those wounded was a Chinese diplomat from Peking’s embassy in Amman, Jordan, who was in Lebanon on a business trip. He was identified as Zhang Tiejian, an attache. His condition was not disclosed. Zhang was hurt when his diplomatic car was hit.
Zahlah is the only major Christian center in the Bekaa Valley region. Officials said they did not know who was responsible for the car-bomb explosion, which occurred after President Amin Gemayel, a rightist Maronite Christian, ordered police to disarm all militias in town because of several Muslim attacks.
Zahlah had been sporadically shelled for several weeks until the Syrians arranged for the Lebanese Forces, the main Christian militia coalition, to withdraw from the city last week.
In Beirut, meanwhile, Shia Muslim militiamen and Palestinian guerrillas battled around the southern Palestinian refugee camp of Borj el Brajne. Police said as many as five civilians were killed, including two Muslim children, and as many as 27 wounded.