The Lebanese army declared the sea off Lebanon's Druze-held Shouf mountains a military zone beginning today after a Druze militia refused to surrender a helicopter piloted by an army deserter.
The Lebanese action would amount to a blockade of the port of Jiye, run by the Druze Progressive Socialist Party. The port, south of Beirut, lies in the zone and supplies the Shouf region.
Air force Lt. Majed Karamah, who is a Druze, flew the French-made Gazelle helicopter from a military base north of Beirut to the Shouf on Wednesday. He said he deserted and took refuge with the Druze militia because the military is biased in favor of Christian President Amin Gemayel.
The army said the military zone will extend seven miles out to sea and run 19 miles down the Shouf coast from the town of Khalde, south of Beirut, to the Awwali River.
"We warn all ships and boats from nearing the area or else they will be subject to military measures," a statement said.
A security source said the blockade will put pressure on the Druze and also prevent the militia from using the helicopter to fly in from the sea to attack Christian areas.
Meanwhile, in south Lebanon, pro-Iranian guerrillas of the Islamic Resistance said Friday that they killed eight soldiers in a dawn attack on a post near the village of Dhaira that was manned by Israeli troops and Christian militiamen. The village lies within the Israeli-declared security zone.
The guerrillas said one of their members also died in the clash.