Israeli gunboats chased Palestinian commandos ashore Friday in southern Lebanon, starting a hostage drama that ended with a Swedish U.N. soldier and a guerrilla shot dead and five peacekeepers wounded.
U.N. spokesman Timur Goksel said Israel’s local militia allies opened fire during negotiations to free 14 French and Swedish troops held captive by three guerrillas.
One guerrilla was killed and a second was badly wounded when the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army fired on a hut where the U.N. peacekeepers were held for about two hours.
The third gunman surrendered after the shooting.
Goksel, spokesman for the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, said a Frenchman and a Swede were badly wounded and two Swedes and one Frenchman were slightly wounded in the shooting.
An angry Goksel said: “The (South Lebanon Army) started firing, and that’s when all the casualties took place.”
The Israeli-trained, equipped and financed SLA said it fired in self-defense.
Three guerrillas in a rubber dinghy landed at the U.N. force headquarters at about 7 a.m. in the village of Naqoura, two miles north of the Israeli border, Goksel said.
They were captured by U.N. guards. But three other guerrillas landed from a second boat and seized eight French soldiers and six Swedes out jogging.
Security sources said the guerrillas, purportedly from PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat’s mainstream Fatah faction, were trying to reach Israel. They were chased ashore by Israeli gunboats.
The guerrillas held their hostages in an abandoned metal hut about one mile south of Naqoura.
A French U.N. officer went to the scene with SLA approval and started negotiating for the soldiers’ release.
Goksel said: “The SLA meanwhile surrounded the hut. Israeli navy gunboats were offshore and Israeli helicopters were flying overhead and the Israeli army was watching from hills overlooking the area.”
A Palestinian emerged from the hut and a single shot rang out. Goksel said the U.N. soldiers did not know who fired the shot, but “all hell broke loose.”