Israeli planes today twice struck suspected guerrilla targets just north of the zone Israel occupies in South Lebanon. There were no immediate reports on casualties in the attacks in which two Israel planes fired a total of five rockets into the valley of Zibqeen. Israeli airplanes had attacked the same area yesterday. Lebanese security sources today also said Israeli shelling near a UN outpost of Nepalese peacekeepers in a nearby town wounded two Lebanese civilians. Meanwhile, Hizbullah said a group of guerrillas ambushed an Israeli patrol at dawn today between the areas of Teir Harfa and Shamaa in the western sector of the zone. A Hizbullah spokesman said guerrillas fired machine-gun-fire and rocker-propelled grenades at the patrol but there was no information about casualties. On the other hand, Amal movement said a group of its guerrillas clashed early today with Israeli forces in Wadi Zein al-Deen in the Western sector. The Israeli army said Israeli soldiers killed three Lebanese guerrillas in a pre-dawn skirmish today in a second day of fighting in the South. An Israeli tank opened fire on a squad of Hizbullah guerrillas who entered the western sector.
In Beirut, Hizbullah issued a statement confirming the clash but said the casualties were on the Israeli side. This was denied by Israeli military sources. Also early this morning, two Lebanese shepherds were wounded in an Israeli bombardment. The two men who were tending their flocks on the Henniyeh-Zibqeen road had tried to take cover in a nearby Nepalese post of the UN peacekeeping force UNIFIL. Yesterday, nine Lebanese civilians were killed and 11 wounded when mortar rounds slammed into the occupied village of Beit Leif in the Western sector. Amal movement blamed Israel for the attack. Some hours before the shelling, four resistance fighters of Amal were killed by an Israeli patrol.
Israel lodged four separate complaints overnight with the five-nation cease-fire monitoring group which monitors an April 1996 truce understanding along the border, notably concerning the attack on Beit Leif and for several Katyusha rockets that fell inside northern Israel overnight. Two other complaints concerned mortars and rockets which they claim were launched against Israeli positions from civilian areas. Two Israeli soldiers were slightly wounded by shrapnel. For its part, Lebanon lodged two complaints about yesterday's clashes. One concerned an Israeli bombardment which wounded a 35-year-old woman in Byout Al-Sayyad, to the South of Tyre. The other dealt with damage to homes in Nabatieh Al-Fawqa.
Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri today met Saudi Crown prince Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz in Riyadh. Discussions centered on the latest developments in the Arab World. The Saudi official news agency reported the two officials discussed ways to boost bilateral ties. Hariri came to Saudi Arabia on Saturday for a two-day visit. He was received yesterday by King Fahd Bin Abdel Aziz.
A Japanese delegation today held a series of meetings in Beirut. At the council of development and reconstruction, the delegation convened with Acting Finance minister of State Fouad Sanyoura, Head of the Council Nabil Al-Jisr and other economic figures in the country. The delegation was headed by the deputy director general of the economic cooperation office in the Japanese foreign ministry, Fumiaki Takahashi. Discussions centered on possible ways of increasing economic and financial cooperation between the two countries. After the meeting, minister Sanyoura said the visit comes as a natural result of the cooperation strategy between Lebanon and Japan. The Japanese delegation also visited Boustrous Palace. Takahashi accompanied by the Japanese ambassador to Lebanon Yasuji Ishigaki and minister Hiroshi Okada, held discussions with acting secretary general of the foreign ministry Samir Khouri. After the meeting, the Japanese official said his visit to Beirut comes in light of agreements reached between Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Al-Hariri and Japanese prime minister Ryotaro Hashimoto during Hariri's latest official visit to Japan. He also said his country is expected to fund 16 projects in Lebanon in the near future.
The General Labor confederation today announced a decision to suspend a planned strike for the 25th and 26th of this month. The statement was made by head of the GLC Ghaneim Al-Zoghbi following a meeting this afternoon between the GLC leadership, Labor Minister Asaad Hardan, and social security representatives. The GLC had convened earlier with Lebanese economic committees in the chamber of industry and commerce. After the meeting, Al-Zoghbi told a press conference the union agreed with the chamber of commerce to form a joint-committee aimed at studying the union's demands especially that of lifting the minimum wage pays by the end of this year.
Lebanon's military court today sentenced seven Lebanese to terms of up to 15 years in jail for having contact with Israeli agents. A judicial source said three men received sentences of three years, three others received one-year sentences and one man was sentenced in absentia to 15 years' jail with hard labor. The source added the seven were found guilty of making contacts with Israel and its clients, collecting information about the Lebanese army and Hizbullah positions and giving the information to the Israelis. Tony Shamieh, a journalist working for the private Murr Television network in Beirut was among those sentenced to a year in jail.
Beirut financiers and brokers today reported a merger of Byblos Bank and Banque Beyrouth pour le Commerce would place Byblos among the top four banks in the country. Market sources revealed that the merger deal has been recently signed. A banking source speculated the merger was not a sell out but a shares swap. A Beirut broker said news of the merger bolstered demand for shares.
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