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Aug. 18, 1997.
Mercenaries commanded by a key ally of the Israeli government shelled the Lebanese port city of Sidon, 25 miles south of Beirut today, Monday, Aug. 18, 1997, killing at least six civilians and injuring more than three dozen.
The bombardment was the first upon Sidon since the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in April 1996. The shelling of Sidon was conducted by Israeli-financed mercenaries from Jezzine, a region that lies north of the zone that the Israeli army and its mercenary allies illegally occupy in southern Lebanon.
The Jezzine forces are commanded by Israeli puppet Gen. Antoine Lahd, the war criminal who also commands the so-called South Lebanon Army, a brutal force that operates side-by-side with Israeli troops in Israeli-occupied Lebanon.
A resident of Sidon, Lebanon helps his elderly mother flee an artillery bombardment by Israeli mercenaries that fell on the downtown section of the port city on Aug. 18, 1997. The shelling killed six people and wounded three dozen.
It was not clear why the pro-Israeli mercenaries decided to shell downtown Sidon, but the Lebanese city is one where support for the Palestinians runs deep and where many roadside signs and statues honor Palestinians slain by Israeli forces.
Monday afternoon's artillery bombardment came in three separate rounds, with shells striking Sidon and its suburbs and at least two slamming into crowded areas near the city's heart.
The Israelis pay, train, supply, and direct Lahd's forces. "...I can understand what he (Lahd) did," Gen. Amiram Levine, who heads Israel's Northern Command, told the N.Y. Times in its Aug. 19, 1997 edition. Brig. Gen. Oded Ben Ami, the chief Israeli army spokesman, when asked about the shelling of Sidon, told the Times, "I don't want to get involved in a Lebanese affair." Israeli television reported on Monday night that Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai had sharpened his instructions to Lahd and his forces in the aftermath of the killings in Sidon.
Scenes of the carnage in Sidon broadcast on television were certain to remind Lebanese of Israel's bombardment in April 1996 of a U.N. camp in the village of Qana that killed an estimated 100 civilians.
The existence of the pro-Israeli enclave in Jezzine is the legacy of the 1982 invasion in which Israeli forces terror-bombed Beirut for weeks in the summer of 1982. Among the mercenaries who sided with the Israelis then were Lahd's forces, including a large contingent from Jezzine.
In 1985, after committing numerous atrocities, the Israelis were pressured to withdraw from Beirut and their forces were then concentrated in an occupation zone in a swath of southern Lebanon that in some cases is just eight miles wide. Pro-Zionist Lebanese mercenaries withdrew with them to create Lahd's South Lebanon Army and northern Jezzine militia, which have since fought side by side with Israeli troops against the people of Lebanon.
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