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1978: Civilians flee southern Lebanon

Thousands of Palestinian civilians are fleeing a third day of Israeli attacks in southern Lebanon.

A convoy of refugees in vans, lorries and old buses are heading for Beirut as the death toll of civilians reaches an estimated 150 and is expected to rise as Israel makes further incursions into the region.

Heavy artillery shells fell within Israeli-controlled southern Lebanon as international diplomacy continued with fervour to end the fighting.

The large town of Nabatiya, only two miles from the Litani river, has been almost totally depopulated of its 30,000 inhabitants who have fled the shelling.

Buffer zone

Hundreds of homes have been devastated by artillery fire and one entire street is reported to have been reduced to rubble by an Israeli air attack this morning.

The Israelis have created a buffer zone in southern Lebanon, reported to be a six mile belt across the Lebanese frontier.

Israeli defence minister Ezer Weizman gave public assurances there would be no further advances into Lebanon.

But there are reports that guerrilla positions north of the newly forged "security belt" were struck by Israeli warships and artillery in response to shelling against them.

Israeli troops are now understood to be in Mansoura, on the Mediterranean coast south of Tyre, in Bent Jbail, Khiam and Ibl al-Saki.

Palestinians have been fighting to hold the southern village of Tibnine from Israeli ground and air attack and they deny reports it has fallen.

Israel launched an offensive in southern Lebanon in retaliation for the 11 March bus hijacking in Tel Aviv in which 35 people were killed and 100 others were injured.

The Litani River operation began on 15 March when Israel crossed into southern Lebanon and struck at PLO bases and staging areas south of the river up to 10 km deep inside the country.

Israel accuses Palestinian fighters of using southern Lebanon to mount intermittent cross-border attacks against civilian and military targets in Israel.

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