Israeli warplanes bombed PLO targets in Lebanon early today, killing four people, a day after Arabs knifed and axed to death three Israeli soldiers at an army camp in northern Israel.
Defense Minister Moshe Arens said Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat's role in the Arab attack warranted an Israeli investigation of his part in Middle East peace efforts.
The attack on soldiers at a lightly guarded camp near the occupied West Bank was the bloodiest since a Palestinian flew in from Lebanon on a hang-glider in 1987 and killed six.
Clutching knives, axes and a pitchfork, the three Arabs slipped into the Israeli camp early Saturday, killing three recruits and wounding a fourth before escaping. Two of the three dead were recent immigrants from the Soviet Union on a basic-training course.
Twenty-four hours later, Israeli aircraft struck what the army said were "terrorist posts" in Lebanon belonging to Arafat's mainstream Fatah group. The two camps were at Rashidiyehm, near the port of Tyre, 48 miles south of Beirut, and at Ain el-Hilweh, east of the port of Sidon, 25 miles south of Beirut.
Security sources said fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, flying low over the Mediterranean, fired seven rockets into Ain el-Hilweh refugee camp 35 minutes after midnight.
Rockets hit and damaged a house that serves as the headquarters of PLO's chieftain Yasser Arafat's representative in the south.
Two rockets also slammed into a populated area on the outskirts of the camp, killing four Lebanese civilians, including two children and a woman, wounding six and badly damaging three residential buildings.
Simultaneously, Israeli helicopters fired seven rockets into Rashidiyehm camp.
Arens told Israel Radio: "We have no doubt that Fatah and other organizations are trying to .
. torpedo the peace process.
"Along with the probe of strategic aspects (of the attack) there's no doubt that a diplomatic probe will be made .
. onto the role of Yasser Arafat in the peace process while at the same time he deals in terrorism."
The PLO is officially barred from joining U.S.-Russian-sponsored Middle East talks launched in Madrid last October, but Palestinian representatives take their cue from Arafat.
For Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, the attack turns up the heat on a leadership challenge by the hawkish Ariel Sharon, his housing minister, in the ruling Likud party on Thursday.
Sharon, who led Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, has said only he knows how to crush a four-year-old Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip occupied since the 1967 Middle East War.
Shamir, Sharon and Foreign Minister David Levy are vying to lead Likud into June 23 national elections. Their key opponent, either Shimon Peres or Yitzhak Rabin, will be decided in a Labor party showdown Wednesday.
Shamir's government has drawn criticism from Israeli hard-liners over the apparent contradiction between its policy of boycotting the PLO and its willingness to negotiate with outspoken supporters of the organization.
"Israel must in these days reconsider its policy on negotiations with people who claim to be representing terrorist organizations," said parliament speaker Dov Shilansky, a Likud party member.
But many Palestinians view an army camp as a legitimate target for attack.
Faisal al-Husseini, head of the Palestinian team to the peace talks, said a repressive Israeli policy was to blame.
"The Israelis have been carrying out military campaigns in Lebanon and other territories," Husseini told reporters. "They say it does not hurt the peace process. So the other side can do things in the same way."
Israeli leaders say peace efforts do not bar them from taking steps to maintain security.