TEL AVIV (Jan. 1)
The New Year began in Israel today with blasts of rocket fire from across the Lebanese and Jordanian borders and Israelis in a mood of bitter anger and anxiety. Their mood stemmed from the unanimous action of the Security Council last night in condemning Israel’s, bloodless retaliatory raid on Beirut Airport which most Israelis considered an act of self-defense in response to Arab terrorist attacks on Israel’s commercial aviation. Their anger and concern were concentrated on marauders who continued to attack Israel from neighboring Arab territory, taking a steadily growing toll of lives without condemnation from the United Nations.
The Knesset rejected in advance last night the Council resolution. The Knesset resolution, which anticipated the Council’s vote hours before it was taken, rejected all attempts to deprive Israel of its right to self-defense, as exercised in the Beirut raid, and reaffirmed, Israel’s position that freedom of the airways was an international right that must apply to all nations equally. The Knesset resolution was adopted by a vote of 70 to one. Only the new Communist faction voted in opposition. The one man Haolam Hazeh faction and the regular Communist Party abstained.
(It was reported in London from Beirut that Premier-Abdullah Yafi told the Lebanese Parliament that four squadrons of Israeli warplanes flew over the southern border area of Lebanon today. According to the report, Foreign Minister Hussein Oweini called in Western envoys to protest the overflight and accused Israel of massing troops on the frontier. It was reported from Amman that a Jordanian military communique asserted that three Israeli helicopters, supported by jet fighters attacked a Jordanian security vehicle, killing three Jordanian security troops and wounding two others.)
Prime Minister Levi Eshkol told the Knesset yesterday that Israel’s Beirut raid was far short of retaliation in kind for the Arab terrorist attack on an El A1 airliner at Athens Airport last Thursday which brought death to one passenger and injuries to two stewardesses. The Premier said that if Israel had responded in kind and in scope to that terrorist act, it would have meant embarking on a campaign of killing or at least launching a homicidal war throughout the world. The Knesset members unanimously approved the Beirut action and lauded the Israeli commandos who implemented it without causing death or injury to a single person.
The Premier rejected charges that Israel had lost, through the Beirut action, the diplomatic advantage presumably gained through the Athens incident. Had the terrorists at Athens succeeded in their goal of destroying the plane and killing all its passengers, he said sarcastically, Israel’s diplomatic advantage would have been ever greater. Carrying such arguments to their logical conclusion he added, it might have been to Israel’s “advantage” to have lost the Six-Day War. He rejected also the doctrine that Israel was obligated, to adhere to the cease-fire while the Arab states were free to attack Israel by terrorist or related methods without hindrance.
Maj. Gen. Chaim Bar Lev, the Israeli Chief of Staff, reported in a New Year’s Day television interview that the activities of the Arab saboteurs had not increased during 1968 and were being held in check. He said one measure was the introduction of Air Force planes to spot and attack bazooka raiders in the Beisan Valley, which had brought a decline in such attacks.
Three Israeli casualties were recorded last night from a Katyusha rocket launcher attack from Lebanon on the upper Galilee village of Kiryat Shemona. Two residents were killed by shell fragments. A third died from a heart attack that followed the explosion of a shell at his door step. Katyusha rockets were fired also from Jordanian territory against Degania and Kineret and at Kalya but they caused no casualties or damage.
A military spokesman meanwhile confirmed today that large numbers of saboteurs were now concentrated in Lebanon, hitherto the least bellicose’ of Israel’s neighbors. He said the saboteurs were training in Lebanon and that Premier Abdullah Yafi had inspected saboteur units.