JERUSALEM (Jan. 6)
The Foreign Ministry today confirmed domestic and foreign newspaper reports of a meeting between Israeli and Lebanese representatives on the border between the two countries for a discussion of means to improve observance of the cease-fire. But the ministry denied a Beirut radio report that the meeting had taken place within the framework of the Mixed Armistice Commission, set up following the end of the 1948 war. The ministry said that the armistice with Lebanon was made null and void by that country’s action in declaring war on Israel in June, 1967. The meeting took place several days ago, the ministry said, but declined to go into details.
According to the press reports, the Israelis warned the Lebanese of the consequences of continued shelling of Israeli border villages by Arab commandos stationed on Lebanon’s soil. The Lebanese did not respond directly to the warning but shelling that erupted over the weekend has not been repeated, the reports said. The press reports were confirmed by an announcement in Beirut today of a recent border meeting with Israeli representatives. It was described as a “technical” meeting that had nothing to do with border tensions. Other sources said the meeting took place at Rosh Hanikra, the site of meetings between the Israel-Lebanon Mixed Armistice Commission following the 1948 war.
The entire Lebanese border region was blocked out last night from the slopes of Mount Hermon to the coast, apparently as a precaution against possible Israeli retaliation. Over the weekend, Arab commandos fired rockets twice at the Israeli border village of Kiryat Shmona but caused no casualties or damage. Last week, three Israeli civilians died there as a result of a rocket barrage. Lebanon is taking defense precautions. According to reports from Beirut, the Army high command has proposed compulsory military service for youths reaching the age of 18 and will establish special units to train villagers near the borders. The Army has also apparently reinforced the border region, Lebanese military vehicles were seen from Israeli observation posts today moving between Army positions. The military deployment on the Lebanese side of the border was viewed as a possible measure to control the activities of Arab terrorists bent on attacking Israel as well as to bolster Lebanon’s defenses against a possible Israeli attack. Lebanon, a country divided almost equally between Moslems and Christian Arabs, has been the quietest of Israel’s neighbors. The country is smaller than Israel and depends for its revenue almost entirely on commerce and tourism.