TEL AVIV (May. 8)
Premier Golda Meir warned yesterday that the Lebanese border was Israel’s “new trouble spot” and said that top priority would be given to the construction of shelters in Israeli villages near the Lebanese frontier. Mrs. Meir spoke at a meeting of the Histadrut leadership as reports reached here of new clashes between Lebanese Army troops and guerrillas massed in the southern portion of the country for raids against Israel.
The guerrillas were said to belong to the Syrian-backed al-Saiqa (Thunderbolt) organization. But El Fatah, the most powerful Palestinian commando group, claimed in a broadcast from Cairo yesterday that five of its members had been killed by Lebanese soldiers and 10 others wounded in clashes that developed when the guerrillas attempted to Invade Israel on a sabotage mission from southern Lebanon. The Lebanese military command denied the charge. It claimed earlier, however, that it would crack down on the growing number of guerrillas near Lebanon’s borders with Israel.
(Official quarters in Beirut said 40 guerrillas were captured in fighting that developed yesterday after Lebanese Army units were attacked with mortars and machine guns in the Hasbaya and Marjayoun districts of southern Lebanon. Those held were said to be mostly Syrians. Lebanese sources said Syrian helicopters were seen dropping supplies to the guerrillas. They said one soldier and two commandos were killed in the clashes.) Dr. Hassan Sabry al-Kholy, a special envoy of President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, arrived in Beirut today to mediate between Lebanese authorities and the guerrillas. Lebanon has been without a Government since the cabinet of Premier Rashid Karami fell last month after three days of bloody riots by students and Palestinian refugees.
The riots stemmed from protests against Lebanon’s policy of curtailing guerrilla activities on its soil in order to avoid reprisals from Israel. Lebanon, whose population is half Moslem and half Christian, was not a participant in the June, 1967 Arab-Israel war and has tried to follow a course of non-involvement in the dispute since then. The country is split with advocates of a cautious policy coming under sharp attack from militant elements who demand freedom of action for the guerrillas. Mrs. Meir said yesterday that she did not know “who will come out on top, the guerrillas or the Lebanese Army.” She warned Israelis that “we are going to face harsh situations and must have the spiritual strength and no illusions about what lies ahead.”
(Mrs. Meir said in a taped television interview today that Israel would not return strategic areas captured from the Arab countries in the Six-Day War. But she described as “very, very wise” the statement by Premier Levi Eshkol shortly before his death Feb. 26 that Israel did not want to keep any part of the populated area of the West Bank captured from Jordan. Mrs. Meir was interviewed by Clifton Daniel, New York Times’ managing editor. The interview was broadcast on the National Education Television network. Asked whether Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem was to be regarded as an “accomplished fact,” Mrs. Meir replied, “absolutely.” She objected to the Four Power Mideast talks now going on in New York because two of the participants–France and the Soviet Union–have been openly pro-Arab and because “I do not believe nor do I accept the right of any powers large or small to decide the fate of others.)