LONDON (Jun. 22)
A high Lebanese official confirmed in Beirut yesterday that Arab commandos were withdrawing from Lebanese soil. According to various estimates, the commandos number 1,500-3,000, mostly members of the Saiqah, a guerrilla group sponsored by the Syrian Baathist Party, and of El Fatah, the largest Palestinian guerrilla organization.
Withdrawal of the commandos, whose presence and activities on Lebanese soil led to the bloody rioting and the downfall of Premier Rashid Karami’s Government In Beirut on April 25, was first reported last week by Pierre Gemayel, a leader of the right-wing Phalangist Party. He said the withdrawal began about 18 days ago and was continuing. About half the commandos were said to have left so far.
The Lebanese Government crisis was precipitated by popular support of the guerrillas and Government attempts to curtail their raids on Israel from Lebanese territory. Lebanese authorities feared reprisal raids by Israel and possible Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon if the raids did not cease. Lebanese students, Palestinian refugees and others had demanded a free hand for the commandos who were concentrated on the slopes of Mount Hermon. just north of the Israel border. Observers here said the departure of all the commandos would constitute a diplomatic victory for Lebanon, which has still been unable to form a new Government. They said Lebanon would be the first Arab state that managed to get rid of guerrillas based on its soil. According to Mr. Gemayal, El Fatah leaders were instrumental in getting the Saiqah guerrillas to withdraw. The two groups have been bitter rivals. El Fatah contends that the Syrian-backed group was politically motivated.