JERUSALEM (Oct. 23)
Turmoil continued in Lebanon today with the reported invasion of Israel’s northern neighbor by some 600-700 Arab guerrillas. They were said to have entered Lebanon at three points and to have kidnapped 20 Lebanese Army regulars before being driven back by tank, rocket and rifle fire.
Lebanese military communiques reaching here said that the invaders struck at Al Masna, east of the capital of Beirut, and at Al Arida, Al Bakia and Nahr Al-Bared to the north. Some of the invading force was reported to have reached two miles inside the border at Al Masna, shelling Government buildings and a police station. One police officer and four Lebanese regulars were reported wounded.
The reported invasion came in the wake of the sealing off of the Syrian-Lebanese border Tuesday by the Damascus Government in protest against Lebanon’s crackdown on the guerrillas who had virtually taken over parts of the southern sector of the country bordering Israel in recent months.
Meanwhile, Col. Moammar Kazafi, head of the Libyan Revolutionary Command, which deposed Libya’s King Idris last month, reportedly telephoned Lebanese President Charles Helou and offered to mediate the conflict between the Army and the Palestinian guerrillas. Sudan and Kuwait also reportedly have offered their services in a similar capacity.
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which coordinates the various guerrilla movements, claimed in Cairo that guerrillas had killed 25 Lebanese regulars and wounded others in fighting since Monday, in addition to capturing 24.
There was a massive anti-Lebanon demonstration in Damascus today, apparently engineered by the Baathist Party. Marchers were also reported in Amman. Four Lebanese soldiers were reported killed and others driven out of a large Arab refugee camp outside Beirut today. Students boycotted classes in Beirut and demonstrated against the Army’s clampdown on the guerrillas.
The Voice of the Storm, the Arab guerrilla radio in Cairo which was monitored here, said that fighting had gone on for four days. The radio said that at least a score of guerrillas had been killed and many were wounded.
Meanwhile, President Helou of Lebanon broke diplomatic relations with Iraq in the wake of the Baghdad Government’s announcement that it would send troops to aid the guerrillas.
The Lebanese Government has rebuffed guerrilla claims that it moved against the Palestinians first. Beirut said that the guerrillas fired first and that the clashes ensued when the Palestinians tried to move into new areas in southern Lebanon.
A Beirut communique said that there had been an agreement between the Lebanese Government and the guerrillas that the latter would avoid inhabited areas near the Israel boundary in order to avoid danger to civilians. Beirut has been especially fearful of massive Israeli retaliation following an Israeli air and ground unit attack Sept. 5 in southern Lebanon aimed at ousting Arabs harassing its villages. The infantry assault apparently signaled a change in Israeli tactics. Beirut has tried repeatedly but without success to persuade the PLO and El Fatah to leave the country.
Lebanon has been in trouble with its Arab neighbors since it maintained its neutrality in the Six-Day War. The half-Arab, half-Christian country’s Government fell last April 25 following clashes between security forces and pro-guerrilla demonstrators including Arab refugees. A caretaker Government ran the country until yesterday when Premier Rashid Karami resigned in the wake of the latest crisis. Differences in policy outlook on the guerrilla question had kept a Government from being formed.
Mr. Karami resigned originally last April following heavy criticism of his repression of the pro-guerrilla elements. He was reappointed by President Helou but quit again yesterday saying he did not support the latest Government action but could not stop it.
Last May, the Army claimed that Palestinians had had “daily clashes” with the Army and that it was compelled to take “deterrent measures.” In June, Mr. Helou called for expulsion of the guerrillas. He said that the presence of the commandos was an open invitation for an Israeli attack, which ultimately came. Israeli jets on several occasions hit guerrilla camps on Mount Hermon just inside Lebanon.