TEL AVIV (Mar. 11)
A high ranking Israeli Army officer told newsmen yesterday that his country’s response to guerrilla infiltration across the Lebanese border was being held in abeyance while fortifications and other security arrangements were being made at Israeli border settlements. He said the protective measures would give Israeli forces greater freedom to maneuver and would provide time for Lebanese authorities to curb the guerrillas. The officer said that recent military forays into Lebanon were only “token” responses to guerrilla assaults on Israeli settlements. He indicated that Israel could easily take far stronger measures that would force Lebanese civilians to evacuate the border areas turning them into a “no-man’s land” such as exists on the Jordanian side of the cease-fire lines. “We want to protect our settlements so we’re not nervous and don’t take measures we will regret” the officer told newsmen touring the border region.
There were no official indications here that the apparent cooling of Israeli response along the Lebanese frontier stemmed from Big Power warnings to Israel not to take military action against Lebanon. The Government officially denied that such warnings had been received although press reports abroad said they were conveyed to Israel by France and the Soviet Union. The French Ambassador, Francis Hure, met with Foreign Minister Abba Eban yesterday. Official sources said that he had merely asked Israel to do all that it could to prevent an escalation of fighting along the Lebanese border. (Israel complained to the United Nations Security Council yesterday that since the last Israeli protest, Lebanon “has not taken the necessary measures to terminate the violations of the cease-fire.” The complaint was contained in a letter from the Israeli representative, Ambassador Yosef Tekoah, to Dr. Joaquin Vallejo Arbelaez, this month’s President of the Security Council. The letter said, “The Lebanese Government’s attitude to these grave developments is reflected in repeated announcements by its leaders that warfare against Israel will continue and in the policy of disregarding the cease-fire.”)