JERUSALEM (Jan. 5)
Authoritative Israeli sources today confirmed reports from Beirut that El Fatah was disarming in southern Lebanon and said the move was a surrender to pressure from the Lebanese government and public. The sources told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that prior to the Jordanian civil war last September, El Fatah, the largest of the Palestinian commando groups, would never have agreed to such measures as disarming and shutting down its four offices in the refugee camps in Lebanon. But is has become progressively weaker as a result of the civil war and mass desertions. The sources said that recent clashes with Israeli forces along the Lebanese border cost El Fatah many casualties but not enough to seriously affect their manpower situation. The sources said that according to rough estimates, no more than 500 El Fatah guerrillas are presently operating in southern Lebanon, but El Fatah itself probably doesn’t know how many. As the organization grows weaker, it is less able to resist pressure from Lebanese authorities. Lebanese press reports indicate a growing opposition to the terrorists among the local population where once they derived their most ardent support, the sources said. The Beirut daily, Al Hawadith, accused El Fatah members in Lebanon recently of murder, rape and pillage and demanded that the guilty be tried.