JERUSALEM (Feb. 29)
Israel announced last night the completion of its military operations against Arab terrorists in southern Lebanon and said that all of its objectives had been achieved in the four days of ground battles and air strikes that began last Friday. According to Israeli sources, at least 50 terrorists were killed and about 100 were wounded in the fighting. Israeli casualties amounted to II men wounded, most of whom have already been released from the hospital.
A communique broadcast on Kol Israel radio last night said the operation was successful in its intended purpose of pushing the terrorists further back from the Israeli border, destroying their bases and munitions dumps. A large quantity of arms and ammunition was seized as well as propaganda material which included an Arabic translation of the sayings of Mao Tse-tung, Kol Israel reported.
According to the Israelis, Lebanon itself was a beneficiary of the incursion inasmuch as it cleared the so-called “Fatahland” of Arab terrorists opening the way for Lebanese forces to reassert their control of the region which had long been in terrorist hands. As Israeli units pulled out of “Fatahland” yesterday, Lebanese Army units were seen crossing the Hasbani River to enter the southeastern section of their country in force for the first time in nearly four years.
Authoritative sources here made it clear today that the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon was according to plan and had nothing to do with the Security Council resolution adopted unanimously in the early hours of Monday morning which demanded that Israel cease all military operations in Lebanon and pull out its forces.
Israel denounced the resolution as “one-sided and cynical” because it failed to refer to the terrorist acts from Lebanese soil that prompted the incursion. The sources attributed Western, particularly US, concurrence in the resolution to Lebanon’s pro-Western image and the desire to prevent it from falling under Soviet influence.
FRIENDLY RECEPTION FROM VILLAGERS
One of the major accomplishments of the Israeli attacks was the construction of three roads leading from the Israeli border into the heart of “Fatahland.” They were built by the Army Engineers Corps shielded by tank, artillery and Air Force fire. The roads will make it possible for Israel to police the area and strike directly at the terrorists should they return.
Israeli soldiers returning from the operation reported that they had received a friendly reception from Lebanese villagers who seemed glad to be rid of the terrorists, About 2000 terrorists reportedly fled “Fatahland” during the four days of fighting but many are believed to have “vanished” by mingling with the local population.
NEW ACTIVITY ON SYRIAN BORDER
While “Fatahland” was quiet for the moment, new activity erupted last night on the Syrian border. Israeli forces exchanged heavy fire with terrorists concentrated in the Tel Arrar area of Syria but no casualties or damage was reported on the Israeli side. The terrorists began the action by firing mortar and bazooka shells at Israeli settlement and Army positions in the Golan Heights. Targets of the shelling included Ein Zivan, Nahal Golan and Ramat Magshimim, Israeli sources said.
Lebanese newspapers meanwhile called for a revision of the agreement signed in Cairo a year ago under which the Lebanese government permits the terrorists to use their territory as a base for incursions against Israel as long as the terrorists refrained from shooting at Israeli targets from Lebanese soil. The French language daily L’Orient said today that southern Lebanon was in fact occupied by the terrorists and it must be restored to Beirut’s control or it will fall to Israel. The influential independent daily, Al Nahar, suggested closer supervision of the terrorists and a new definition of the limits of their activity. The paper did not propose that the terrorists be driven out of the country altogether.