JERUSALEM (Jun. 27)
Acting Premier Yigal Allon told the Knesset today that he considered it his moral and political duty to have disclosed that Israeli planes mistakenly bombed Hasbiyeh village in southern Lebanon last week during an air strike against terrorist strongholds in the region. He said that if the Lebanese government agreed to negotiate about the border tensions, the question of compensation for the villagers could come up for consideration.
Allon spoke in reply to sharp criticism levelled against him in some quarters over his disclosure of the bombing error in a speech he made at Kibbutz Ein Herod Sunday. Three opposition factions –Gahal, the State List and the Free Center–filed urgent motions in the Knesset today claiming that Allon’s disclosure violated security and was especially unwarranted at a time when Israel’s representatives at the United Nations were trying to avoid censure by the Security Council.
Deputy Premier Allon, who heads the government while Premier Golda Meir is attending the Socialist International meeting in Vienna, explained to the Knesset that when it became clear beyond all possible doubt what had occurred, he considered it his duty by virtue of his position as Acting Premier to state the truth of the mishap and to make public Israel’s grief over the death of innocent Lebanese civilians.
U.S. TOLD OF BOMBING MISHAP
Foreign Minister Abba Eban disclosed today that he had independently informed the US Ambassador of the bombing mishap. He said Allon’s public disclosure of the incident had not been previously coordinated with him but he added that the Acting Premier had the right to make any statement he sees fit, especially if it is in line with Israel’s policy of telling the truth at home and abroad. Eban said the announcement that Hasbiyeh was bombed by mistake was made to reassure Israel that its policies regarding Lebanon have not changed and to let the Lebanese population know that Israel’s conflict is with the terrorists, not with peaceful villagers.
Allon was the first Israeli official to disclose the error publicly and his remarks Sunday at a memorial meeting for the late Labor Party leader Itzhak Tabenkin raised eyebrows here and led to attacks on the Deputy Premier in some quarters. Others, however, including Health Minister Victor Shemtov of the Mapam faction, lauded Allon for his courage in admitting the mistake.
After warning the Lebanese government that Israel would not tolerate terrorist incursions from Lebanese soil, Allon expressed regrets that Hasbiyeh was attacked by Israeli pilots as a result of a technical malfunction over which the pilots had no control, causing civilian casualties. He said the village was close to the target which was a large terrorist base, “We do everything to prevent loss of life to civilians but once fire is opened, civilians may le hurt.” Allon said.