TEL AVIV (Jun. 27)
Chief of Staff Gen. Mordechai Gur warned Lebanon today that it would “become a battlefield” if it brought in war planes, anti-aircraft missiles and other weapons from Arab countries. His remarks at a press conference here were viewed as a response to reports that the Lebanese government is considering asking other Arab countries for military aid against-Israeli air raids on terrorist encampments in Lebanon. Such aid reportedly has already been offered by President Anwar Sadat of Egypt.
Gen. Gur said he did not think “Lebanon really wants to become a battlefield” but the decision rested with the Beirut regime. He claimed that the Lebanese armed forces were fully capable of ending terrorist incursions against Israel from Lebanese territory if ordered to do so. He said Israeli retaliatory raids on terrorist strongholds in Lebanon had achieved their aims and indicated that they will be repeated when necessary. “We have learned the lesson and we shall try our best to find methods and the time for action that will prevent the terrorists from carrying out their murderous attacks,” Gen. Gur said.
His replies to reporters’ questions covered a wide range of military subjects. He claimed that Israel’s armed forces had recovered and in some respects exceeded their pre-Yom Kippur War strength and were capable of meeting a combined attack by Egypt, Syria and Jordan. He said in that connection that Israel was taking seriously the warlike remarks of President Sadat. Our reiterated his statement on an armed forces radio interview yesterday that Israel retains the option to declare war if certain conditions develop. He said it was important for the world and especially for Israel’s neighbors to know that option exists and would be exercised under certain circumstances.
Asked why it was not exercised when Syrian and Egyptian forces were massing for their attacks last Oct., Gen. Gur replied that it was the government, not the army, which makes such decisions. “This does not mean that under certain conditions this option would not be put into action.” he said.
In his radio interview yesterday, Gen. Gur warned that Israel could expect long-range missile attacks if it went to war again with its Arab neighbors and that despite improved defenses, some of the missiles “will reach us and explode.” He said attacks by ground-to-ground missiles of the Scud and Frog type which the Russians have supplied to Egypt and Syria would probably be the opening gambit of any new war. He said Israel’s answer to missile attack was its air force and that Israeli pilots retained their superiority over Arab pilots. He said Israel expected to receive the most sophisticated aircraft but did not specify what kind. “Once the means which we are interested in purchasing arrive, we shall be able to complete the circle,” he said.
Gen. Gur replied today to Syrian charges that Israeli forces deliberately destroyed the Golan Heights town of Kuneitra before they withdrew. He said the army levelled some houses that might have served as shelters for snipers firing on nearby Israeli settlements. But most of the damage, he said, was sustained when Kuneitra was a battlefield in the Six-Day War, the Yom Kippur War and more recently during the war of attrition on the northern front.