TEL AVIV (Jan. 26)
Defense Minister Shimon Peres instructed the army today to open Israel’s northern borders to Christian refugees from Lebanon. The invitation was broadcast by Israel’s Arabic language transmitters but as of this evening, no refugees appeared at any of the border posts.
The move was regarded, however, as a timely humanitarian gesture and was taken after top level discussions in response to appeals from various Christian religious and secular institutions in Israel. Refugees from Lebanon could expect to find shelter in the Maronite Christian communities in northern Israel.
Peres visited settlements in Galilee today. He said Syria now had a decisive influence in Lebanon through the introduction of the Syrian-commanded Palestine Liberation Army that is patrolling the cease-fire that went into effect Saturday. However, according to Peres, the presence of the PLA in Lebanon does not change the security situation. He said Israeli forces would have no difficulty dealing with the PLA should that become necessary.
TERRORISTS CONTROL SOUTHERN LEBANON
Israeli sources have been informed by Lebanese villagers that elements of the PLA have been spotted on the northern banks of the Litani River but have not crossed to the southern bank which would bring them closer to the Israeli lines. The informants said that southern Lebanon remains under terrorist control and that Lebanese army units have not returned to the positions they evacuated last week notwithstanding the cease-fire and the end of the fighting, for the time being at least.
According to the informants, civil administration has ceased to function in the region and Christians who fled their homes in Moslem dominated villages are still taking shelter in Maronite communities.
The invitation extended to Christian refugees was not expected to bring an influx into Israel but rather to underscore the fact that Israel takes a greater interest in their plight than Christian communities abroad. It was noted here that neither the Vatican nor such Catholic countries as France which has historical ties with Lebanon, raised their voices on behalf of the Christian minority during the Lebanese civil war.
Sources here recalled that when the Jordanian army was decimating the Palestinian terrorists in 1970, more than 120 of them fled to Israel and surrendered rather than face slaughter by their fellow Arabs.