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Rabin Heads Special Watch-dog Group on Lebanon

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Premier Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Yigal Allon sent cables of condolence to President Ford today over the murders of the U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, Francis B. Meloy Jr. and the U.S. Economic Counselor, Robert O. Waring in Beirut yesterday The two diplomats and their chauffeur were shot to death while driving to a meeting with the Lebanese President-elect Elias Sarkis.

Rabin said in his message, “This despicable act against people working for peace can only arouse contempt and disgust.” He asked the President to convey the Israeli government’s sympathies to the bereaved families.

It was disclosed today that Premier Rabin heads a committee of ten Cabinet ministers and senior military officers which has been maintaining a close surveillance of developments in Lebanon. The team is kept informed continuously by Israel’s three intelligence-gathering agencies–Military Intelligence; Central Intelligence Institute (Mossad); and the Foreign Ministry’s research department. In addition to the Premier, the group is made up of Foreign Minister Yigal Allon; Defense Minister Shimon Peres; Chief of Staff Gen Mordechai Gur; Gen. Shlomo Gazit, chief of military intelligence; the head of the Israeli CIA, who is not identified by name but is believed to be Gen. Yitzhak Hoffi; Prof. Shlomo Avineri, director general of the Foreign Ministry; and three others who remain unidentified.

The Premier may convene a meeting of the group at any time he believes a broad discussion is required to understand the significance of any special development or new piece of information. The other two ministers may also recommend a meeting if they consider it necessary.

The work of the surveillance group has already won praise in the Cabinet and in the Knesset’s foreign affairs and security committee. The Israeli leadership is reported to believe that the present split in the Arab world over Lebanon is only temporary and that Israel’s interests may yet be harmed as a result of the Lebanese conflict.

Israel’s policy remains one of watchful nonintervention. But Israelis are puzzled over why President Hafez Assad chose to do battle against the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Lebanese leftists who, it was assumed, were his natural allies.

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