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Israelis Affirm That No Syrian Forces Are Involved in Battles in Southern Lebanon

Well informed Israeli sources affirmed today that no Syrian forces are involved in the current fighting between Palestinian Moslems and right-wing Christians in southern Lebanon. They said the offensive against Christian strongholds was being carried out by units of E1 Fatah recruited for the purpose by the Palestinians.

Yesterday they recaptured Taibe village which had been taken earlier by the Christians in a move that threatened Moslem positions at Bint’ Jebel. Fighting continued today in the Taibe region and the Palestinians seem determined to destroy Christian strength once and for all in southern Lebanon, the Israeli sources said. Christian sources admitted that their situation was deteriorating.

The intensity of the fighting was evident at the open fence along the Israeli-Lebanese border. Most Lebanese workers did not show up at their jobs in Israel today and traffic through the fence gap was minimal. Two wounded Maronite Christian soldiers died at an Israeli hospital yesterday and their remains were returned to Lebanon today through the open fence.

Israeli sources said that while the Syrians presently support the Palestinians against whom they fought bitterly only a few months ago, they are keeping a low profile in the present fighting in order to avoid a confrontation with Israel. The Syrians have refrained so far from sending A1 Saiqa, a terrorist organization controlled by Damascus, into battle against the Christians. One reason, the Israeli sources said, is the success the Palestinians have achieved so far on their own.

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