TEL AVIV (Mar. 5)
The capture of the predominantly Moslem village of Maroun A-Rass in south Lebanon by a unit of the Al Saiqa terrorists late last week is viewed in Israel as basically a Syrian-backed operation. Sources here noted that since Israel has warned against any move by the Syrian army south of the Litani River the Syrians used the Damascus-backed terrorist organization to do the job.
Authoritative sources in Israel pointed out that Syria wanted the village because of its strategic importance. It is located on the highest hill near the Israeli border with on excellent view of such Israeli settlements as Avivim, Baram and Ir On.
The Christian soldiers who guarded the village were outnumbered by the Al Saiqa terrorists, according to residents who fled to the Israeli border last Thursday night. The terrorists also captured an Israeli tank and troop carrier given to the Christian soldiers by the Israelis.
The villagers, who were provided with food and shelter near the Israeli border Friday and yesterday, said the terrorists were neither Palestinians nor Lebanese but appeared to be Syrians. The refugees said the terrorists massacred all the Christian soldiers and raped women in the village.
The capture of the village has demoralized Christians in south Lebanon. Many question why Israel did not do anything to prevent the village from falling into the hands of the terrorists. An Israeli military spokesman, meanwhile, last night denied a news agency report in which the terrorists charged that Israeli gunboats shelled two villages along the south Lebanon coast.