TEL AVIV (Mar. 22)
The vanguard of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) ran into unexpected difficulties today when the Maronite Christian militia refused to allow a party of six UN officers to pass through its lines. The group was stopped by militiamen at Klea village.
Maj. Said Haddad, commander of the militia, who claims to represent the Lebanese regular army in south Lebanon, said the UN force would have to enter the region from the north, meaning through terrorist lines. He accused UN officers of betraying the movements of Christian units to the terrorists.
Later, the first UNIFIL troop contingent, 150 Iranian troops in 20 trucks, drove across the border and were allowed to pass the roadblock set up by the Christian militiamen without any incidents. The Iranians camped for the night about five miles south of the Litani River, overlooking the strategic Akaya Bridge.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ezer Weizman met here today with Gen. Ensio Siilasvuo, supreme commander of UN forces in the Middle East, who reported on his talks with Lebanese political and military leaders in Beirut yesterday. According to some reports, the Lebanese promised to send two battalions of their newly rehabilitated army into the south. Weizman expressed hope that the ceasefire he ordered yesterday will be observed by the terrorists and said Israel would cooperate with the UN force.
But while the front lines were relatively quiet today, terrorist artillery continued to shell Israeli troops and villages in south Lebanon. Several shells exploded near Israeli towns in Upper Galilee but no casualties were reported. A spokesman for PLO chief Yasir Arafat was reported saying. “There is no ceasefire in our dictionary.”
SEVERAL DIFFICULTIES ANTICIPATED
UNIFIL will include one or two French para-troop battalions, a Norwegian battalion and a Nepalese unit. The British army will provide a logistics unit. One of the first tasks of the force will be to take over control of the Litani River bridges from Israeli forces. No problems are expected on the eastern and central bridge. But the western-most span, the Kasmiyeh Bridge, is in terrorist hands and it is not known if they will hand it over peacefully to the UN troops. The bridge was left open by Israel to facilitate the movement of civilians to and from Tyre.
Some difficulties have cropped up on the Israeli side of the border where settlers are organizing to protest what they consider the untimely withdrawal of Israeli forces from south Lebanon. The chairman of the Metullah town council said, “We may lie before the tanks if we are not 100 percent sure that the terrorists will not return to south Lebanon and resume their hostile activity against Israel.”