Israel Thinning out Its Forces in South Lebanon, Withdrawing Some Troops

Israel has begun to thin out its armed forces and to withdraw significantly in south Lebanon as the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) moved into place along the south bank of the Litani River, an army spokesman said last night.

The spokesman said the withdrawal timetable has been discussed with Gen. Ensio Siilasvuo, supreme commander of UN forces in the Middle East, and that a preliminary proposal has already been transmitted to him. Siilasvuo said the plan for Israel’s pull-back from the area would be published only after details are worked out with the UN.

Over the weekend a 1000-man Norwegian contingent of UNIFIL established headquarters at Alkhiyan village, northeast of Marj Ayoun, a Lebanese Christian village, and began deploying its forces in the eastern sector of south Lebanon, once a terrorist stronghold known as Fatahland. The Norwegians will take over from a small Swedish contingent that now controls the Khardala Bridge, the easternmost bridge over the Litani.

The Swedes will occupy an adjourning sector to the west and an Iranian contingent will hold the central sector, including the Akiya bridge. A French paratroop unit controlling the westernmost sector of the Litani has been re-enforced with 100 additional troops and some light tanks that were unloaded at the terrorist-held part of Tyre.

The French have not succeeded so far in taking control of the Kasmiyeh Bridge commanding the approaches to Tyre which remains in terrorist hands. They have dug in about a mile south of the bridge. The French apparently will try to persuade the terrorists to turn over the bridge but do not contemplate using force.

ISRAELIS REBUILDING VILLAGES

Further south, meanwhile, Israeli units continued to help rebuild Lebanese villages severely damaged in last month’s fighting. They have brought pre-fab houses from Israel and established health services for the villagers. It was disclosed that dispensaries located at the open fences along the Israeli-Lebanese border treated some 41,000 south Lebanese villagers during the past two years of warfare in that region. Life has returned to normal in the border area and each day about 500 Lebanese workers enter Israel where they are employed on farms and in factories. Others come to visit relatives or to trade.

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