JERUSALEM (Apr. 9)
Premier Menachem Begin has assured United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim that Israeli forces will withdraw from south Lebanon according to a two stage timetable which Waldheim has termed “inadequate.” Begin said the withdrawal plan was based on an agreement between Defense Minister Ezer Weizman and Gen. Ensio Siilasvuo, supreme commander of UN forces in the Middle East.
His response implied that there would be no change in Israel’s withdrawal program, notwithstanding Waldheim’s criticism. The pull-back will be limited to the central sector of the front. Total withdrawal from south Lebanon will take place only when Israel is convinced that the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) can take full control and prevent terrorists from returning to the region.
According to the plan presented to the UN by Chief of Staff Gen. Mordechai Gur, the first stage of the Israeli withdrawal Tuesday will be in the Mari Ayoun-Arkoub area and will range from 1.25-4.4 miles. The second stage, on Friday, will cover an area along the Litani River from the Akiya Bridge to Deir Mimess to a depth of from 0.62-3 miles.
In a statement issued at UN headquarters in New York Friday, Waldheim said he was gratified that Israel had announced its intention to begin the withdrawal of its forces from Lebanon, beginning Tuesday. But, he pointed out, the Security Council had called for immediate withdrawal by Israel in its resolution of March 1 9.
The Waldheim-Begin exchange came amidst reports of a possible reconvening of the Security Council to debate the situation in south Lebanon and reports of growing tension between UNIFIL and the Palestinian terrorists.
TERRORISTS FIRE ON UNIFIL UNITS
It was reported today that Norwegian, Swedish and French UNIFIL units were fired on by terrorists north of the Litani River during the past 24 hours and returned the fire. The report was welcomed here as a sign that UNIFIL was ordered to carry out to the letter its instructions to prevent terrorist infiltration of south Lebanon.
The Norwegians were reported to have come under fire in the Kaukba area, the northernmost sector of the front. The Swedes, deployed at six positions between the Akiya and Kasmiyeh bridges, also came under sporadic fire from across the river and fired back. French units were involved in a shooting incident with terrorists in the Tyre region.