JERUSALEM (May. 21)
The Cabinet decided today that Israeli forces will complete their withdrawal from south Lebanon by June 13 and instructed the Defense Minister and Chief of Staff to make all necessary arrangements including coordination with the United National Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
The decision was announced by Cabinet Secretary Arye Naor after today’s session. He said “The Cabinet authorized the army to pull its units out of southern Lebanon by June 13. It also authorized the Defense Minister and Chief of Staff to meet with United Nations officials to determine details of the withdrawal and to discuss steps to protect Israel’s northern border.”
The evacuation is scheduled to be completed three months to the day after Israeli forces invaded south Lebanon following the March II terrorist assault on the Tel Aviv-Haifa highway. It will include the six-mile deep security belt that Israeli troops continue to hold along the Lebanese border.
The date of June 13 was selected on the assumption that UNIFIL by then will have just about reached its maximum authorized strength of 6000 men, sufficient to prevent the return of armed Arab terrorists to the region. UNIFIL presently numbers about 4000 troops who patrol most of the area south of the Litani River. It was re-enforced several days ago by an Irish regiment. (Related Cabinet story, P. 2)
It was learned, meanwhile, that small groups of terrorists have succeeded in penetrating UN lines and are hiding out in the countryside but not attempting to enter villages.