TEL AVIV (Jun. 20)
Armed terrorists have penetrated into south Lebanon despite control of the Litani River bridges by units of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and have begun harassing the local population in the areas evacuated by Israel in the first two stages of its withdrawal from south Lebanon last month, it was learned today.
Israeli and UNIFIL officials dispute the number of terrorists in the region. The Israelis claim there are now 500 in the area under UN control. General Emmanuel Erskine, commander of UNIFIL, says that no more than 150 have infiltrated his lines. Israel claims terrorists are now located in the Tebnin area, the El Phukhar region and the Arkub district of “Fatah Land,” the easternmost sector of south Lebanon. More terrorists, concentrated at Nabatiyeh and Khtzbaya, north of the Litani, are preparing to enter south Lebanon, Israeli sources said.
According to the sources, the terrorists who have already crossed the Litani are trying to coerce the local population to cooperate with them. A terror campaign has been aimed mainly at the Shi’a Moslem villages. Two terrorists were captured recently by Christian militiamen in Yarin village in the security belt evacuated by Israel last week. But there are no indications that terrorists have entered that area which is controlled by an independent Christian militia. The latter have broken away from the militia commanded by Maj. Saad Haddad and Maj. Sammy Shediak who were recognized provisionally by the authorities in Beirut as representatives of the Lebanese regular army.
Many Shi’a villagers have joined the independent Christian militia which refuses to accept the authority of UNIFIL in the last area evacuated by Israel. It has rejected the agreement reached between Maj. Haddad and Gen. Erskine. But in the past few days UNIFIL units have been permitted to enter the area and to move freely in the Christian enclaves. Norwegian offers of UNIFIL have categorically denied press reports in Oslo that the Norwegian soldiers are under siege by the Christian militia. They said they are supplied daily and have no difficulties. A Norwegian diplomat in Beirut attributed the reports to journalists who were not permitted to enter the area.
NO GUARANTEE AGAINST ATTACKS
Meanwhile, Gen. Avigdor Ben-Gal, commander of Israeli forces in the north, told representatives of Israeli border settlements today that there was no way to guarantee that they will not again be targets of terrorist attacks. He said Katyusha rockets launched north of the Litanies River had the range to hit targets in northern Israel. However, Ben-Gal said, the Israeli operation in south Lebanon created new conditions that make the border settlements more secure than they had been. He said it would be extremely difficult for the terrorists to launch attacks from the evacuated area, considering the presence of the Christian militia and the thousands of UNIFIL soldiers.