Gazit; Syria Intends to Turn Lebanon into a Confrontation State

Gen. Shlomo Gazit, chief of Israeli army intelligence, became the unofficial spokesman today for Lebanese Christians under seige in Beirut by Syrian artillery and mortars. He said the Syrian intention is to destroy all Christian resistance in Lebanon, to turn that country into another “confrontation state,” with unpredictable consequences for Israel and the fragile peace process between Israel and Egypt. (See related story from Washington, Page 1.)

Decrying the failure of “the Christian world to raise a voice against the destruction and slaughter of the Christians in Lebanon,” Gazit disclosed that Israeli planes flew over Beirut today in an effort to boost Christian morale. But, he said, it appeared to be a matter of a few days, or even a few hours, before the Syrians bring the Christians to total capitulation.

Gazit said that the Syrians, originally invited by the Lebanese government to keep the peace between warring Christians and Moslems, have abandoned that role and are trying to impose a “pax Damascus” on Lebanon. He said the Syrians have deployed more than half of their 35-40,000 soldiers in Lebanon around Beirut and almost doubled their fire power with the introduction of four medium artillery battalions, 100-120 mm. mortars, 50-150 mm. mortars and a number of 240 mm. mortars that fire 400 pound shells of immense destructive power. “What the Syrians are doing is a systematic shelling and destruction of every house, target after target and building after building, in the Christian quarter which is in the eastern half of Beirut,” Gazit said. He noted that the number of casualties is uncertain but amounts to at least 400 Lebanese Christians dead and many more wounded who cannot get medical treatment because of the fierce shelling. He said the Syrian casualties have been negligible because they are not engaged in close combat but fire from secure artillery positions in the city.

Gazit warned that the events in Beirut have serious implications for south Lebanon and what happens in south Lebanon is of great concern to Israel. He said Israel is disturbed by the systematic destruction of a minority in the Middle East.

“The Syrians may turn Lebanon into a confrontation state which would after the entire situation as to Israel’s security needs,” he said.” He said the Lebanese Christians were asking what Israel is about to do. But Gazit said he could give no answer.

ISRAELI RECONNAISSANCE FLIGHTS OVER LEBANON

Regarding the Israeli reconnaissance flights over Lebanon, a military spokesman stressed that the aircraft were not on combat missions. Reports from Beirut today said a flight of Israeli Kfir jets flew low over the city, frightening the populace by their sonic booms. The report said the flight was a warning to the Syrians that Israel was watching events in Lebanon.

Earlier reports here said the Israeli government is concemed over the deterioration of the situation in Lebanon and the implications the fighting in Beirut have for south Lebanon. Several Knesset members, including Amman Ilin of Likud, have demanded that Israel take action to prevent “genocide” in Lebanon.

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