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Situation in Lebanon

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Christian militia in south Lebanon fired artillery today at Lebanese army regulars attempting to enter the region. The Christians claimed that the Lebanese force consisted mainly of disguised Syrian soldiers or pro-Syrian elements and therefore were preventing their entry into Christian enclaves near the Israeli border. The Syrians have been waging war against Christian strongholds in the Beirut area for the past month.

This morning, the long-grounded Lebanese Air Force overflew Christian enclaves in the south. But the obsolete British-made Hunter planes did not open fire and were not fired on by the Christians. Israeli and Lebanese officers met at the Ras el-Nakura border post yesterday to discuss the return of Lebanese forces to south Lebanon.

But the Lebanese rejected an Israeli suggestion that they avoid the Christian enclaves and route their troops through the Moslem villages south of the Litani River. Israeli sources attributed the negative response of the Lebanese to Syrian influence.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) announced that a 600-man Lebanese task force has reached the area of United Nations operations in the Kaukaba region and was coordinating its activities with UNIFIL troops. The purpose is to prevent the movement of unauthorized armed forces in the region. The Lebanese unit is composed of an infantry battalion supported by field artillery and armored cars.

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