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Israel in Close Touch with U.S. Concerning Situation in Lebanon

Israel is in continued close contact with the United States over the situation in Lebanon and is trying to convince the Carter Administration that Syria is planning to destroy the Christian military forces in north Lebanon, it was learned here today. Both Israeli political and military experts believe that the Syrians want to eliminate the Christian military capability in order to perpetuate the control of the Syrian army in the northern part of the country.

The U.S. does not share Israel’s fears, but Washington is concerned about the possibility of a military clash between Israel and Syria, according to sources. (See related story from Washington.)

The Israelis believe that Syria has started its massive military activity against Christian enclaves in northern Lebanon because Damascus felt Israel could do nothing because of the upcoming summit meeting at Camp David. But Israel has warned the U.S. that it would consider the conquest by Syria of the rugged mountains of north Lebanon, where the Christian strongholds are located, a dangerous strategic threat to Israel.

This warning was apparently relayed by Washington to Damascus. This, it is believed here, may be the reason that Syrian President Hafez Assad warned yesterday that Syria is ready to repulse any Israeli attack.

Israel apparently is not contemplating any direct intervention at this time. Israel’s policy is still based on opposition to the stationing of any Syrian troops in south Lebanon to prevent the Palestinian terrorists from penetrating areas south of the Litani River and to protect the Christians in south Lebanon. However, if the situation in Lebanon deteriorates to a point where the Christians face physical extinction, Israel may have to act.

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