TEL AVIV (Feb. 20)
Israel closed its border to all personnel and vehicles of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) but relaxed the ban at noon today to permit UNIFIL soldiers to enter on foot. The closure was ordered yesterday following the arrest of a Senegalese soldier caught in the act of transferring explosives to a Palestinian terrorist in Acre Sunday.
The soldier smuggled the explosives and detonators from Lebanon in his jeep and managed to pass the Ras Nikura checkpoint undetected. Senior officers of UNIFIL announced that they will search every vehicle to prevent a repetition of the incident.
However, Israeli officials said vehicles would continue to be barred until the investigation of the smuggling is completed. Similarly, it has refused to grant the UN legal advisor permission to visit the Senegalese soldier in jail before the investigation is closed.
The decision to lift the restrictions for soldiers who leave their vehicles on the Lebanese side of the border was taken in order to give them access to Israel for off-duty relaxation. The one-day ban had created hardships for hotel and restaurant owners in the seaside town of Nahariya, a favorite spot for UN personnel on leave. But UNIFIL trucks still cannot enter Israel for their daily pickup of fresh vegetables, water and medical supplies that Israel has been providing the UN forces in south Lebanon.
MAY DEMAND IRANIAN TROOPS BE WITHDRAWN
It was learned today that Israel may demand that Iranian troops be withdrawn from UNIFIL because of the close ties between the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khoumeini in Teheran and PLO chief Yasir Arafat. Israel fears that Iran, under the new Islamic regime, may become a confrontation state.
The Iranian a mission to Israel has been recalled but some members are still at mission headquarters in Ramat Gan. The building has been close and no one is admitted. But the remaining Iranians go about their usual routine shopping for groceries and vegetables at local shops. Some appear unhappy at the prospect of returning to Iran.