JERUSALEM (Apr. 26)
Israel agreed today to a cease-fire in south Lebanon after its artillery delivered the heaviest bombardment of Palestinian terrorist strongholds since Israeli forces invaded south Lebanon a year ago. The cease-fire, put into effect by the United Nations, was requested by the Palestine Liberation Organization. Israeli residents of the border area, who were forced into bomb shelters by Palestinian rocket salvoes yesterday, protested bitterly when they heard the news.
They maintained that the terrorists’ request for a cease-fire indicated they were badly hurt and there fore the Israeli army should not let up. But the decision to halt the bombardment was apparently taken at the political level here in anticipation of the UN Security Council debate on the Lebanese situation that opened in New York this morning. (See separate story.)
Israel was bracing for attacks in that forum not only from its traditional enemies but from countries that have contributed troops to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and are concerned with their safety. According to reports, there is a. widespread feeling in the UN that Israel’s support for the Christian militia in south Lebanon is a serious destabilizing factor in that region. Israel has challenged that view.
In an angry letter to Secretary General Kurt Waldheim last week, Premier Menachem Begin contended that 21 of the 22 fatalities inflicted on UNIFIL troops were caused by the Palestinians and their allies, not the Christian forces commanded by Maj. Saad Haddad. Meanwhile, exchanges of gun-fire continued between the Christians and Palestinians. Yesterday’s Katyusha rocket attacks on northern Golilee caused no casualties and did only minor damage.