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Defense Chief Claims Israel’s Political Acivities Prompied U.S. France to Intervene in Lebanon

– Deputy Defense Minister Mordechai Zipori claimed today that Israel’s political activities resulted in the United States, and possibly France, finally intervening politically in Lebanon to halt the fighting between Syrian forces and Christian phalangists in Beirut and the Christian village of Zahle.

“It was following Israeli political activities that the U.S. spoke out, “Zipori said in the course of a four of Israeli villages near the Lebanese border. “For the first time in the Lebanon crisis, the American Secretary of State has spoken out openly and clearly, with a clear warning,” Zipori said. “France, the traditional patron of Lebanon, which so far remained silent, has also spoken out. There is today a wider backing for the Christians who up till now have only enjoyed Israeli support.”

ISRAEL WILL CONTINUE AID TO CHRISTIANS

He added that Israel would continue to help the Christians of Lebanon both physically and politically. The Israeli defense official was apparently referring to Secretary of State Alexander Haig’s public condemnation of the “brutal” Syrian shelling of Zahle during his visit to Israel Monday. Haig said the U.S. was active at the highest diplomatic levels to end the bloodshed.

Haig also supported the deployment of Lebanese army regulars in the southern region. But Zipori said he understood that to apply to the region controlled by the United Nations interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), not the Christian and Shi’ite Moslem enclave controlled by Maj. Saad Haddad. According to Zipori, “It is clear to the U.S. and others that Israel supports the status quo in that (Haddad’s) region.”

But obervers here noted that the latest ceasefire in Lebanon was only a temporary truce called to evacuate the wounded from Zahle and that it was far from certain that it would last. It is not known yet whether either the Syrians or the Christians believe they have achieved their objectives.

SYRIAN OBJECTIVES NOT CLEAR

The objectives themselves are unclear. Some observers believe the Syrians may have launched their offen{SPAN}#ve{/SPAN} against the Christians to test Israel’s reaction and find out how far they could go in Lebanon without active Israeli intervention.

The Christians, for their part, may have been trying to find out how important to the Syrians was their complete control of the Lebanese valley lying between Beirut and Damascus. According to some foreign press reports, the Syrians reacted after Christians attempted to expand their zone into the region abuting the Syrian border.

But observers here also expressed doubts about the theory advanced by Haig that the Soviet Union persuaded the Syrians to attack the Christians at this time to divert attention from the crisis in Poland. The Russians know from past experience that they cannot always control events in the Middle East once set in motion, the observers said. They also suggested that recent warnings from Damascus to Israel, that the Soviets would intervene if Israel interfered with the Syrians in Lebanon was a trial balloon to test reactions in Moscow and in Israel.

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