Jerusalem (May. 31)
Israel has made it clear that it will continue to strike at Palestinian terrorist bases in Lebanon despite the ongoing missile crisis with Syria. Premier Menachem Begin, who met with U.S. Ambassador Samuel Lewis twice over the weekend, told him that the air, land and sea attacks would continue even after U.S. special envoy Philip Habib returns to the area.
Lewis presented Begin with a message from Habib who is presently in Washington for consultations. Its contents were not disclosed but the message is believed to have been concerned with the continuation of Habib’s mission.
An air raid Thursday on Libyan-manned SAM-9 anti-aircraft missiles near Damour, south of Beirut was followed by a sea-borne Israeli commando attack on the same area Thursday night. A military spokesman said the raiding party, put ashore by a naval craft, destroyed a “terrorist vehicle” on the Beirut-Sidon road and returned safely. Military sources discounted reports from Beirut that the vehicle belonged to the Syrian army and that a Syrian soldier had been killed. The sources noted that the Palestine Liberation Organization made no mention of any Syrians among the casualties which it admitted to have suffered.
OBJECTIVE OF RAID
According to a military communique, Thursday’s air raid destroyed a group of four SAM-9 missile batteries supplied the terrorists by Libya and also inflicted damage on a base of the Popular Front-General Command which the missiles were intended to protect. Army sources said the objective of the raid was to prevent the terrorists from organizing attacks on Israel and to test Syrian reactions. The air attack demonstrated to the Syrians that Israel does not fear its missile batteries in Lebanon and is capable of destroying them, a military source said.
However, the Israelis stressed that the raids on terrorist positions along the Lebanese coast should be seen in a different context from the missile crisis with Syria. They marked a renewal of the anti-terrorist campaign that had slowed down with the onset of the missile crisis.
Begin told a radio interviewer Friday that the Libyan missiles sent to protect PLO bases against Israeli air raids “have no right to be there and if they are there they must expect to be destroyed.”