Jerusalem (Jul. 21)
The Cabinet met in special session for almost six hours today to consider the U.S. call for a cease-fire in Lebanon. No statement was issued and none was expected until Premier Menachem Begin conveys the substance of the Cabinet’s decision to U.S. special envoy Philip Habib with whom he was expected to meet later in the day. (See late report P.3).
Meanwhile, warfare continued over the Israeli-Lebanon border with Palestinian terrorists firing rocket and artillery shells at Israeli towns and the Israel Air Force striking at Palestinian strongholds in south Lebanon.
A report from Beirut today said Syria was considering a Palestinian request that it ring the Lebanese capital with SAM-6 anti-aircraft missiles against a repetition of the massive Israeli air raid last Friday which caused heavy civilian casualties.
SHELLING CONTINUES IN NORTHERN ISRAEL
Last night was described as “relatively quiet” along the border in Upper Galilee. Only six rocket salvoes were fired during the night. But heavy rocket and artillery fire was resumed this morning. A resident of Nahariya was injured by a shell burst at noon and a woman was treated in a hospital for shock. No other casualties were reported but the shelling touched off brushfires and damaged crops in Upper Galilee.
The Israel Air Force went into action within hours after the Cabinet met. A military spokesman said terrorist positions near Rashadiyah were bombed. Military sources here said that over 840 shells and rockets have been fired at 25 settlements and towns in northern Galilee since last Wednesday. The towns of Nahariya, Kiryat Shemona and Metullah were hit by more than 100 shells each. Nearly all kibbutzim and moshavim in the area have been damaged by Katyusha rockets or artillery shells, sources said.
The escalating violence has caused five civilian deaths and wounded more than a score of people in northern Israel since last Wednesday. One Israeli army officer, Maj. Joseph Tahal, 28, was killed during a commando raid on terrorist positions in south Lebanon yesterday.
FOCAL POINT OF CABINET MEETING
A focal point of today’s Cabinet meeting was said to be President Reagan’s decision, announced last night, to continue the suspension of deliveries of F-16 warplanes to Israel indefinitely. That move was linked here to the fighting across the Lebanese border and U.S. attempts to secure a cease-fire.
Israel is reported to be reluctant to accept a cease-fire that might end the shooting temporarily but give the Palestinians time to recuperate from their losses and continue the massive build-up of weapons Israel says they are receiving from Syria, Libya and the Communist bloc countries.
Israel is reported to be urging a comprehensive cease-fire arrangement that would halt the supply of weapons to the Palestinians. Israel is also said to have pressed Habib for assurances that the Lebanese government will act to remove the Palestinian terrorist threat from Israel’s northern border. But many observers here believe that even with the best intentions, the Beirut government is too weak to impose its will on the terrorists.
Israeli officials contend that the suspension of F-16 deliveries should not be linked to the situation in Lebanon. The embargo was imposed following Israel’s June 7 air raid on Iraq’s nuclear reactor. The Reagan Administration said at the time that a decision on the deliveries depended on a determination of whether or not Israel violated its arms agreement with the U.S. by using American-supplied aircraft in the Iraqi raid.
Officials here insist that Israel’s latest air raids over Lebanon cannot be a consideration because they are purely “self-defensive” in nature and therefore do not constitute a violation of the arms agreement.