Behind the Headlines a Mistake for Israel

From a strictly military point of view, the cease-fire that ended hostilities on July 24 between Israel and Palestinian terrorists in Lebanon “was a mistake,” according to Brig. Gen. Amos Baram, the Deputy Commander of the Northern Command of Israel’s Defense Forces.

“We had an indication that the terrorists were reaching a breaking point, when the agreement on the cessation of hostilities was reached,” Baram said during a background briefing to reporters at the Israel Consultate here.

He explained that at one point the terrorists had suffered heavy losses of arms and ammunition and that their supply routes had been destroyed. “Israel wanted to stop them from shelling its civilian settlements in northern Galilee, and we were closed to achieving that goal militarily,” Baram disclosed.

Baram, who said he was in the United States to explain the recent Israeli actions against the terrorists in Lebanon and its much criticized raid on the Palestine Liberation Organization headquarters in the center of Beirut July 17, explained that Israel had to launch preemptive strikes against a massive arms buildup by the terrorists aimed at Israeli civilian settlements in northern Galilee, including Kiryat Shemona and Nahariya.

TERRORISTS GET HEAVY SUPPLY OF ARMS

In the last five months, Baram said, the terrorists received from East Germany, Libya and Syria “very sophisticated and accurate weapons” such as 130 mm artillery guns with a 17-mile range, rocket launchers with a 13-mile range and missile launchers with a 16-mile range. He said that the PLO terrorist force in Lebanon comprises 80,000 people, 70 tanks, 100 armored personnel carriers, 170 artillery guns, 80 mortars and 80 missile launchers.

Baram pointed out that the terrorists attacked only Israeli civilian targets. He said that during the recent hostilities they shelled 21 Israeli civilian settlements despite the fact that “we have hundreds of military targets along the (Israeli side) of the border.” He said the terrorists purposely locate their strongholds in the midst of civilian population centers as a shelter from Israeli retaliation.

Baram said that by hitting the PLO headquarters in Beirut, Israel succeeded in destroying the terrorists’ communications system and that this brought Israel closer to its goal of stopping the terrorists from shelling Israeli civilian settlements. “The aim of Israel was to stop the shelling on its civilians in the north,” Baram reiterated several times during his briefing.

Asked about the contribution of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to maintaining peace in the area, Baram said that “UNIFIL is doing a good job.” But he noted at the same time that there are some 700 terrorists in the UNIFIL-controlled area. He said that it was from this area that the terrorists had shelled Nahariya during the recent hostilities, inflicting heavy damage on a hospital and other civilian centers.

Baram said he does not rule out the possibility that the terrorists will rearm themselves and regain their lost strength. “In that case they will pose a new threat to Israel,” but the decision to act against them is a political one and will have to be taken by the Israeli government,” he said.

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