JERUSALEM (Mar. 11)
Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir called on “France and the West” today to help Lebanon free itself from the shackles of occupation by Syria and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Shamir, addressing visiting French paratroopers, said the Lebanese wanted to reassert their independence but the presence in their country of 30,000 Syrian troops and 20,000 PLO terrorists effectively prevents this.
Israeli army sources, meanwhile, confirmed a report in Haaretz this morning that Syrian troops have moved into the ruins of the Beaufort Castle, an ancient Crusaders fortress in southern Lebanon, which has long been used as a PLO artillery position.
Shamir, in his speech, noted that France has a wide role to play in the Middle East because of its historic associations with the region. He urged France to bring its influence to bear on the Arab states to enter into real peace with Israel. He also declared that the French people should appreciate, the enormous sacrifice Israel is making by returning all of Sinai to Egypt.
Shamir called the evacuation “of areas we have settled and developed” a “national tragedy” and warned that any one who thinks that the Sinai withdrawal presaged further surrender in the future was “in grievous error.”
SYRIAN TROOPS OCCUPY BEAUFORT CASTLE
The Syrian occupation of the Beaufort Castle on the northern bank of the Litani River, brings their troops closer to the so-called “red line” limit than ever before. The “red-line” is the position in south Lebanon beyond which Israel has said it would not permit the Syrians to operate.
The Beaufort Castle has been bombed and shelled to rubble by Israel and the Israel backed Christian militia in southern Lebanon. But it has been used as a PLO artillery site and observation post commanding a direct line of sight over northern Israel. The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) stationed small observer units in the ruins in the past but they left some time ago because of shelling by both sides. A UNIFIL unit was to have returned there next week.
Meanwhile, President Reagan’s special envoy, Philip Habib, left Beirut today to return to Washington after two weeks in the region attempting to reduce tensions and preserve the cease-fire along the Israeli-Lebanese border. During his stay, Habib visited Israel, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. He had a final meeting with Lebanon’s President Elias Sarkis this morning before his departure.