TEL AVIV (Jun. 13)
Heavy fighting was reported this evening between Israeli troops and Palestinian force’s dug in at the Ein Khilwei refugee camp on the outskirts of Sidon. The Palestinians were said to have dug a complicated system of underground bunkers in the camp from which they were harassing Israeli units. They were also reported holding Sidon residents hostage in a local mosque.
The Israel Air Force reportedly carried out heavy raids this afternoon on Palestinian bases in the Beirut stadium and international airport area.
Earlier today, a military spokesman said that a cease-fire agreed to with Syrian forces Friday was holding fairly well in the eastern sector of Lebanon but Palestinians were still firing on Israeli positions south of Beirut. According to the spokesman, the Palestinians accepted a cease-fire declared by Israel last night in the eastern sector but continued shooting this morning.
By afternoon, heavy artillery fire was directed at Israeli forces which replied with artillery and later sent in the Air Force to bomb Palestinian positions. Israeli troops continued what were described as mopping up operations in the Israeli-held areas of Lebanon. Infantry patrols were reported to be flushing out scattered pockets of resistance.
SOME 130 ISRAELIS KILLED IN FIGHTING
The spokesman announced that 16 Israeli soldiers were killed in battle Friday and 176 were wounded, 26 of them seriously and the rest with light or moderate wounds. An unofficial tally of Israeli casualties during the week of fighting that ended Friday listed more than 130 dead and over 600 wounded. The dead include two senior officers, Maj. Gen. Yekutiel Adam and Brig. Gen. (Res) Haim Selah who were gunned down in an ambush at an advance Israeli command post. Adam was the highest ranking Israeli officer ever to fall in battle.
Chief of Staff Gen. Rafael Eitan said yesterday that the mopping up operations and the search for terrorist arms was a huge task that would take days or weeks to complete. According to the Israelis, the quantities of Palestine Liberation Organization arms and ammunition seized up to now far exceeds the highest estimates. They said the weapons were mainly of Soviet manufacture and were brand new, some still packed in protective coatings of grease.
An army source said the Palestinian arsenal uncovered so for includes 500 tanks. Originally, Israel had estimated the PLO had no more than 80. Hundreds, possibly thousands of tons of ammunition were found in underground dumps and store-houses, the Israelis said.
The army said that terrorist prisoners captured in possession of Kalatchnikov rifles and other weapons included boys aged ll-15 and a large number of non-Palestinians. Among the latter were volunteers from India, Bangladesh and other countries. According to the Israelis, a Yemen taken prisoner told them he was recruited by the PLO with promises of “money and women.”
The circumstances of the deaths of the two Israeli generals were described to reporters today. In the company of another officer of lower rank, they were observing the battle from the roof of the command post when shell fire drove them to the cellar of the building for cover. As Gen. Adam opened the cellar door, he was riddled with automatic fire at point-blank range from Palestinians concealed there. Gen. Selah was fatally wounded by a second burst of fire. He fell over backward on top of the junior officer whose life was thereby saved.
Combat with Syrian forces halted after the latter accepted a cease-fire Friday. But heavy fighting continued yesterday in the region south of Beirut. A military spokesman said yesterday that Palestinians fired on Israeli forces between Damour and the Beirut airport. Israeli artillery, tanks and infantry returned the fire and the Air Force carried our frequent raids on the Haldeh area south of the Beirut international airport. Haldeh is the site of the main Palestinian headquarters and their last stronghold. Ground forces received close naval support which has been a feature of the past week’s fighting.
Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir stressed in a radio interview yesterday that the cease-fire unilaterally offered by Israel applied only to the Syrian army which accepted it. He said Israel would continue fighting the Palestinians until they stopped shooting.
As the fighting in Lebanon appeared to be winding down, except for local search-and-destroy missions against Palestinian hold-outs, opinion in Israel was predictably divided over the success of the Lebanese operation, dubbed “Peace for Galilee.” Government forces hailed the operation as an unqualified success which removed the Palestinian threat to northern Israel. Opposition spokesmen agree that the PLO has been dealt a heavy blow and driven beyond rocket and artillery range of Israel.
But they contend that the PLO has not been destroyed and a solution to the Palestinian problem has been brought no closer by the week of costly fighting. All military commentators agree that the success of the operation was due to the close coordination of ground, sea and air forces and the excellent training of Israeli troops. They hailed the destruction of Syrian SAM-6 anti-aircraft missiles in the Beka Valley of eastern Lebanon last Wednesday and Thursday as a brilliant technical coup for which the Air Force deserves full credit.