JERUSALEM (Jun. 22)
Israel informed U.S. special envoy Philip Habib in Beirut today that it was prepared to renew the cease-fire in Lebanon. The message was sent to the American diplomat by acting Premier Simcha Ehrlich after he conferred by telephone with Premier Menachem Begin in Washington.
The Israeli offer to halt all hostilities as of 6 p.m. local time today, provided that Syrian and Palestinian forces did the same, followed an escalation of fighting this morning during which the Israel Air Force was employed for the first time in a week. A military spokesman said Israeli warplanes bombed Syrian artillery east of Beirut after the Syrians opened fire on Israeli positions and on artillery duel ensued.
Artillery exchanges also took place today between Israeli forces south and east of Beirut and Syrian and Palestinian forces holding out in west Beirut.
Ehrlich, who is Deputy Premier and Minister of Agriculture, is presiding over the government while Begin is abroad. He held a series of meetings with leading political figures today, including Labor Party chairman Shiman Peres.
The Israeli cease-fire offer reached Habib in Beirut after a meeting of the National Salvation Committee, a body organized by Lebanese President Elias Sarkis in an attempt to establish a central authority representative of all political factions in Lebanon. One of the members, leftist leader Walid Junblatt who heads Lebanon’s large Druze community, said when he left the meeting that there was nothing to talk about as long as the shooting continued. The cease-fire is expected to help Habib speed up political negotiations to enable the Lebanese army to enter west Beirut to disarm the Palestinians.