TEL AVIV (Aug. 5)
The Beirut area was today reported to be “relatively quiet” after what probably proved to be the most costly day for Israeli forces yesterday, with 19 killed and over 80 soldiers wounded. The number of PLO terrorists and Syrian soldiers and civilian casualties is not known.
The army spokesman insists that the fighting yesterday, said by war correspondents to be the most violent to date, was not the expected major assault on the Lebanese capital for an attempt to cut the area into two, dividing the Palestinian refugee camp and residential area in the south from the “Ros Beirut” or city part of the town to the north.
The Israeli forces did not advance more than a few hundred meters in the central sector along the west-east axis, though larger advances were made along the south to north axis close to the seashore.
The commander of the central force told Israel Radio today that his men had captured the Beirut National Museum only after a slow and careful attack on the building and its surroundings, to avoid damaging the structure and its contents.
But when his soldiers finally entered the building to ensure that it was free of terrorists they found it was a fortified strong point more than a museum, with sandbag emplacements and guns and artillery pieces mounted on statue bases.
The museum area and the nearby Hippodrome racetrack and the wooded Beirut forest area gives the Israeli forces a considerable tactical advantage, as the region commands the surrounding city area from which terrorists have been firing at Israeli forces and the Christian area in Beirut.
The area now being fought over already consists of high-rise buildings of 10-15 stories, which provide special problems for the attacking Israeli forces.