TEL AVIV (Aug. 22)
The departure of some 1,000 PLO terrorists from Beirut aboard a ship bound for Cyprus ran into a temporary snag today. Israeli officials in the port of Beirut complained that the PLO evacuees had taken aboard 21 British-made jeep-like vehicles and 41 Soviet-made anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launchers, as well as some of their wives and children, in contravention of the withdrawal plan worked out by U.S. special envoy Philip Habib.
The ship was detained by Israeli missile boats while urgent discussions were held between Israeli, American, French and Lebanese officers and officials. Habib’s aide, Morris Draper, rushed to the port area to confer with the Israeli liaison officer, Brig. Gen. Eitan Barak, and then with the northern area commander, Maj. Gen. Amir Drori, together with Lebanese and French army officers.
Several hours later, Israel agreed to let the ship sail after receiving assurances from the U.S. that the jeeps would be unloaded before the terrorists reached their final destination of Tunisia. The first group of PLO evacuees yesterday also took with them a number of rocket launchers, but Israeli officials took action to bar them only today.
Most of today’s evacuees are members of Yasir Arafat’s mainline Fatah organization together with some Fatah service units, including the editorial staff of its newspaper and Arafat’s personal medical staff. Also on board is a unit of the Ein Jalloud brigade of the Palestine Liberation Army who are to be flown on elsewhere from Tunis. No immediate reason was given for the ship’s detention.
ISRAEL PROTESTS TO HABIB
Israel also protested today to Habib that no attempts were made to verify the identities of the terrorists who sailed from Beirut to Cyprus yesterday. An official here expressed concern that the violation of this part of the evacuation agreement raised the question of whether other aspects of the agreement would be honored.
The official explained that under the accord, the verification of the identities of those leaving was the responsibility of the Lebanese army, but that the army had not done so. The Israeli protest to Habib included a demand that verifications must be carried out. Israel fears that the PLO might try to have substitutes leave Beirut and that dangerous terrorists would remain.
The 400 evacuees who left for Cyprus yesterday — the first batch of an estimated total of 7,100 terrorists and their families who are scheduled to leave — emplaned from Limasson Airport aboard three aircraft today, bound for Amman, Jordan, and for Baghdad, Iraq.
‘PRIMARY OBJECTIVE’ ACHIEVED
The evacuation of the terrorists from west Beirut, beginning a two-week withdrawal that will scatter the PLO forces throughout the Arab world, and the end of the Israeli siege of the Lebanese capital, was hailed by both Israeli and PLO leaders as a victory for their side. The Israeli military command said that with the evacuation of PLO forces it had achieved the “primary objective” of its “Peace for Galilee” operation.
Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, who has begun calling the evacuation the “expulsion of the terrorists from Beirut, starting their complete ouster from Lebanon,” and Chief of Staff Gen. Rafael Eitan said the PLO’s “expulsion” resulted from the intense military pressure by the Israel Defense Force on west Beirut. (In Washington, President Reagan sent a telegram last Friday to Habib, praising him for his efforts in achieving a settlement of the crisis of Beirut. “Yours is truly a sterling achievement. You have succeeded against staggering odds.”)
Sharon and Eitan said Israel had done a great service for the entire world, not just Israel by smashing the PLO centers in Beirut which served as command, training and planning centers for international terrorism.
But they warned that the job would not be done properly and completely until all foreign forces, including the PLO and Syrians as well as the Israeli army, had left Lebanon and enabled that country to rebuild itself as an independent state.
A top PLO leader, Farouk Kaddoumi, who greeted the first group of PLO men in Cyprus today, hailed the orderly departure of the group from Beirut, carrying their “personal weapons,” which included Soviet-made assault rifles and rocket launchers, as a victory for the PLO which he said was still intact and intent on carrying on its struggle for an independent Palestine.
CYPRIOTS CONFISCATE WEAPONS
When the group of 400 terrorists arrived at Limassol Airport, journalists saw Cypriot officials confiscating hand grenades which the PLO men tried to conceal in their knapsacks as they were boarding planes to fly to Jordan and Iraq. Posing for reporters, the men waved Palestinian flags and pictures of Arafat, but except for chants in Arabic the men were silent and refused to speak to reporters.
The start of the evacuation began inauspiciously Friday when the return of two Israeli soldiers who had been prisoners and the bodies of nine soldiers who had been killed in Lebanon was delayed shortly before the start of the Sabbath. Israel had warned that if the two prisoners and the nine coffins were not handed over by the start of the Sabbath, the evacuation could not begin the next day.
The army spokesman said today the bodies of the nine men had all been positively identified by this morning and their funerals could now take place.