TEL AVIV (Aug. 29)
The evacuation of PLO and Syrian-backed Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) terrorists from west Beirut continued today. Some 1,200 PLA men left via the Beirut-Damascus road for Damascus and about 500 PLO terrorists sailed from the part of Beirut to the town of Tortus in northern Syria. Among those leaving for Tortus were two PLO leaders, Abu Jihad and Abu Salach. Another group which left yesterday for Tortus included George Habash, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Nayef Hawatmeh, leader of the Marxist-oriented pro-Soviet Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The only PLO leader remaining in Beirut was said to be Yasir Arafat. He is scheduled to leave the city tomorrow.
A senior Israeli army officer said today in Beirut that more than 13,000 PLO and Syrian forces had been evacuated since the withdrawal began last Saturday, including some 7,300 PLO fighters and about 6,000 Syrian soldiers and Syrian-backed forces of the 15,000 PLO and Syrian forces Israel said were in Lebanon that were to be evacuated under the plan worked out by U.S. special envoy Philip Habib.
PLO HANDING OVER ‘SCRAP METAL’
The Israeli officer said that the PLO had so far handed over to the Lebanese army very little of their heavy military equipment, as required under the Habib plan. “So far, they only handed over scrap metal,” he said.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Rafael Eitan, who watched the evacuation today, told Israeli military correspondents that the PLO was surrendering its heavy equipment not to the Lebanese army but to a leftwing Lebanese group affiliated with the PLO called the Murabitun organization.
Eitan said all members of that organization, said to number about 1,500 men, would have to leave Lebanon together with the PLO and the Syrians “as they are terrorists by any definition.” He forecast lengthy and complicated negotiations to get the Syrians to withdraw from the country.
HADDAD CONCERNED ABOUT HIS FUTURE
Meanwhile, Maj. Saad Haddad, commander of the Christian militia, who helped Israel keep its border with southern Lebanon clear of PLO terrorists for the past seven years, expressed concern that he will now be abandoned by both Israel and Lebanese President elect Bashic Gemayel.
In an interview with Israel Radio, Haddad said that since the war began in Lebanon June 6 he had met only once with Eitan and no Israeli political leader sought to meet or consult with him, unlike before the fighting started when he was always called upon by Israeli leaders.
Haddad said he had wanted to assist Israel in its advance through southern Lebanon, and had even been allowed to move his tanks and armed soldiers forward with the Israelis, but his forces were halted at Damour, south of Beirut, apparently at the request of Phalangist leader Gemayel.
Haddad seemed to feel that he might now be abandoned by Israel, which will seek to work only through Gemayel, who might in turn seek to reduce any apparent dependence on Israel for his own political purposes. “Bashir is my friend and we work together,” Haddad told Israel Radio. “But I am a soldier, not a politician. He is a politician with ambitions.”
SAYS HE DID HIS BEST
The Christian militia commander said “I am sure I have done my best and done my duty. I did not betray my friends or my country. But I am now somewhat worried that Israel may take the wrong steps. I care for Israel as well as my own country. You cannot forget the past seven years.”
Haddad added that it appears to be the fate of many Lebanese leaders to live abroad when their duties to their own country are ended. “Maybe I should retire and go live in Israel,” he said wistfully. “I have no political ambitions. I don’t want to be a president. I know only soldiering.”