TEL AVIV (Aug. 31)
A Syrian MIG-25 aircraft was shot down by an Israeli plane some six miles east of Beirut today. An army spokesman said the Israeli plane returned safely to its base. One to the two Syrian pilots was reportedly killed in the air fight, while the other pilot was said by Israel Radio to have been captured.
Wreckage of the Soviet-made plane hit the top floor of a multi-story building, causing a fire on the upper floors of the building which was empty at the time. The aircraft was on a photographic reconnaissance mission when the air battle took place. Israeli officials declined to say why the plane was downed.
The MIG-25 plane shot down today, code-named Foxbat in NATO, is said to be the fastest and highest-flying plane in operation in the world today. It flies at three times the speed of sound and has a ceiling of 80,000 feet, higher than the 70,000 feet ceiling of its closest Western rival, the U.S.-made F-15 which is also in service with the Israel Air Force.
But Air Force experts point out that the lower ceiling and slower speed of the American-made aircraft can be made up by sophisticated missiles. The MIG-25 plane carries two pilots.
LAST OF THE SYRIAN TROOPS IN BEIRUT LEAVE
Meanwhile, the last of the Syrian troops in west Beirut left by road today, in a convoy of hundreds of vehicles carrying over 1,500 Syrian soldiers, including the rest of the Syrian 85th Armored Brigade, units of which left Beirut yesterday and have already been repositioned in the Bekaa valley region of Lebanon.
In addition to the road evacuation, two ships were today carrying 800 PLO terrorists to North Yemen and another 600 PLO men to the port of Tartus in northern Syria. There are now believed to be less than 2,000 PLO terrorists left in west Beirut, who are due to be taken out of Lebanon by Thursday, two days ahead of the scheduled end of the PLO evacuation.
PROBLEM OF LEBANESE LEFTWING GROUPS
One problem which remains to be solved is the future and fate of Lebanese leftwing terrorist groups which have been handed some of the PLO heavy weapons and equipment, in contravention of the evacuation agreement under which such equipment should have been handed over to the official Lebanese army.
The Lebanese leftwingers, who have cooperated with the PLO and Syrian forces in the past, have threatened to carry on armed struggle against Israeli forces and rightwing Lebanese elements. Israel is insisting that these terrorist fellow-travellers must also be expelled from Lebanon, as their presence there continues a threat to Israel’s security.