TEL AVIV (Sep. 1)
The evacuation of the PLO and Syrian soldiers from west Beirut ended today with the departure by, sea this morning of the last group of 800 PLO members. They were accompanied by a number of women and children.
The departure of the PLO group was marked by festive firing of guns and rifles into the air, a daily feature since the evacuation began 10 days ago. But the firing today was more intense and there were also explosions. Observers in east Beirut said the PLO rearguard appeared to be trying to expend its ammunition and blow up weapons and munitions stores.
Israeli officials have expressed concern that the PLO has handed over much of its heavy equipment to their associated leftwing Lebanese Moslem groups which have vowed to continue fighting Israel.
In addition, according to a summary of an interview released in advance of publication Thursday in the west German weekly, Stern, President Hafez Assad of Syria was quoted as saying he would give free reign to PLO fighters arriving in his country from Beirut. He said the personal weapons PLO members bring with them to Syria “are their property and will remain so. And if they need weapons, we will supply them.” Assad added: “It is only natural that they will fight on for the rights of the Palestinian people.”
According to on official count, just under 14,000 PLO fighters and Syrian soldiers (excluding women and children) have evacuated west Beirut during the past 10 days. They included 7,728 PLO terrorists; 2,651 members of the pro-Syrian Palestine Liberation Army (PLA) and 3,598 Syrian soldiers.
Meanwhile, Israel papers reported today that left-wing terrorists in west Beirut are still holding two employes of Israel Radio who drove by mistake into the area earlier this week.
Sarah Barkai, a reporter for the Israel Radio’s French-language service, was freed yesterday since she was holding a French passport. But the driver and a sound technician are still being held Israel is making efforts through the international force to have them released. The incident had not been publicized until today’s press reports.