JERUSALEM (Sep. 8)
Israel Air Force planes today destroyed four surface-to-air SAM-9 missiles and the launch vehicle on which they are transported. The missiles were situated about six miles east of Bahmdoun, on the Beirut-Damascus highway, where eight Israeli soldiers were captured last Saturday. The missiles had been brought forward inside Syrian-held territory of Lebanon, close to the cease-fire line.
Premier Menachem Begin announced the new air strike in the course of a Knesset debate on Israel’s conduct of the war in Lebanon and President Reagan’s Mideast peace initiative. (See separate stories.)
Begin stressed that the targets of the Israeli attack were within Lebanese territory. He warned the Syrians that Israel would no longer tolerate the deployment of missiles on Lebanese soil. He gave no further details of today’s operation. A military spokesman said later that the planes destroyed a SAM-9 missile launcher east of Bahmdoun village on the Beirut-Damascus highway and returned safely to their bases.
(In Washington, the State Department said it was “deeply concerned” by the report that the Israel Air Force had destroyed a Syrian SAM-9 missile battery in Lebanon’s Bekao valley. “We reiterate our strong view that all involved act with the utmost restraint,” Department spokesman John Hughes said. He added that “given the potential for Syrian-Israeli escalation” in the Bekao valley, “we urge all parties to refrain from any activities that worsen the tension in the area. “Hughes noted that “such incidents serve to re-emphasize the need for withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon at the earliest possible date.”)
PLO LEADERS REENTERING LEBANON FROM DAMASCUS
Meanwhile, it was reported that PLO chief Yasir Arafat’s deputy, Abulyad, and other PLO leaders have reentered Lebanon from Damascus to boost the morale of PLO terrorists now stationed under Syrian protection in the Bekao valley and in Tripoli in north Lebanon and to urge them to prepare for further activities against Israel.
Maj. Gen. Amir Drori, the commander of the northern front, told military correspondents in Tel Aviv last night that the Syrians had pulled some troops out of the Golan Heights and transferred them to the Tripoli and Bekao volley areas. In addition to PLO fighters there, the Syrians now have three divisions in Lebanon and a fourth held in reserve just across the border in Syria, Drori said.
The Syrian troops include 1,200 tanks in Lebanon and another 300 in Syria, with 450 cannons in Lebanon and another 50 in reserve on the Syrian side of the border.