TEL AVIV (Sep. 13)
The Israel Air Force carried out a series of heavy bombing attacks for about eight hours today on Syrian and PLO forgets in the central sector of Lebanon.
The targets included tanks and armored vehicles as well as artillery batteries and missiles. One of the targets included what at one time had been a school for nuns but which in the past few years was used as the headquarters of the pro-Syrian Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command led by Ahmed Jabreel.
The raids followed a statement issued by the army spokesman this morning, pointing out that since a heavy Israeli raid on July 23, there had been more than 98 violations of the cease-fire in the Bekao valley.
Twelve Israeli soldiers have been killed and 20 wounded, while nine have been captured –the eight kidnapped last week and a water tanker driver who drove by mistake into Syrian-held territory a month ago. The statement noted that “the enemy’s aggression reached a new climax last Friday, when three Israeli soldiers were killed by a bazooka rocket fired at an IDF vehicle north of Amik.”
ISRAEL NOT SEEKING WAR WITH SYRIA
Army officers and government officials have stressed that Israel does not want a war with the Syrians, but neither can she tolerate continued cease-fire breaches and attacks on Israeli soldiers in what appears to be the beginning of a war of attrition.
The army spokesman denied Beirut reports that the Air Force had also attacked Palestinian targets in the Tripoli area of northern Lebanon — a Beirut claim which was Iater downgraded to “enemy attacks” on a Palestine refugee camp near Tripoli.
Only sporadic anti-aircraft fire was directed at the attacking Israeli planes and this was ineffective, causing no damage to the aircraft. Observers noted the absence of any Syrian artillery response to the Israeli attacks, hoping this indicated that the Syrians had learned the lesson of the danger of attacks on Israeli troops.
(The White House today urged all parties to end the fighting which has broken out anew in Lebanon, including clashes between leftist gunmen and govern- ment forces and did not rule out the return of the 800 U.S. marines who left Beirut last week after helping to oversee the departure of the PLO forces. Deputy press secretary Larry Speakes told reporters: “The United States urges all concerned to avoid provocation’s and exercise restraint and thereby contribute to the hopes of the citizens in the region for progress toward peace.” He said special Ambassador Morris Draper will return to Beirut soon to “discuss ways to reduce the tension and strengthen the authority of the central Lebanese government.” Asked if the marines might be returned to Lebanon, Speakes replied, “We don’t ever rule out anything like that, but there are no plans to do so.”
Meanwhile, President-elect Bashir Gemayel of Lebanon said in an interview in this week’s Time magazine that the time has come for the Lebanese government to “take on the responsibility for security on Lebanese soil and ensure that never again will our neighbors be in danger from actions launched from Lebanon.”
Gemayel said that for the past 20 years the Lebanese government “has not taken responsibility for the security of south Lebanon or its borders. Such groups as the PLO, the Japanese Red Army and the Italian Red Brigades used the south as a base of operations, endangering many countries. From the Israeli viewpoint, I understand why they have to keep not only one eye but both eyes on that region.”
He pointed out that the PLO “bears tremendous responsibility for what has happened in Lebanon since 1968. It is no accident that they are not wanted by other Arab states. The best thing for the remaining PLO fighters is to leave Lebanon without provoking more trouble.”
Gemayel asserted that “We have no more room for little private armies … only (the) Lebanese army … This is the only guarantee for our defense, so that the Israelis or the U.S. marines or United Nations forces won’t have to be coming in all the time.”