TEL AVIV (Sep. 28)
The evacuation of the Israeli army from west Beirut is “almost complete,” Chief of Staff Gen. Rafael Eitan told reporters here today. He said the Israelis have already handed over to the Lebanese army all areas the Lebanese are able to control.
Eitan, touring the much reduced Israeli positions in Beirut, said the port area would be evacuated within a few hours. But a small detachment of Israeli troops would remain at Beirut International airport ‘as long as Israeli forces remain” in the eastern sector and in the mountainous central sector of the Lebanese front, he said.
The Israeli presence at the airport is believed to have been the factor which delayed the landing of U.S. marines who were originally due in Beirut Sunday. The U.S. State Department announced today that 1,200 marines were prepared to go ashore tomorrow. They are to be deployed at the airport.
Reports last week said the marine contingent of the multinational force in Beirut would number about 800 men. The State Department said the force has been expanded by 400 men and would have a broader peacekeeping mission. Another 600 marines will remain in reserve aboard ships of the U.S. Sixth Fleet.
Meanwhile, French and Italian contingents, each numbering about 1,100 troops, took positions around the Shatila and Sabra refugee camps in west Beirut where they arrived yesterday.
Israeli sources reported today that most of the usable weapons and ammunition found in caches left behind in Beirut by the Palestine Liberation Organization, has been shipped to Israel. The unusable material was taken to sea in Lebanese vessels and dumped. Disputes have been reported between Israeli and Lebanese officers over who was entitled to what heavy equipment.