Beirut Formally Unified

Beirut was formally unified today with the removal of the last obstacles which have divided the Lebanese capital along its “green line” enforced since the civil war started some seven years ago.

And with the departure of the last Israeli soldiers from the international airport yesterday, and the arrival there of the first batch of 800 U.S. marines to bolster the Lebanese army, the first civilian aircraft to land there since the Lebanon campaign began three months ago, touched down at noon today. Another 400 American marines are due in today, landing from the sea on beaches in the town now cleared of mines.

The most forward Israeli soldiers now hold a line running south of the airport, outside the Beirut city limits, and swinging northwards in open areas to meet the Beirut-Damascus highway, a stretch of which is still held by Israeli forces.

PLO FIGHTERS REMAINING IN LEBANON

There appear to be some differences of opinion between Israel and the U.S. about the number of PLO fighters who remained in or slipped back into Beirut after the evacuation or expulsion of the bulk of the PLO.

According to Israeli sources, some 2,000 PLO fighters were in the city when Israel re-entered west Beirut in force. But the Americans claim that only a few hundred were in the town.

In other parts of Lebanon, some 5,000 PLO fighters are said to be now in the Bekao valley, with several thousand more stationed in Tripoli in northern Lebanon. Those in the Bekao valley are dispersed among the Syrian army units and dispositions, sniping at Israelis, laying mines and shooting at Israeli position. The PLO forces receive intelligence and logistics aid from the Syrian army.

According to Israeli sources, in the past two months the PLO on the central and eastern sectors of the front have carried out over 100 attacks against Israeli forces, causing the deaths of 12 Israelis, wounding 19 others and kidnapping eight soldiers.

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