Israel Insists That Its Pows in Syria Must Be Returned Before the IDF Withdraws from Lebanon

Israel continues to insist that Syria must return Israeli soldiers captured during the war in Lebanon before there can be any settlement for the evacuation of the Israel Defense Force from Lebanon.

Premier Menachem Begin made this clear in his meeting here last Friday with Morris Draper, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, who is a special U.S. envoy for negotiations on Lebanon. Syria has so far rejected all appeals by Israel for information about the fate of the three Israeli POWs.

Draper told Begin and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir that Syria has also ignored his appeals on the POWs and that it also has prevented International Red Cross Committee representatives from visiting the soldiers. Draper was in Beirut prior to his visit to Jerusalem. According to reports from the Lebanese capital, government officials there and Draper had formulated the basis of future talks on the withdrawal of the Israeli, Syrian and PLO forces from Lebanon.

BEGIN STRESSES SIMULTANEOUS WITHDRAWALS

The issue of the IDF’s withdrawal from Lebanon was also discussed by Begin at a meeting of the central committee of the Herut Party last Thursday night in Tel Aviv. Addressing some 1,000 delegates at the party’s convention, the Premier said: “The Jewish soldiers will not leave Lebanon until the Syrian soldiers leave.” He said there was support in Washington for Israel’s plan that both the Israeli and Syrian forces withdraw simultaneously from Lebanon.

Begin’s only reference to the massacre of Palestinians in the Shatila and Sabra camps in west Beirut last month, now under investigation by a judicial commission of inquiry, was when he deplored “the blood libel against our party and government.”

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