TEL AVIV (Feb. 17)
A senior Israeli official said today that Israel welcomes the deployment of the Lebanese army in the greater Beirut area where an Israeli patrol rammed through a roadblock manned by Lebanese regulars yesterday morning.
David Kimche, Director General of the Foreign Ministry, played down that incident in remarks during a half-hour session of the Israel-Lebanon-U.S. negotiations held in Netanya today, Kimche, who heads the Israeli negotiating team, said Israel army patrols in the area were not aimed against the Lebanese army but were necessary to combat Palestine Liberation Organization elements which have reinfiltrated the region.
The roadblock incident occurred only hours after the Lebanese army took control of Christian east Beirut, previously policed by the private militia of the Christian Phalangist party.
An Israel army spokesman claimed that “the Lebanese army erected a roadblock near Monte Verde, east of Beirut, and attempted to prevent an IDF patrol from passing through.” He said the patrol commanded by a full colonel, “burst through the roadblock and continued on its ways eastward. There was no exchange of fire.”
IDF WILL CONTINUE ITS PATROLS
The spokesman stressed that the IDF had no intention of discontinuing the patrols in the area which he described as “a routine part of the ongoing security activities in the region.” Observers have expressed surprise that a “routine” patrol would be commanded by an officer of the rank of colonel.
They suggested that the incident was a “probing action” by Israel to test the response of locally deployed forces. The confrontation between an Israeli tank squad, commanded by a Lt. Col. and an American marine captain, two weeks ago in south Beirut was part of the same pattern, they said.
During the brief negotiating session at Netanya the subject was raised of the expansion of the area in south Lebanon controlled by Israel’s principal ally, Maj. Saad Haddad. The Israeli delegation stressed that Haddad’s movements were not intended to exert pressure on the Lebanese negotiators.
HADDAD PLANS BASE IN NABATIYA
Haddad’s Israel-equipped militia, known as the Christian Free Lebanon Forces, now occupies most of south Lebanon from the Israel border to the Litani River. Haddad expressed surprise today over the furore created by the entry of his forces into Sidon, Lebanon’s fourth largest city, and other towns in the region in recent days. “We have always had a presence in Sidon,” he said. (Related story from Washington, P.3.)
Haddad’s militia staged a military parade through Sidon yesterday and followed it with a parade through the town of Nabatiya today where he received a luke warm welcome. He also sent his forces marching through Jib Jinnin village. Haddad said he plans to establish a large military base in Nabatiya. He insisted he does not intend to interfere in local affairs which are the responsibility of the central government in Beirut. His aim, Haddad said, was to ensure that PLO fighters do not return to south Leban on.
Meanwhile, the negotiators in Netanya broke up into various subcommittees. One is a military subcommittee which hopes to solve the Haddad issue peacefully, Israeli delegation sources said.