TEL AVIV (Jun. 6)
The deputy commander of the Israeli Air Force claimed today that the aerial bombardment of Palestine Liberation Organization strongholds in west Beirut last August never took place on the massive scale reported by the PLO news agency and picked up by the world news media.
According to the officer, interviewed on Israel Radio, the Air Force employed “misleading tactics” to prod the PLO to agree to withdraw from the city. The PLO news agency reported at the time that 44,000 bombs were dropped causing some 1,000 civilian casualties and destroying 700 buildings. Those reports prompted President Reagan to urge Israel to cease the “barbaric raids.”
But the raids were largely simulations, the Air Force officer said. Israeli jets were sent over Beirut from down until late afternoon at high speed to cause sonic booms. “Most of the operation was to make a big noise around the city, somewhat like Joshua at the battle of Jericho. I think the results of our plan speak for themselves. The PLO decided to leave the city,” he said.
He said the fact was that the Air Force flew only 77 sorties over Beirut and dropped a few hundred bombs, mainly outside the built-up areas of the city.
Maj. General Amir Drori of the northern command who led most of the fighting in Lebanon, said on another radio interview that if the original war airms in Lebanon had been defined more precisely, the war would have been fought differently. Drori said there should have been quicker troop movements, landings from the sea and larger forces employed on land which would have avoided contact with the enemy.
ROCKETS FIRED AT ISRAELIS
Nevertheless, a year after the war began, Israeli troops still find themselves under attack. Bazooka rockets were fired last night at an Israel army position at Khalde, just south of Beirut international airport, an area controlled by the multi-national force. There were no casualties but the Israelis sent a detailed report of the incident to the U.S. marine commander in the area.
Maariv reported today that Israel’s former Ambassador to Britain, Shlomo Argov, who was severely wounded in a terrorist attack in London in June, 1982, is much improved. But he has not yet been informed that the attempt on his life triggered Israel’s invasion of Lebanon a year ago.
The paper published an interview with Argov’s wife, Chaya, who said the envoy has recovered his speech and recalls the various languages he speaks. Argov suffered serious brain damage but, according to his wife, he was able to follow the war in Lebanon in its later stages last summer by reading newspaper accounts and listening to radio and television reports.
Argov still suffers from physical disabilities. But the brain damage from which doctors doubted he would ever recover, apparently has been repaired.