IDF Begins Evacuation of Phalangist Troops from Base Near Sidon

The Israel Defense Force today began to enforce the evacuation of Christian Phalangist troops from their base at Falous, some 10 kilometers east of Sidon, as local residents demonstrated against the Israeli move by burning tires on roadways, ringing church bells and holding open air prayer meetings.

The IDF told the Phalangists last week that they would have to evacuate the base because the Christian troops there had refused to cooperate with the IDF in halting their attacks against nearby Moslem and Druze villages. Phalangist sources in Beirut and south Lebanon said last week that the IDF had ordered the closing down of several Phalangist bases, but this was denied by the Israel army which insisted that it was only closing down the Falous base.

The Phalangist radio in Beirut said today that the IDF had not entered the Falous base but had merely surrounded it with troops and 20 tanks.

FORTIFICATIONS CONSTRUCTION BEGUN ALONG AWALI

Meanwhile, IDF sources reported that the Israel army engineering corps has started work on the construction of new fortifications along the Awali River north of Sidon, to which Israeli forces are to withdraw within the coming weeks. Preparations are being made for the IDF to stay there throughout the winter, with heated quarters for the soldiers.

Roads leading northward into south Lebanon from Metullah are being prepared and widened for additional traffic expected under the redeployment process.

EXTENT OF THE REDEPLOYMENT

A fact sheet issued by the IDF spokesman’s office stated that the IDF was withdrawing in the first stage from 600 square kilometers of the 3,400 square kilometers it now holds. It noted that the Syrians remain in direct or indirect control of about 4,900 square kilometers, out of a total Lebanon area of 10,900 square kilometers.

There are presently some 725,000 Lebanese in the area controlled by Israel and that some 200,000 of them will come under direct Beirut control when the IDF withdraws in the first phase of its redeployment.

The redeployment to the Awali line will reduce the length of the front line by only five kilometers, from 118 kilometers to 113 kilometers. The coastal line held by the IDF will be shortened from 85 kilometers to 62 kilometers, the fact sheet said.

PREDICTIONS THAT TERRORISM WILL INCREASE

Meanwhile, a number of influential Israelis predicted that terrorism would increase once the IDF withdraws to its new line. Chief of Staff Moshe Levy said that the IDF redeployment would not herald a complete end to terrorist activity against Israeli forces in Lebanon and that peaceful coexistence between the Druze and the Christians in the Shouf mountain area would not take place automatically after Israeli troops withdraw from there.

“We are meeting with all concerned to try to stabilize the situation before we leave, but there was unrest during our presence and it will not cease when we are gone,” Levy said.

Prof. Jonah Alexander, of Tel Aviv University’s Center for Strategic Studies, an expert on terrorism, said terrorism would probably increase after the Israeli redeployment, particularly inside Israel, in the West Bank, and in the United States and Europe.

Brig. Gen. Arye Ben-Tov, IDF chief intelligence officer, said in an interview in the current issue of Bamahane, the army’s weekly magazine, that the Lebanese army as it is now constituted will have a difficult time taking control of the territory evacuated by the IDF and would probably not be able to prevent terrorist infiltration from Lebanon into Israel.

He also stated that the Syrians probably have no intention of quitting Lebanon. “The Syrians want to hold on to their influence in Lebanon, and in my estimation they have no intention of leaving,” BenTov was quoted as saying.

NEXT STORY