TEL AVIV (Sep. 13)
Israel is demanding that the Druze in Lebanon get rid of the Palestine Liberation Organization elements said to have joined them in battling Christian Phalangists in the Shouf mountain area, Defense Minister Moshe Arens said today.
Arens, who spoke to reporters during a tour of the new Israel Defense Force positions in south Lebanon, said it was the responsibility of the Druze to prevent the PLO from approaching the IDF lines along the Awali River. He said Israel was acting to block PLO infiltration into the evacuated region.
The Lebanese Druze deny vehemently that their fighters in Lebanon are supported by Palestinians, Iranian volunteers or Syrian artillery. But only yesterday, the U.S. State Department expressed concern that Syrian-supported Palestinians were involved in the fighting in Lebanon.
CONFLICTING VERSIONS OF EVENTS IN LEBANON
Meanwhile, Lebanese Druze and Christian Phalangists are giving conflicting versions of events in Lebanon in a battle for Israeli and world public opinion, The Druze deny reports that their militias have massacred civilians in Christian villages and insist that whatever masacres have occurred were the work of the Phalangists.
Phalangist and other Christian spokesmen blame the Druze for the “slaughter of innocents” and say Palestinians and Iranians are helping them. According to Lebanese government sources in Beirut, 650 Lebanese have been killed and more than 1, 500wounded in the fighting in recent days. Lebanese refugees continue to pour into Israel seeking temporary shelter or to book air or sea passage abroad.
Reporters accompanying Arens on his tour questioned the Defense Minister about his now public feud with former Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, specifically Sharon’s charge that Arens’ policies in Lebanon have cancelled out the successes achieved by Israel when Sharon was defense chief. Arens replied that Sharon’s remarks demonstrated the “hum an weakness of a person who has resigned an official position and thinks his successor is not doing as good a job as he himself had done.” He said Sharon’s remarks should not be taken seriously by the public.