TEL AVIV (Dec. 15)
The Israel Defense Force today evacuated some 2,000 Phalangist militiamen from the Shouf mountains town of Deir Al-Kamar where they and the largely Christian civilian population have been surrounded by powerful Druze forces since September. Civilians who chose to leave were being evacuated by the International Red Cross. (Related story from Washington, P. 3.)
The operation was the culmination of more than two months of negotiations and planning by Israel, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Phalangists, Druze and the Lebanese government and army to achieve safe conduct out of Deir Al-Kamar for Christian fighters and civilians. A large force of Israeli troops, armored personnel carriers and tanks was sent north of the Awali River line for the purpose.
The Phalangists left, with their weapons, in Israel army trucks which took them to the coast near Damour. The first group of 500 civilians were transported in II buses chartered by the IRC. They were taken to Jezzine village in the Israel-occupied area of south Lebanon from where they will make their way to other Christian villages. The Phalangists are to be taken by sea to Beirut or the Christian port of Juniyeh north of the capital.
SCENE OF FIERCE FIGHTING
Deir Al-Kamar was the scene of fierce fighting three months ago as Druze and other Moslem forces drove the Christian militias and Lebanese army out of the Shouf region, an operation that began almost immediately after the IDF was pulled back to the Awali River line.
The Christian town was surrounded and there were reports that some 30,000 refugees were facing starvation. It turned out however that their number was far smaller and the IRC kept them supplied with food.
The Israeli forces received a warm welcome when they entered Deir Al-Kamar today after passing through lines of heavily armed Druze troops massed along the mountain road. While all the Phalangists were removed today, the civilians will be taken out in Red Cross convoys at a rate of about 500 a day. Many Christians have elected to stay in Deir AlKamar and others will depart in their own cars now that the Red Cross has supplied gasoline.