TEL AVIV (Jan. 15)
Israeli political and military leaders paid tribute today to Maj. Saad Haddad, Israel’s long-time allyin south Lebanon, who died of cancer yesterday at the age of 47. He will be buried tomorrow in his home village of Marjayoun.
Premier Yitzhak Shamir described Haddad as a “great Lebanese patriot and a true ally of Israel.” Defense Minister Moshe Arens recalled that “Haddad fought bravely and with devotion to prevent the return of terrorists to south lebanon.” Israeli army officers who had worked with Haddad said that he asked them, on his deathbed, to make sure that Israel would look after his widow and their doughters.
The Cabinet observed a minute of silence for Haddad during its regular weekly session today. Later, officials said the military framework that Haddad had established and commanded” continues to exist and Israel will do all it can to maintain its existence.”
Haddad commanded the Christian militia, a force of some 1,000 men armed and equipped by Israel which, for years controlled a strip of territory along the Lebanon-Israel border and fought Palestine Liberation Organization terrorists deployed further north in what came to be known as “Fatahland”.
After Israel’s occupation of south Lebanon in the 1978 Litani campaign, Haddad proclaimed the “Independent Republic of Free Lebanon” in his territory and called his armed force the “Army of Free Lebanon.”
AN IMPLACABLE FOE OF THE PLO
An implacable foe of the PLO and of leftist Lebanese Moslems, Haddad’s militia set as its main task the protection of Christian towns and villages in the border region. Later he was joined by local Shiite Moslems, also armed by Israel. But when Israel invaded Lebanon in June, 1982, Haddad’s force played a limited role and although the area it controlled was greatly expanded under the Israeli occupation, its influence beyond the border zone was weak.
Haddad’s “Free Lebanon” army was to be incorporated into the Lebanese regular army under the terms of the May 17, 1983 Israel-Lebanon agreement, with a commanding role for Haddad locally. The agreement has yet to be ratified by the Beirut government.
Haddad, a career officer in the Lebanese army before he defected to set up his own military enclave in the south, was branded a deserter and renegrade by Beirut. Though he had the support of rightwing Lebanese Christians, the Moslem majority considered him their enemy. He was stripped of his rank and for a time there was a warrant out for his arrest to stand trial for treason.
Haddad had been ill for some time and was frequently a patient in hospitals in Israel. Officially, he was said to be suffering from exhaustion but in recent weeks Israeli and Lebanese media reported him to be terminally ill. After undergoing treatment at Rambam Hospital in Haifa earlier this month, he returned to Marjayoun.
At about the same time, his rank and full honors were restored by the Beirut government — an indication to some observers that he indeed did not have long to live. He will be given a military funeral.
Haddad’s death is expected to have an effect on Israel’s relations with south Lebanon, how serious remains to be seen. His militia has been under the command of a deputy, Sharbel Barakat, since last October. There is speculation here over who will succeed him.
According to some reports, Col. Elias Khalil, who served with Haddad in the regular army, will take over the militia and incorporate it into the Lebanese army. But an army spokesman in Beirut denied today that there was an agreement to appoint Khalil. Israeli sources said that whoever takes command, the close relationship that existed between Haddad and Israel could not be restored. The recent cohesion between his Christian militia and the Shiite fighters is expected to be put to a severe test.