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Israel Closes Its Office in Lebanon

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Israel announced today that it has closed its liaison office in Lebanon at the urging of the Beirut government. The 30 Israeli diplomats, military and commercial attaches who had lived and worked there for more than a year, were flown home by helicopter late last night.

The closure ends in effect Israel’s attempts to maintain at least quasi-diplomatic relations with Lebanon, one of the main though unannounced objectives of its war in Lebanon. The office, known officially as the Liaison Commission, was located at Dbayeh, a Beirut suburb about 10 miles north of the city. It had been staffed jointly by Israeli and Lebanese officials.

The shut-down became unaoidable after the Lebanese government withdrew its personnel from the building earlier this week and announced that it would withdraw the Lebanese army soldiers who guarded the premises today.

Israeli officials said the closure would create severe hardships for Lebanese who wish to visit relatives in Israel-occupied south Lebanon or who do business in south Lebanon or in Israel. One of the chief functions of the liaison office was to issue permits for travel into south Lebanon.

Now, according to Israeli officials, Lebanese who wish to cross the Awali River bridges or to ship goods across the river will have to apply to Israel Defense Force representatives in south Lebanon and await the permits by mail, a process that could take days or weeks.

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