TEL AVIV (Sep. 20)
The Rambam Hospital in Haifa has offered its full facilities to treat the injured in this morning’s car bombing at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and is standing by to receive casualties.
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin telephoned U.S. Ambassador Samuel Lewis to express his regrets at the incident and offer Israel’s medical assistance as required.
The number and nationality of the casualties was not immediately known, U.S. sources said two Americans were killed. Other reports from Beirut said 15 persons were killed and 18 wounded when a pickup truck loaded with explosives blew up just outside the Embassy grounds in east Beirut. The American Ambassador, Reginald Bartholomew, reportedly injured by the blast, was treated in a local hospital. (Related Story, P.3.)
Israel Defense Forces sources said today that transportation difficulties may prevent the transfer of casualties to Israeli hospitals. There are no U.S. helicopters in the area and Israeli and Lebanese army helicopters were said to be unlikely to be used. No explanation was given, Road transportation by ambulance also seems to be ruled out by various problems.
SOUTH LEBANON IN STATE OF TENSION
Meanwhile, south Lebanon was in a state of high tension today after a unit of the Israel-supported South Lebanon Army (SLA) apparently ran amok in Sohmar village in the eastern sector, killing eight villagers and wounding more than 20, according to reports from the region.
IDF units and army ambulances were rushed to the scene to evacuate the wounded to local hospitals. The IDF is reported to have surrounded the village.
The SLA shooting was reportedly in retaliation for the ambush slaying of four SLA soldiers and the wounding of four others in the village last night. It could have adverse effects on Israeli plans to withdraw the IDF from south Lebanon. Israel has made clear that withdrawal would take place only when Israel’s northern border was secure.
The SLA, commanded by Gen. Antoine Lehad, was being groomed as the instrument to ensure security and has gradually been given wider responsibilities in several areas, including the heavily populated coastal cities of Sidon and Tyre. But today’s incident at Sohmar village is expected to generate criticism that the SLA lacks discipline and cannot be trusted to maintain law and order.
According to reports from Beirut, an anonymous telephone caller told the media that the attack on the U.S. Embassy was the work of the Islamic Jihad, the same terrorist group which claimed responsibility for the April, 1983, car bomb attack on the U.S. Embassy in west Beirut that killed 63. The Embassy was subsequently moved from Moslem west Beirut to the Christian-populated eastern suburbs.
(Reports from Washington today said President Reagan blamed a worldwide terrorist movement for the bombing but was not specific. “We know that the worldwide terrorist movement has targeted a great many people, not only your own but of other countries worldwide. This is part of that,” he told reporters prior to leaving the White House on a campaign trip to the Middle West.
(Reagan rejected suggestions that the latest outrage was a result of his failed Middle East policy. The terrorists “are against everything we stand for,” he said in reply to the question.)
In October, 1983, a suicide car-bomb attack on the U.S. marine compound in west Beirut killed 241 American servicemen. Reagan pulled the marines out several months later and the entire multinational peacekeeping force of which they had been a part was removed.
Ill feelings were generated in Israel when American servicemen wounded in the October, 1983 incident were evacuated to military hospitals in Europe instead of to Israel which had offered its much closer facilities. Now, however, American military personnel injured in the region will be sent to Israeli hospitals under terms of the U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation agreement signed this year.