TEL AVIV (Mar. 25)
An examination of various “eye-witness reports” has exposed wide discrepancies in accounts of the incident last Thursday when two CBS television news cameramen were killed in the course of a battle between the Israel Defense Force and armed Shiite terrorists in south Lebanon.
Israel was initially condemned by the CBS network chiefs in New York and the foreign news media which alleged that an Israeli tank had fired at point blank range at the television crew in Milki village. But Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, speaking to workers here today, showed a clipping of a story filed by a British journalist who noted that at the time of the incident, the area was full of Shiite terrorists.
That report would seem to bear out the IDF’s contention that it was impossible to distinguish between the CBS employes and the terrorists who wore civilian garb. A French woman journalist filed two contradictory reports. In her first account she claimed the incident was a “deliberate attack.” In a report later the same day she said it was “clearly a mistake, not a deliberate attack.”
The so-called “eye-witness” reports placed the IDF tank that fired the rockets anywhere from 300 meters to three kilometers from the victims. The Jordanian television’s Hebrew broadcast from Amman last night said the tank fired on the cameramen from a distance of “half a meter” which would place it some 20 inches from its target.
CBS vice president for news, Ernest Leiser, visited the scene of the incident today. Leiser conferred yesterday with Premier Shimon Peres’ media adviser, Uri Savir. The CBS executive said afterwards that the incident may have been due to a “tragic mistake” which deserved further investigation. That was a far cry from the original CBS charge that the IDF fired deliberately at the camera crew out of hostility toward the media.
RABIN: ISRAEL HAS NO DEMANDS ON LEBANON
Rabin, meanwhile, told his audience in Tel Aviv that the IDF is getting out of Lebanon as quickly as possible. He stressed that Israel has no demands whatsoever on Lebanon, not even a peace agreement. “We want to be able to live quietly and let them live quietly. We want to live quietly on both sides of the border, ” he said.
However, the Defense Minister warned: “We should make it clear now that there will not be a one-sided situation. If they won’t let us live, their lives won’t be worth living.” He explained that if Israel continued to be attacked from Lebanese soil after the IDF departs, it will use “the full force of the IDF, on land, from the air and from the sea, which will teach one thing — it is better for all of us to live at peace and in quiet.”
The most sober note sounded by the Defense Minister was his frank statement to the workers that cuts in the defense budget will mean laying off many hundreds of defense establishment employes and civilian employes of the army.