TEL AVIV (Apr. 14)
Funeral services were held in Kibbutz Kfar Blum today for Maj. (Res.) Ben-Zion Gvirtz, killed in south Lebanon last Thursday when his jeep overran a landmine. Another soldier was wounded.
Gvirtz, 36, a Peace Now activist, had told friends shortly before starting his last tour of duty in Lebanon that he might have refused to serve there had it not been for the government’s decision to withdraw the Israel Defense Force as quickly as possible. His jeep was escorting a tractor employed to dismantle IDF posts when it hit the mine.
Meanwhile, Premier Shimon Peres told troops in Tyre that the pullback of the IDF would be completed “in a matter of weeks.” Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin promised that the IDF would be completely out of the Tyre area by April 24, the eve of Israel’s Independence Day.
Gen. Ori Orr, commander of the northern front who has overall responsibility for Israeli troops in Lebanon, said the IDF’s withdrawal from Lebanese soil would be completed “by the beginning or middle of June.” Troops have also been told they would be out of Lebanon before June 5, the third anniversary of the IDF invasion which started the Lebanon war.
IDF DENIES ATROCITY CHARGES
The IDF was kept busy over the weekend denying atrocity charges. One, a report from Beirut, claimed Israeli soldiers were involved in the massacre of civilians in Yahmor village, south of Lake Karoun in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Eight members of one family were killed, according to Shiite Moslem sources, during an IDF search of the village.
But the IDF said its men arrived at Yahmor after the massacre had taken place and they subsequently put it under curfew. According to the IDF, the killings resulted from a clash between supporters of the Shiite militia, Amal, and members of the pro-Damascus Lebanese Syrian Nationalist Party which claimed credit for recent suicide car-bomb attacks on the IDF.
The IDF also denied a report today in the Sunday Times of London accusing Israel of being involved in a secret prison in Al-Khiam village in south Lebanon where the inmates were said to be held under appalling conditions.
An IDF spokesman said the prison is operated “solely and independently by the South Lebanon Army (SLA)” under the direct command of Gen. Antoine Lehad. The SLA is armed and financed by Israel but the IDF insists it has nothing to do with the prison where 70-80 inmates are confined to subterranean cells, according to the Sunday Times.
A 16-year-old Lebanese youth, Mohammed Mahmoud Bourro, captured by the IDF last February 23 in Suk Al-Arbiye village with a Mercedes car containing 400 kilograms of explosives, admitted he had been recruited by the Amal militia as a suicide bomber. Bourro insisted he was not a religious fundamentalist but had agreed to undertake a mission against the IDF in order to help his father, a Beirut policeman, arrested after his car ran over the daughter of a prominent Amal official.
The youth told Israeli interrogators that his instructors assured him he had a “good chance” to escape alive because he would be provided with a flak jacket and the car would be fitted with armour plate.
He said he had been told by two Shiite clergymen, Sheikh Hassan Trad and Haj Ali Meiri, who were supposed to prepare him “spiritually” for the death mission, that he would be absolved of all his sins which included eating pork, non-attendance at prayers in mosques and enjoyment of Beirut nightlife. But, the youth said, he did not believe them. “I didn’t believe I would become a saint,” he told his IDF interrogators.