JERUSALEM (Jul. 2)
Premier Shimon Peres received a letter from Secretary of State George Shultz today praising Israel for its “cooperation” and “solidarity” with the U.S. during the Beirut hostage crisis.
The letter was not immediately made public. Sources here said Shultz expressed America’s gratitude for Israel’s “strong support” while Washington “worked for the release of the hostages” who were freed last Sunday after 17 days as captives of Shiite Moslems in Beirut. According to the sources, Shultz wrote that the cooperation between the two countries “defied the attempts of those who would divide us” and “contributed greatly to the resolution of the situation.”
The Secretary of State added that the episode was a “lesson to all nations that refusal to submit to terrorists’ threats and demands” is the best guarantee of security.
It was not clear from Shultz’s letter whether the “cooperation” he hailed referred to Israel’s postponement of the release of the 750 Shiite prisoners it holds for the duration of the hostage crisis, or its commitment to release them once the crisis was over.
Israel has consistently echoed the Reagan Administration’s assertion that no deal was made with the terrorists. Israel says the phased release of the Shiite prisoners from the Atlit detention camp was planned long before Shiite terrorists hijacked TWA Flight 847 on June 14 and subsequently held 39 of its passengers and officers hostage.
Israeli officials confirmed today that 300 of the Shiite detainees will be freed as early as tomorrow and the rest would be released in the next few weeks, depending on the security situation in south Lebanon.