JERUSALEM (Feb. 24)
The intervention into Beirut this week of a substantial Syrian army force has put Israel on the alert, but so far there appears to be no intention to interfere.
The Syrian move was discussed at a meeting of the Inner Cabinet Tuesday, and the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee was briefed by Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin on the latest developments.
The Inner Cabinet, composed of 10 senior Ministers — five Labor and five Likud — convened under the chairmanship of Vice Premier Shimon Peres. A statement issued later said that while Israel objects to the expansion of Syria’s involvement in Lebanon, it plans no action at this time, but will watch the situation carefully and will make sure the security of its northern borders will not be compromised.
Rabin said there is nothing that requires Israel to reach any decision now. Speaking to reporters after briefing the Knesset committee, he said there would be no “red line” drawn by Israel with respect to Syrian movements.
“Our position is clear. We are opposed to the expansion and deepening of the Syrian military involvement in Lebanon, that is, Beirut. We follow, by means of intelligence, everything happening in Lebanon. We reserve the right to act in case the direct interests of the State of Israel are harmed,” Rabin said.
KEEPING CLOSE WATCH
The Israel Defense Force meanwhile is keeping a close watch on the situation. Military analysts said if the Syrians do not make any unexpected moves in Lebanon they pose no danger to Israel.
It was noted here Tuesday that the Syrians have not deployed surface-to-air missiles in their new positions and there are no signs of any troop movements south toward the Israel border.
According to Israeli sources, Syria’s motive in moving troops into West Beirut was not simply to restore law and order, but to use the intercommunal strife to its advantage. President Hafez Assad has reportedly allocated most of the Syrian force stationed in Lebanon to the West Beirut operation.