TEL AVIV (Feb. 19)
Israel and Lebanon may be approaching a standoff as the Lebanese army, the country’s regular armed force, attempts to re-establish the authority of the Beirut government in southern Lebanon after 15 years of civil war.
President Elias Hwari was quoted Monday in Beirut as saying Lebanon would demand that Israel pull out of the security zone it established parallel to its border with Lebanon.
But Israel refuses to relinquish the zone as long as Palestinian and Shi’ite terror groups are mobilized in southern Lebanon, according to Uri Lubrani, coordinator for Israeli affairs in the area.
Lubrani claimed Monday that the Lebanese army agreed to allow freedom of movement to members of Al Fatah, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s largest military faction, which has long been ensconced in southern Lebanon. According to Lubrani, the PLO moved some of its positions and camouflaged them to make observation difficult.
Another adversary of Israel, the extremist Shi’ite Hezbollah, said Monday that it turned over some positions to the Lebanese army but would retain others near the security zone to continue its attacks on Israeli troops and the South Lebanon Army, allied with Israel.
Beirut said, meanwhile, that it would press the U.N. Security Council to implement its Resolution 425, which calls for the complete, unconditional withdrawal of Israeli forces from the border security zone.