TEL AVIV (Jul. 10)
The Lebanese regular army continued to consolidate its control of southern Lebanon, moving troops and tanks Wednesday into the port town of Tyre with no resistance from the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Two large Palestinian refugee camps in the area were encircled by the troops, whose announced mission is to disarm local guerrilla groups.
Reports from Lebanon said the PLO was turning its heavy weapons over to the Lebanese army as a “gift” on orders from PLO chief Yasir Arafat in Tunis. The Tyre operation is expected to be completed within 48 hours.
The guerrillas were allowed to retain their small arms and personal weapons, as they were when Lebanese regulars took over the port of Sidon last week.
The Palestinian fighters apparently have retreated into the Mieh Mieh and Ein Hilweh refugee camps east of Sidon.
Reports from Tyre said the Beirut army was greeted by jubilant flag-waving crowds. The Lebanese commanders met with officers of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, whose area of operations includes Tyre.
A UNIFIL spokesman said the new deployment of the Lebanese army was reported to U.N. headquarters in New York.
UNIFIL is an international peacekeeping force of 5,000 troops contributed by nine nations. It was created in 1978, two years after the start of Lebanon’s civil war.
The Lebanese regulars were also reported to be conferring with representatives of the Israeliallied South Lebanon Army, which patrols the southern Lebanon security zone and controls the Maronite Christian town of Jezzine, north of the zone.
Israel has made clear it intends to retain the security zone and its alliance with the SLA as long as hostile foreign forces remain in Lebanon.
Syria protects the Beirut government headed by President Elias Hrawi and opposes Al Fatah, Arafat’s mainstream PLO faction, which has been ensconced in southern Lebanon.
Syria backs anti-Arafat Palestinian dissidents deployed in eastern Lebanon.
Four radical Palestinian groups belonging to the Damascus-backed Palestine National Salvation Front have told Syrian Vice President Abdel Khalim Haddam they support the Lebanese regular army’s occupation of southern Lebanon and favor the withdrawal of PLO forces from that region.
But Arafat was quoted as saying the PLO will not quit southern Lebanon.