TEL AVIV (Apr. 5)
Reports persisted today that Syrian army regulars, disguised as members of the Syrian-backed Al Saiqa terrorist group, have entered Lebanon and are deployed in key positions in that country. Al Saiqa units were reported yesterday to be in the outskirts of Beirut. They were reported today to have occupied the Lebanese port of Sidde, south of Beirut, the location of large oil refineries.
There has been no confirmation of these reports which have emanated from both rival factions in Lebanon–the right-wing Christian Falangists and the leftist leader Kamal Jumblat. It was Jumblat’s claim that the Al Saiqa units were actually Syrian soldiers. He also charged that Syria was trying to impose a cease-fire at a time when the leftists were routing the Falangists.
Israeli circles are inclined to accept the reported entry of Syrian units into Lebanon as authentic. The belief here is that Damascus has deliberately avoided publicizing the presence of its forces in Lebanon and has resorted to the Al Saiqa disguise so as not to give Israel grounds for intervention.
The U.S. is aware of these events but is also desirous of preventing an Israeli-Syrian confrontation while at the same time supporting the efforts of Syrian President Hafez Assad to achieve a cease-fire in Lebanon, Israeli circles said. The officially stated U.S. policy has been that it would tolerate no outside intervention in Lebanon by either Syria or Israel.
WHO RULES IS AN INTERNAL PROBLEM
Meanwhile, Israeli Chief of Staff Gen. Mordechai Gur told a group of visiting American businessmen yesterday that Israel regards the events in Lebanon as an internal problem and the question of who rules that country a matter of purely local concern. He said that Israel has not concentrated forces on the northern border and will not intervene as long as there was no danger to Israel’s borders.
Gur, who met with the Americans at Kiryat Shemona after they toured the Golan Heights, said he did not believe there would be a Middle East war in 1976 but warned that the chances for war will increase in the next two years unless there is a political advance toward peace because the Egyptians, by then, will have received large quantities of weapons from the West.
The Chief of Staff indicated that Israel’s immediate concern was the security of its eastern frontiers. He said the Arabs have concentrated some 3700 tanks on Israel’s eastern borders and, together with the Egyptians. Israel would have to face more than 7000 enemy tanks in the event of a new war. He said the Arabs have 60 operational air oases near Israel’s borders.
Gur stressed the importance of the American role in the Middle East. But he observed that the worsening of Egyptian-Soviet relations does not automatically reduce the effectiveness of the Egyptian army. He said Israel needed the most sophisticated monitoring equipment to watch developments in the Arab countries.