Northern area commander Maj. Gen. Avigdor Ben-Gal today rejected a series of demands put forward by United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) commander Gen. William Callaghan at a meeting requested by Callaghan which was held in Nazareth.
Callaghan demanded full freedom of action for his multinational force in southern Lebanon, withdrawal of Lebanese Maj. Saad Haddad’s Christian militia forces from four posts they occupy athwart a route used by terrorists to move southwards towards the Israeli border, and a halt to Israeli aid to the Christian enclave north of the border.
The meeting between the two generals was described as tense, with Callaghan, of Ireland, adopting what participants described as a “hostile attitude.” The meeting was called to discuss the situation in southern Lebanon following clashes between the UN and Lebanese army forces and the militia, in which two Nigerian soldiers were killed and II others wounded, as well as nine local residents and Lebanese soldiers.
Ben-Gal told Callaghan the tension in the region had been brought about by the new UNIFIL commander’s actions in changing the status quo reached by his predecessor, Gen. Emmanuel Erskine, of Ghana. Lebanese soldiers have recently moved southwards, creating tension between the Syrian-backed and largely Moslem soldiers from Beirut and the mainly Christian militiamen. The UN forces have also brought forward anti-tank guns and mortars in what Haddad has described as an offensive posture.
TOUGH TALK BY CALLAGHAN
Israel Radio quoted Callaghan as telling Ben-Gal that unlike his predecessor, Erskine, who had not succeeded in his task, he (Callaghan) was a “European General of experience” who would manage to implement the mandate given him by the UN Security Council even if it meant violent clashes with loss of life.
He was quoted as saying he had ordered the Lebanese army to take up positions along the Israel-Lebanese border. Christian militia sources said that Callaghan had recently been behaving as though he was the owner of southern Lebanon and made no effort to try and talk with the militia forces or reach an understanding with them.
Deputy Defense Minister Mordechai Zipori said he would await a full report on the conversation between the Israeli and UN generals before commenting in detail. But he added that nobody could present Israel with an ultimatum. “We do not want any change in the status quo, and we will not abandon Major Haddad,” he said.
Zipori said the UNIFIL had been unable to keep the terrorists out of the south Lebanon region. “We handed over to UNIFIL an area free of terrorists, and there are now hundreds of terrorists in the area held by UNIFIL,” he said.
Meanwhile, southern Lebanon was reported quiet but tense today, with the Lebanese soldiers withdrawing westwards for some distance but holding unofficial talks with the militiamen with whom they clashed this week.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.