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Israel Ponders but Says Little on Syrian Move into Beirut

February 23, 1987
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Israel reacted cautiously Sunday to reports that Syria has deployed infantry and tanks in West Beirut at the invitation of a coalition of Moslem and Druze leaders, but over the objections of Lebanese President Amin Gemayel.

Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin briefed the Cabinet on the situation in closed session, convening as a Ministerial Security Committee, the deliberations of which are classified.

Rabin told reporters afterward that Israel would watch the situation closely and review its position only if circumstances required. He said that naturally Israel would prefer not to see Syrian troops in West Beirut.

Gemayel and other Lebanese Christian leaders spoke out Sunday against the Syrian presence. But there was no resistance as armor-led Syrian columns moved into the Lebanese capital from their bases in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon and from Khalde in the south.

According to reports here, Syria intends to deploy about 10,000 troops in West Beirut in an attempt to end the fierce battles in recent weeks between Moslems and Christians and between rival Moslem factions.

Observers here noted that the Syrian move completes a full circle begun in June 1982, when the Israel Defense Force invaded Lebanon and pushed to the outskirts of Beirut to oust Syrian and Palestine Liberation Organization forces.


However, commentators presume that the unofficial but mutually agreed to “red lines” system that prevailed before 1982 would be reestablished. Under their tacit agreement with Israel, Syrian forces did not penetrate to south Lebanon, close to the Israel border, and did not interfere with Israeli air reconnaissance over Lebanon.

The “red lines” evolved during Rabin’s tenure as Prime Minister, before 1977, when the Syrians were invited into Lebanon by the Lebanese government to try to end the civil war. Israeli sources said Sunday that if the Syrians were to follow up their armor and infantry with new deployments of anti-aircraft missiles in Lebanon, a significant change of the strategic situation between Israel and Syria would occur.

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