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Eitan Warns if PLO Influence in South Lebanon Spreads Closer to Israel, It Could Mean a Return to a

March 23, 1981
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South Lebanon was quiet over the weekend but the dispute involving Israel and Maj. Saod-Haddad’s Christian militia on the one hand and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the Beirut-controlled Lebanese army on the other continued to simmer.

Gen. Rafael Eitan, the Israeli army Chief of Staff, charged in effect that Palestine Liberation

Organization terrorists were working under the cover of UNIFIL in south Lebanon and warned that if their influence spreads closer to the Israeli border, it could mean a return to a war of attrition situation.

Haddad blamed the presence of Lebanese army regulars for the clash last Monday in which his forces shelled Kantara village killing two soldiers of the Nigerian contingent of UNIFIL and wounding 11 other Nigerians, nine local civilians and several Lebanese soldiers.

Gen. William Callaghan of Ireland, the UNIFIL commander, declared on an Israel Radio interview yesterday that the Lebanese army had “a right to be in South Lebanon on sovereign Lebanese territory, anywhere in Lebanon… I’ll meet with anybody, anytime where there is a prospect of improving peaceful progress, but certainly not under threats from anyone. I’m sure there is a modus operandi.”

Eitan and Haddad spoke at ceremonies marking the fifth anniversay of the “good fence” — the opening in the border fence through which traffic passes freely between Israel and Haddad’s Christian enclave. The ceremonies were also attended by Gen. Avigdor Ben-Gal, commander of the northern front, who reportedly had a heated exchange with Callaghan in Nazareth last week. Callaghan, however, has denied that his meeting with Ben-Gal had been anything but a courteous one between professional soldiers.

At the ceremonies, Eitan expressed concern that residents of Kantara and other villages may become refugees because of clashes with Lebanese army units who occupied the villages and allegedly forced them to flee their homes.


Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister Mordechai Zipori said yesterday that Israel was ready to cooperate with UNIFIL but that Callaghan first should control the area fully and clear it of terrorists who are not supposed to be there. He said UNIFIL and the Lebanese army should be acting against the PLO. “If the Lebanese government cannot keep order within its own country and within its own capital, why do they look at Israel all the time?” he asked.

Meanwhile, Haddad freed three more Lebanese soldiers his men had captured last week. They were an army doctor and two medical orderlies. He freed a Lebanese soldier last Friday, sending him to Beirut with a message to the Lebanese Chief of Staff suggesting that the Lebanese army replace the Syrian-led Arab peacekeeping force that occupies most of Lebanon instead of interfering with his activities in the south.

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