The evacuation of PLO forces from west Beirut continued today for the fourth straight day, but their departure is running behind schedule. During the first three days only 2,192 terrorist left aboard chartered Cypriot ferries. But with the planned departure today of at least 1,000 PLO fighters for South Yemen, the tempo of the evacuation may get back on track.
However, by nightfall, only 570 terrorists had left Beirut. Officials in Beirut said the small number was due to the arrival of only one vessel to transport them, instead of the two expected according to the logistics schedule.
Several score of wounded PLO terrorists were scheduled to leave today aboard the German vessel Flora, hired by the International Red Cross as a mercy ship. It was this vessel which earlier this month was hit and damaged by rockets fired by PLO terrorists in west Beirut while it was docked in the Junieh harbor some seven miles north of Beirut.
TENSIONS AND CLASHES
Meanwhile, Lebanese army forces today closed the crossing points between east and west Beirut at the Galerie Sema and the National Museum. No official reason was given for this action. However, some observers said crossings between the two sectors of the city may be halted temporarily because of the tension between the two areas following the election yesterday of the rightist Christian militia-leader Bashir Gemayel.
Soon after his election, the homes of three Deputies who had participated in the election were blown up. Today, fighting erupted in the hills east of Beirut as leftist gunmen dynamited homes of 12 other Deputies who helped elect Gemayel. The homes are in the predominantly Moslem west Beirut.
The clashes today erupted about 12 miles from Beirut, in the Beirut-Damascus highway. According to local radio reports, Gemayel’s Christian militia forces were battling leftist forces. But Israel Radio reported that the fighting was between Christian and Syrian forces. There was also increasing tension in the Bekaa valley where Israel has accused PLO terrorists of attacking its forces from behind Syrian lines. Israel has warned that it will not tolerate these attacks.
Another reason suggested for closing the east-west Beirut crossing points was preparation for the arrival tomorrow or Thursday of 800 American and 650 Italian troops joining the French contingent of the international force supervising the evacuation of the terrorist forces. The newcomers will take over control of the Beirut port area while the French will move to positions further south in the city.
The wild gunfire yesterday in east Beirut, the stronghold of the Maronite Christians, by ecstatic followers of Gemayel following his election, and the shooting celebration by PLO followers and friends as the terrorists were boarding vessels leaving for Cyprus, caused some 50 casualties among civilians hit by ricocheting bullets and shrapnel from rocket grenades, mortar bombs and even anti-aircraft shells.
Meanwhile, Beirut international airport was reopened to traffic. The first plane to land was a light Israeli Air Force plane.
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.