Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Israel Moves to Defuse Tension in South Lebanon

November 18, 1981
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Israel has moved to defuse the tension that flared in south Lebanon after three members of the Christian militia were killed when their vehicle struck a mine apparently planted by Palestine Liberation Organization infiltrators. Premier Menachem Begin told U. S. Ambassador Samuel Lewis at a meeting today that Israel was interested in maintaining the cease-fire in Lebanon “indefinitely.”

Israeli sources said the U. S. envoy was “gratified” by the statement which Begin asked him to convey to Secretary of State Alexander Haig. The sources denied that special high-level messages were transmitted from Washington to Jerusalem in recent days demanding restraint on Israel’s part.

They said that the situation in Lebanon was not the main subject of Begin’s meeting with Lewis. The source said it was one of “periodic” meetings and dealt mainly with the recent round of autonomy talks in Cairo where Lewis and Alfred Atherton, the American Ambassador to Egypt, represented the U. S.

Tension rose in south Lebanon after the land mine incident over the weekend. Maj. Saad Haddad, commander of the militia, immediately blocked key roads, cutting off the transportation of supplies to a number of posts maintained by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Talks are going on between Haddad and UNIFIL officers to have the road blocks lifted.

Meanwhile, Israeli sources have urged reporters to moderate the tone of reports on the situation in south Lebanon which gave an impression of a near crisis emergency. The sources also said that Lewis made no references to recent harsh punitive measures by Israeli authorities on the West Bank at his meeting with Begin today. The measures included the demolition of four houses whose inhabitants threw Molotov cocktails at Israel Defense Force patrols and the shooting of a 15-year-old boy for throwing rocks at an IDF patrol. The boy was injured and released from the hospital after being treated.

Recommended from JTA