Back to PLO Bulletin 1-15 September 1979


Destroyed huts at Ain Hilweh refugee camp, August 28, 1979

As Lebanon prepared for the most festive occasion of the Islamic year, the Al-Fitr feast of August 23-26, Israel struck at South Lebanon in a series of heavy artillery attacks that were the most severe of the summer. The port city of Tyre, whose normal population is 60,000 was left virtually deserted, its Christian Quarter in ruins. Using U.S.-supplied 155 and 175 mm artillery, Israeli guns shelled as far north as Sidon and its environs. The death toll for August 24 alone was estimated by the Associated Press at 20. Many villages and camps mourned their dead and tended the wounded, rather than engaging in the customary celebrations. One young student, Hussein Alaikh from the village of Yahmour, told a reporter that 11 people had died in his village during several days of fierce shelling. "It's supposed to be a holiday," he said, "but we can't celebrate it now." DEMOCRATIC FRONT FOR PEACE CALLS FOR HALT TO ISRAELI ATTACKS ON SOUTH LEBANON

The Democratic Front for Peace and Equality, a progressive Jewish-Palestinian body in 1948-occupied Palestine, issued a communique on August 31, 1979 in which it called for an immediate halt to the war of annihilation launched against the Lebanese and Palestinian peoples in South Lebanon. The communique called on all the national, progressive and democratic forces in the world to apply pressure on Israel to stop the attacks on Palestinian and Lebanese women and children in the South. The communique confirmed that these Israeli attacks will never be able to repress the Palestinian people, and their will to struggle for the national rights, under PLO leadership, but would rather lead to a new war, which would be disastrous for the whole area. The communique added that the Israeli non-recognition of Palestinian national rights has been unanimously condemned at the U.N. Security Council meeting, while the PLO was recognised as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. The Front finally confirmed in its communique that the Middle East conflict can only be solved by reaching a just solution to the Palestine cause and the recognition of the Palestinian people's right to establish an independent state.

The Israeli-created inferno in South Lebanon in late August has led to a new round of Israeli explanations, Western "concern" and sharpened criticism of Israel, and even brought the issue of South Lebanon once again to the United Nations Security Council. It remains to be seen, however, whether the international community will be willing or able to pressure Israel to halt its aggression. What has emerged most clearly, in fact, is Israeli determination, not only to continue its present policy, but to intensify its strikes against the population of South Lebanon.


Voicing once again the policy Israel has pursued in South Lebanon since the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli treaty, Israeli Chief of Staff Raphael Eytan said in an interview with the Israeli daily "Yediot Aharonot" on August 28 that "in a war like this, for which there are no rules, there is sometimes no way of ensuring that civilians will not be harmed." Eytan, one of the military authors of this current strategy of "hitting the terrorists wherever they are found," is notorious even in Israeli circles for his disregard for Arab lives, recently intervening to shorten the prison sentences of two Israeli soldiers who murdered unarmed Arab civilians.

The intensity of the recent Israeli attacks on Lebanon suggests that Israel is reaffirming this policy in the face of mounting world-wide criticism of its attacks on civilians and moreover, is using its aggression to influence international policy towards the Palestinian question and the Middle East conflict. The murderous dawn artillery barrage directed against Tyre on August 24 came as the UN Security Council discussed the issue of Palestinian rights and can be seen as the Israeli "veto" of these rights. In addition, Israel was pointedly reminding the U.S. that Israel is capable of exploding the situation in the Middle East if the direction of U.S. and international policy is not to its liking.

Israel's Chief of Staff Eytan (right) and naval
chief Almog point out the targets for
aggression in Lebanon
The week before, the U.S. had refuted Israeli Foreign Minister Dayan's assertion that the U.S. supported Israeli policy in South Lebanon, with the exception of its attacks on civilians. U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Reston said on August 16 that "We oppose the policy of pre-emptive bombing strikes per se." As if to test these words, Israel launched a bombing strike on August 20, using U.S Phantoms, against the village of Ras al Ain and an area near the Litani River. The U.S. response was disingenuous: it "did not know" if the planes were really American-made. ;See accompanying box on U.S. weapons).

Israel emerged as the winner of this faint "duel" with the U.S., and Western diplomats in Beirut, as reported in the Lebanese daily "Ike" on August 24, said that Israel had moved back its U.S.-made artillery to positions in South Lebanon, a fact confirmed by Defense Minister Weizman in a speech before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Security Committee on August 28. Committee Chairman Moshe Arens added his praise for the tactics employed by the Israeli military, noting that the fight in Lebanon "does not lend itself to routine solutions."


These tactics in August alone have included air and naval bombardment, heavy artillery shelling and several direct Israeli invasions. A look at one day alone, August 22, gives a sense of the human tragedy caused by these so-called "dynamic" tactics. On this day, Israeli troops invaded Lebanon in the late evening and blew up two houses in the village of Baarachit. In addition, the artillery shelling was fierce and widespread: the "International Herald Tribune" reported that "fires were started by phosphorous bombs in the barrage that ranged from coastal Tyre to deep inside the strategic Bekaa valley." Two facts emerge from this report: the Israeli use of phosphorous bombs, which are banned by the Geneva Conventions, and the Israeli intention to hit Lebanese soil wherever their guns, long-range U.S.-made artillery, can hit, as the Bekaa valley is 25 miles away from the border. Indeed, Lebanese sovereignty is not considered by Israeli leaders. On August 30, Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Mordechai Zippori proclaimed: "If the terrorists are in a country which does not or cannot prevent them from operation, the responsibility for what follows is not ours."

International condemnation of Israel has mounted as a result of the severity of the recent Israeli attacks, their destabilizing effect on the region, and the intransigent and unrepentant attitude of the Israelis. In an August 29 statement, the French Government supported the Lebanese call for a Security Council meeting and noted that "Lebanon has been the target of systematic bombardment and attacks for several weeks... France firmly condemns all acts of violence against Lebanon, its citizens and institutions and also against the people to whom it has given asylum."

In concluding the Security Council debate on Lebanon, Andrew Young, outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the UN, gave a sharply-worded criticism of Israeli policy, with the "full authority of the United States government." Young said: "We condemn the policy of artillery shelling and pre-emptive attacks on Lebanese towns, villages, and refugee camps which Israel and the armed Lebanese groups Israel supports have followed in recent months... We cannot and do not agree with Israel's military policies in Lebanon. They are wrong and unacceptable to my government." Young's statement, the harshest U-S. criticism to date, reflects a growing U.S. concern that the explosive situation in South Lebanon will endanger the U.S.-engineered Israeli-Egyptian treaty and the "autonomy" talks now in progress, as well as harming U.S-Arab relations in general.


To date, Israeli leaders have shown themselves prepared to flaunt world, and even U.S., opinion to continue their military campaign in South Lebanon. With momentum developing for an international consensus affirming Palestinian rights, including the right of self-determination, Israel is responding in the language it knows so well: force. The ominous possibility exists of another Israeli expansion into Lebanon, similar to the March 1978 "Operation Litani" invasion. Such a massive invasion clearly has already been planned by Israeli strategists and like the original Operation Litani, will be implemented in Israel thinks the conditions are favorable.

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