US embassy cable - 85BEIRUT1974

FURTHER DETERIORATION IN SOUTH LEBANON

Identifier: 85BEIRUT1974
Wikileaks: View 85BEIRUT1974 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Beirut
Created: 1985-04-01 11:50:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV PREL IS LE SY US
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
O 011150Z APR 85
FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2456
INFO AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BEIRUT 01974 
 
E.O. 12356:  DECL:  OADR 
TAGS:  PGOV, PREL, IS, LE, SY, US 
SUBJECT:  FURTHER DETERIORATION IN SOUTH LEBANON 
 
REF:  BEIRUT 1961 
 
1.  (U) SUMMARY AND INTRODUCTION.  HEAVY FIGHTING 
IN THE SIDON AREA CONTINUED ON MARCH 30-31 CAUSING 
NUMEROUS CASUALTIES.  ACCORDING TO MOST REPORTS 
REACHING BEIRUT, THE FIGHTING, WHICH FOLLOWS 
RECENT LF-LAF CLASHES IN THE AREA (REFTEL), 
INCLUDED THE STRONG, DIRECT INVOLVEMENT OF ARMED 
PALESTINIAN ELEMENTS FOR THE FIRST TIME. 
 
2.  (U) WIDELY PORTRAYED HERE AS PART OF AN 
ISRAELI PLAN TO REDISTRIBUTE THE POPULATION OF 
SOUTH LEBANON AND TO FORM A PREDOMINANTLY 
CHRISTIAN BORDER SECURITY STRIP, THE CLASHES IN 
SIDON HAVE PREOCCUPIED LEBANESE GOVERNMENTAL, 
POLITICAL, AND RELIGIOUS LEADERS OVER THE 
WEEKEND.  PRIME MINISTER KARAMI CALLED INDIRECTLY 
ON THE U.S. TO USE ITS INFLUENCE TO HALT THE 
ALLEGED ISRAELI PLAN.  SYRIAN MILITARY 
INTELLIGENCE CHIEF GENERAL KHOLI IS EXPECTED IN 
BEIRUT TODAY, APRIL 1, TO DISCUSS RECENT POLITICAL 
AND SECURITY DEVELOPMENTS WITH PRESIDENT GEMAYEL. 
END SUMMARY AND INTRODUCTION. 
 
2.  (U) FIGHTING INTENSIFIED IN THE SIDON AREA ON 
MARCH 30-31 BETWEEN LF MILITIAMEN AND LAF UNITS. 
ACCORDING TO PRESS REPORTS, HOWEVER, THE LAF'S 
ROLE WAS ECLIPSED WHEN PALESTINIAN UNITS BASED IN 
THE REFUGEE CAMPS TOOK A STRONG, ACTIVE ROLE IN 
THE FIGHTING AGAINST THE LF. 
 
3.  U) ON MARCH 30, THE LF REPORTEDLY BEGAN 
HEAVY, ALMOST CONTINUOUS SHELLING OF THE REFUGEE 
CAMPS AT AYN AL-HILWAH AND MIYAH MIYAH AND OF 
OTHER RESIDENTIAL AREAS IN SIDON.  PRO-ARAFAT 
PALESTINIAN FORCES, BACKED BY OTHER MUSLIM 
MILITIAS, RESPONDED AND HEAVY FIGHTING ENSUED. 
SIMULTANEOUSLY, CLASHES BETWEEN THE LF AND LAF 
WERE REPORTED ALONG A LINE INCLUDING KANAYA, 
KAHAYA, HLALIYAH, AND BRAMIYAH.  THERE ARE ALSO 
REPORTS OF AMAL UNITS TAKING PART IN THE FIGHTING 
IN SIDON, BUT WE HAVE NO DETAILED INFORMATION. 
THE MARCH 30 CASUALTY TOLL AMOUNTED TO 
TWENTY-EIGHT KILLED AND FORTY WOUNDED, MOSTLY 
CIVILIANS. 
 
4. (U) ON MARCH 31, THE FIGHTING CONTINUED, WITH 
THE MOST INTENSIVE ACTION CENTERED AROUND THE AYN 
AL-HILWAH REFUGEE CAMP.  ACCORDING TO FOREIGN 
CORRESPONDENTS CITED IN THE LOCAL PRESS, THE CAMP 
CAME UNDER HEAVY SHELLING FROM LF ARTILLERY 
POSITIONS NEAR JEZZIN.  HEAVY FIGHTING WAS ALSO 
REPORTED BETWEEN LF UNITS AND LAF POSITONS ON MAR 
ELIAS HILL. THE MARCH 31 CASUALTY TOLL AMOUNTED TO 
FIVE KILLED AND FIFTEEN WOUNDED.  THERE ARE 
UNCONFIRMED REPORTS OF PALESTINIAN CIVILIANS 
FLEEING THE CAMPS FOR SIDON ITSELF AND OF SUNNI 
AND CHRISTIAN RESIDENTS OF SIDON MOVING NORTHWARD 
TO BEIRUT. 
 
5.  (U) ELSEWHERE IN THE SOUTH, ISRAELI UNITS 
REPORTEDLY CROSSED BACK INTO PREVIOUSLY EVACUATED 
TERRITORY FOR THE SIXTH TIME AS PART OF A DRAGNET 
OPERATION IN THE IQLIM AL-TIFFAH REGION SOUTH OF 
SIDON.  LENGTHY LOCAL PRESS REPORTS INDICATE 
TWENTY-THREE PERSONS KILLED AND FORTY-FIVE PERSONS 
WOUNDED, MOSTLY IN THE VILLAGE OF JBAA. 
 
6.  (LOU) IN THE ONLY OTHER SIGNIFICANT FIGHTING 
OVER THE WEEKEND, LAF UNITS EXCHANGED ARTILLERY 
FIRE WITH PSP MILITIAMEN ON MARCH 30 ALONG THE SUQ 
AL-GHARB/AYTAT RIDGELINE FRONT SOUTHEAST OF 
BEIRUT.  TWO LAF SOLDIERS WERE REPORTEDLY KILLED. 
WHEN THE SHELLING SPILLED OVER ONTO THE 
EAST-BEIRUT RESIDENTIAL AREAS OF BAABDA, 
HAZIMIYAH, AND MKALLAS, SEVERAL SHELLS HIT JUST 
OUTSIDE THE PERIMETER OF THE AMBASSADOR'S 
RESIDENCE AT YARZE.  EMBASSY PERSONNEL HAD ALREADY 
TAKEN REFUGE IN THE SHELTER. 
 
7.  (U) EFFORTS TO HALT THE DETERIORATION OF THE 
SITUATION IN SOUTH LEBANON PREOCCUPIED LEBANESE 
GOVERNMENTAL, POLITICAL, AND RELIGIOUS LEADERS 
THROUGHOUT THE WEEKEND.  ACCORDING TO PRESS 
REPORTS, FOLLOWING A MEETING ON MARCH 30, 
PRESIDENT GEMAYEL, PRIME MINISTER KARAMI, AND 
SENIOR LAF OFFICERS DECIDED TO REINFORCE LEBANESE 
ARMY UNITS IN THE SOUTH, IN PART WITH EQUIPMENT 
NOW BEING DELIVERED FROM THE U.S.  MINISTERS HOSS 
AND BARRI, WHO TRAVELED TO DAMASCUS MARCH 31 TO 
MEET WITH SARG VICE PRESIDENT KHADDAM AND DRUZE 
LEADER JUMBLATT, HAVE DEMANDED SUCH A 
REINFORCEMENT OF LAF UNITS IN THE SOUTH FOR 
SEVERAL WEEKS. 
 
8.  (U) FOLLOWING THE MARCH 30 MEETING, PRIME 
MINISTER KARAMI ACCUSED ISRAEL OF PROVOKING THE 
VIOLENCE IN SIDON "IN THE HOPE OF OBTAINING A NEW 
DISTRIBUTION OF THE POPULATION (ON A CONFESSIONAL 
BASIS) AND EVENTUALLY ESTABLISHING A BUFFER ZONE 
(ALONG THE BORDER STRIP)."  STATING THAT THE 
SITUATION IN THE SOUTH MUST BE UNDERSTOOD IN THE 
REGIONAL CONTEXT, KARAMI SAID THAT THE GOL WOULD 
UNDERTAKE CONTACTS WITH OTHER GOVERNMENTS WHICH 
HAVE INFLUENCE IN THE REGION. 
 
9.  (U) NOTING THAT "THE UNITED STATES IN 
PARTICULAR CAN ACT TO CLEAN UP THE SITUATION," 
KARAMI ADDED THAT THE GOL HAD NOT/NOT BEEN 
INFORMED OF A VISIT TO LEBANON BY ASSISTANT 
SECRETARY MURPHY DURING THE LATTER'S FORTHCOMING 
TRIP TO THE MIDDLE EAST. 
 
10. (U)  SHIITE AMAL LEADER NABIH BARRI DENOUNCED 
THE INTENSIFICATION OF FIGHTING IN SIDON IN 
ESSENTIALLY THE SAME WORDS AS KARAMI.  "ISRAEL," 
HE SAID, "AIMS AT PROVOKING A NEW DEMOGRAPHIC 
REDISTRIBUTION AND TO RESHAPE ITS FRONTIER WITH 
LEBANON SO THAT THE CHRISTIANS IN SIDON AND JEZZIN 
ARE MOVED TO THE BORDER ZONE AND THAT THE MUSLIMS, 
MORE PRECISELY THE SHIITES, ARE FORCED BACK INTO 
THE INTERIOR OF LEBANON."  "IT IS IN THIS 
CONTEXT," BARRI ADDED, "THAT ONE CAN UNDERSTAND 
THE RECENT EVENTS IN SIDON AND ORDERS WHICH WERE 
GIVEN TO THE 'INTIFADA' (I.E., JA'JA'S CHRISTIAN 
DECISION MOVEMENT)..." 
 
11. (U) IN A MARCH 31 TELEPHONE CONVERSATION WITH 
SARG PRESIDENT ASSAD, PRESIDENT GEMAYEL AGREED TO 
RECEIVE A SYRIAN ENVOY TO DISCUSS THE SITUATION IN 
SIDON AS WELL AS RECENT POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS 
WITHIN THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY.  SYRIAN MILITARY 
INTELLIGENCE CHIEF GENERAL KHOLI IS EXPECTED TO 
MEET WITH GEMAYEL TODAY, APRIL 1. 
 
12. (C) COMMENT.  THE CONTRADICTORY AND 
TENDENTIOUS REPORTS REACHING BEIRUT ABOUT THE 
FIGHTING IN SIDON ARE DIFFICULT TO UNRAVEL AND 
EVALUATE.  PALESTINIAN UNITS DO APPEAR TO BE 
TAKING AN ACTIVE PART IN THE CLASHES.  IN SHORT, 
THE SITUATION IN THE SOUTH APPEARS TO BE 
DETERIORATING, AS EVERYONE HAD FEARED, INTO A 
HEIGHTENED LEBANESE/ISRAELI CONFLICT AND BITTER 
INTERCOMMUNAL CLASHES WITH PALESTINIAN 
INVOLVEMENT. 
 
LYNE 

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