Israelis to Finish Lebanon Withdrawal by Thursday
Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres said Sunday that Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon will be completed by Thursday, the third anniversary of the invasion Israel launched to crush the Palestine Liberation Organization.
“On the third anniversary this week, the war in Lebanon will be completely ended,” Peres said in an interview from Jerusalem broadcast on Europe 1 radio. “This will be the end of the war in Lebanon. There will no Israeli army unit on Lebanese soil.”
The prime minister added, however, “For several weeks, we will keep some soldiers (in Lebanon) in an individual manner to help the South Lebanon Army . . . but no figure has been decided.”
The South Lebanon Army is a mostly Christian militia supplied and trained by Israel. As Israeli troops have pulled out of Lebanon in recent weeks, they have been turning over their positions to the militia as part of a plan to create a security zone on Israel’s northern border.
Israeli leaders had said the remaining Israeli units would be pulled out gradually in a process scheduled for completion by the first week in June. But no one had given an exact date.
In an operation guided by then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, the government of Prime Minister Menachem Begin invaded Lebanon on June 6, 1982, driving the Palestinian fighters back to Beirut and eventually forcing their withdrawal from the Lebanese capital after a bloody two-month siege.
Peres said he had favored the invasion of Lebanon in its original conception, to clear a 25-mile security area north of Israel’s border, but he opposed going all the way to Beirut.
“I was for the 40 kilometers (25 miles), and that’s all,” he said. “All that happened afterward I was against, and I have not changed my mind.”