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PLO guerrillas no match for Israeli military -- but they fight on

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The Palestine Liberation Organization, currently reeling under Israeli air and sea attacks, is incapable of taking on Israel militarily. Until a few months ago the PLO would have had a difficult time, even internally, handling its confrontation with Israel. Political infighting has always been a major yoke around the PLO's neck, retarding its fight "to liberate Palestine."

However, at the Palestine National Council (PNC) meeting in April, PLO chairman Yasser Arafat succeeded in pulling the ranks together while also fortifying his personal grip on the organization.

But the day when the PLO's approximately 15,000 guerrillas become a "real army" is still a long way off. Their training and equipment have been mostly hit and miss. The PLO has set out to correct this and formalize its military training.

The PLO also hopes to bring all of the guerrillas directly under Arafat's control. A couple thousand guerrillas are only nominally under the control of Arafat's Al-Fatah guerrilla group. These fighters answer only to their leaders, whose views and orders often conflict with Arafat's.

More importantly, the PLO arsenal is no match for the Israelis. The PLO now admits it has SAM-7 and SAM-9 anti- aircraft missiles in south Lebanon supplied by Libya.

Military observers say, however, that these are very inaccurate and virtually useless against the sophisticated Israeli Air Force planes.

Months before what Arafat called "this Palestinian-Israeli war" began, PLO spokesman Mahmoud Labadi readily conceded that the PLO was incapable of combating Israeli air strikes.

PLO officials quickly point out that their only military strength is as a "guerrilla" organization. Their sole advantage in the south is that they know the terrain as well as the field mice.


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