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Israel may press on despite criticism

Israel's military movements in and around west Beirut indicate that the Menachem Begin government intends to continue to pursue the military option despite widespread world - and especially American - criticism.

An Israeli foreign affairs specialist on relations between his country and the United States told the Monitor he felt Israel could ''weather this crisis in relations,'' with Washington. He compared the situation to the 1956 Suez crisis in which relations between the two nations were strained dramatically.

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''We understand that the United States receives quite a bit of flak from its Arab friends,'' said the Israeli official, who was contacted at the Army's military headquarters in the Beirut suburb of Baabda. ''That's what comes with being a superpower. We're not suggesting they (the Reagan administration) be rough-riding cowboys unconcerned with the Arabs. But we want Washington to understand that the end result of this operation (against the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)) clearly posits a gain and advance for our side.

''That is also an advance for the West. In the long run you recognize that the price was paid but the attainment was final,'' he said, referring to the price paid for the liquidation of the PLO.

All signs in Israeli-occupied Lebanon Aug. 5 pointed to a further Israeli military assault against the PLO. The plan appears to be to cut off Palestinian refugee camps, trap PLO leaders in west Beirut, and either destroy the PLO or force an unconditional surrender.

Israeli armor was seen operating well north of the international airport, which this reporter visited Aug. 5. Israeli tanks were active on three fronts: in the Ouzai region west of Borj el Barajneh refugee camp, around the National Museum, and at the seaport, which fronts on the old Beirut hotel district. Though combat Aug. 5 was relatively light, the behind-the-lines movements of men and materiel clearly pointed to another Israeli push in the days ahead.

The assault Aug. 4, which came amid American pleas for military restraint, occurred on these same fronts. Israeli Col. Yisrael Canaan, the Army's official spokesman, said the Aug. 4 attacks achieved his country's tactical objectives, ''but it was a local mission, and the main point is to get the PLO out of Beirut.'' Colonel Canaan said Israelis suffered 98 casualties in the day's fighting, 19 of them fatal. Lebanese sources reported more than 300 Lebanese and Palestinians were killed or wounded in the current fighting.

Thousands of Lebanese took advantage of a lull in the fighting Aug. 5 to swarm from their besieged and battered homes in west Beirut to the eastern sector of the city.

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