Israel's Beirut exit -- under way despite problems
It was the first burst of color that the tragedy-ridden Beirut Palestinian refugee camp of Shatila had seen in months.
Grieving relatives laid two large yellow wreaths and a Palestinian flag on the mass grave holding loved ones killed in last week's massacre. Nearby, Italian troops in red berets and red cravats embossed with yellow-winged lions were deploying to give camp residents some small feeling of security.
Scores of Italian and French troops of the multinational force first sent to supervise the Palestinian evacuation from Beirut were finally deployed Monday in Shatila. The mission of the second visit of this peacekeeping force is to protect Palestinian and Lebanese civilians following the massacre.
Along with these signs of security are indications that a transfer of control from Israel to Lebanese and multinational forces is proceeding.
Landing of the multinational force had been delayed because Israel refused to leave positions its troops still held at Beirut port.
But at Lebanese government urging, the Italian and French troops - about l, 200 men each - have landed. Some l,500 US marines still wait offshore until all Israeli troops leave the port and Beirut International Airport.
(President Reagan's deputy press secretary, Larry Speakes, said Monday that the US expected Israeli Defense Forces to be out of Beirut by midweek. He also said that 1,200 US troops now are expected to land in Lebanon Wednesday, although details are still being worked out.)
Israeli military sources say Israeli troops will all be gone from west Beirut by Wednesday. An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman said Sunday that Israeli troops would leave east Beirut by Friday.
The eagerness with which the multinational force has been awaited and the high hopes invested in it to help the Lebanese government reestablish security throughout Beirut are indicative of the desperation here for a return to normalcy.
But the difficulties of American negotiations with Israel over removal of Israeli troops from west Beirut give a sobering preview of the problems facing future negotiations over removal of all foreign forces from Lebanon.
The Israeli position has shifted repeatedly. At first Israel insisted on the right to carry out patrols even after withdrawing from west Beirut. As late as yesterday an Israeli spokesman said that Israel would not leave until all Palestinian ''terrorists'' and arms depots had been cleared out.
Since invading west Beirut nearly two weeks ago, Israel has been clearing out offices, research centers, and bank records belonging to the Palestine Liberation Organization. Israeli soldiers have also been searching homes and offices of Lebanese leftist political leaders and groups and arresting numbers of Lebanese and Palestinians who are reportedly being held at an Israeli prison camp in Ansar in south Lebanon.
Israel apparently has now agreed to leave Beirut airport, which will come under the control of the Lebanese Army and the multinational force Wednesday. Lebanese gendarmes said Monday that Middle East Airlines, the Lebanese carrier, hoped to resume flights ''in three days.'' Italian troops with white helmets with black plumes have taken up positions on the way to the airport.
The specific role of the force is still being negotiated at this late date. Lebanese President Amin Gemayel, who has set up a coordination committee with the Americans, French, and Italians, wants the force to help him establish a capital city free of all armed militias and unofficial gunmen. Both east and west Beirut - whose dividing line would be abolished - would be patrolled jointly by the Lebanese Army, the Lebanese internal security forces and police, and the multinational force.
The Lebanese Army is already extremely visible, moving into west Beirut positions for the first time in seven years as the Israelis have evacuated them. In an apparent attempt to boost a law-and-order image, Lebanese Army and police have been bulldozing illegal shops along the waterfront established over the past seven years of lawlessness and civil strife.
The Army has also been conducting a vast operation to expel foreigners illegally in the country, mainly Palestinians and Syrians.