Israel today issued veiled warnings to Syria against killing Lebanese Christians in East Beirut, saying that its obligation to protect Christians is not confined to southern Lebanon.
Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, speaking to reporters before a Cabinet meeting at which the Lebanese crisis was discussed, said Israel will not "sit idly by" while Christians are wiped out by Syrian gunfire. He said Syria was attempting to solidify its dominance of Lebanon, and that the renewal of fighting there posed a threat to Israel's security.
The warning that Israel will not "sit idly by" while the Syrian Army intensifies its attacks on the Lebanese Christians has been made before by Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Menachem Begin, but none has said specifically what Israel would do if the bombardment continues.
Former Israeli Army chief of staff Mordechai Gur, in an interview with Israel Radio, said the government was overreacting to the renewed fighting in Lebanon.
Syria, Gur said, had not "crossed Israel's red line," and therefore Israel should avoid a situation that may lead to war. He said Israel should recognize its limitations and not take action without a political and strategic plan, because "no one made Israel the policeman of the Middle East."