Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat said today that his guerrillas would honor the cease-fire that uneasily prevailed in southern Leabnon, but declaired that "ceasing fire does not mean peace" with Israel.
In an afternoon press conference, cheerful, joking Arafat told foreign journalists that the Palestinians would honor their commitment to halting the recent wave of violence in southern Leabanon.
"We are going to respect our word," he said following reports of three minor vilations of the cease-fire and a vow by a Palestinian splinter group that it would continue fighting.
Arafat added: "To achieve peace we must have a permanent and just solution which recognizes the Palestinians' right to establish an independent state, to self-determination and their right to return to their homeland and Jerusalem."
Arafat, wearing a freshly pressed, black and white headdress pulled back on one side, maintained that the Palestinians are still under occupation, and said they were entitled by the United Nations Charter to resist occupation by all means. "I hope this is clear and obvious," he said.
When asked whether he expected more violence in southern Lebanon, Arafat replied that "it seems so because [Israeli Prime Minister Menachem] Begin and his military junta were the ones to mention that it was a temporary truce; it is not me who mentioned it."
[Arafat and Israeli official were at odds tonight over whether a small border enclave in southern Lebanon is included in the cease-fire, Reuter reported. Arafat said his forces reserved the right to continue military operations in the area controlled by the Israeli-backed Christian group of Lebanese Maj. Saad Haddad. In Tel Aviv, however, a spokesman for the prime minister's office said the agreement includes a clause covering the enclave.]
U.S. special envoy Phillip Habib announced the cease-fire in Jerusalem yesterday, and a joint statement in Beirut by the Palestinians and Lebanese leftists confirmed their approval in response to U.N. mediation efforts.
The Palestinian leader noted that the Palestinian guerrilla movement had committed itself to stop "fighting through the Lebanese border" at the Arab summit conference in Tunis in 1979, adding that the latest cease-fire in the "Palestinian-Israeli war" could be attributed to that pledge.
Arafat explained that he accepted the cease-fire because of U.N. as well as Arab efforts. "We know that some Arab countries rushed hard to help us," he said. He expressed thanks to Saudi Arabia, which he said used its influence with the United States to bring pressure on Israel.
Commenting on whether he detected a shift in the American attitude on the Palestinians, the guerrilla leader said he did not see a great change but stressed that the last 15 days were an "important turning point."
"We resisted despite U.S. armament, equipment, artillery and even the forbidden fragmentation shells, cluster bombs, gas bombs and napalm against civilian targets in Lebanon," Arafat declared, "so we hope that this will help to change the mind of those in the White House."
The cease-fire on the Lebanese-Israeli border generally held up today, despite a minor violation by a Syrian-backed Palestinian faction.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, a splinter Palestinian guerrilla group headed by Capt. Ahmed Jibril, a former Syrian Air Force commander, admitted in a late evening communique that it had violated what it described as a "U.S.-inspired and suspect cease-fire.""
During an early morning tour of Nabatiya and the Palestinian stronghold of the Crusader Beaufort Castle in southern Lebanon, this reporter heard two rounds of rocket fire from Palestinian positions directed at the area controlled by Haddad's Christian forces. The Israelis did not return fire.
Earlier PLO explanation of the cease-fire infractions said they were "mistakes" and a result of "misunderstandings." However, the strongly worded statement of the popular front raised fears of a breakdown of a day-old truce in southern Lebanon.
"On this suspect cease-fire, the PFLP-GC declares that the front is not committed to the cease-fire and it is continuing its revolutionary cause, which is based upon fighting the Zionist and American enemy in the area," it said.