A study team of retired U.S. Army and Air Force generals who toured Lebanon under the sponsorship of the B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation League said today that compared to fighting forces they had observed in other wars, the Israeli Army acted "extremely cautiously" to avoid civilian casualties in its advance toward Beirut in the first weeks of Israel's invasion of Lebanon.
Emphasizing that their inspection did not include West Beirut, the retired generals said that, in their view, the Israeli Air Force and armored and artillery units had used a "selective scalpel approach" in capturing Tyre and Sidon, sites of Palestine Liberation Organization facilities, despite what they said was the PLO's use of the civilian populations as a shield.
"They did not use the approach we had to use, unfortunately, in some cities in Germany during World War II," Army Lt. Gen. Harry Kinnard, former commander of the U.S. Army Combat Development Command, said at a news conference sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League. Maj. Gen. Hugh F.T. Hoffman, former commander of Army Readiness Region 1, head of the Army Readiness Command, added, "We could see buildings damaged that had undamaged buildings on either side. Obviously it was a very selective use of firepower."
The retired generals' trip to Israel and two-day tour of Lebanon was financed by the Anti-Defamation League. The generals said they would report their findings to military attaches in the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and to military organizations in the United States.
Maj. Gen. George S. Patton, former director of readiness in the U.S. Army Materiel Development and Readiness Command and son of the 3rd Army commander in World War II, said Israel has accumulated a wealth of technological and tactical information that will be of use to U.S. military strategists, including data on the performance of Israel's Merkava tank against the Soviet-built T72 tanks that were used by the Syrian Army.
Kinnard added that data on the use of assault helicopters by both sides during the war in Lebanon will be valuable to Pentagon analysts. He said it was the first time in any conflict that attack helicopters had been used by both sides.