The Israeli Army has ordered the Lebanese Forces, an alliance of Christian militias, to shut down at least one and possibly more barracks and offices south of the Awwali River, where Israeli troops are expected to regroup soon in a pullback from the Beirut area.
The order has met with stiff resistance from Christian civilians in the area and from the Lebanese Forces, former allies of the Israeli invasion force.
Spokesmen for the Lebanese Forces said the Israeli Army ordered them yesterday to close three sites--barracks near Nabatiyah and at Kfar Falus, six miles east of Sidon, and a political office at nearby Maghdushah--within 24 hours.
The Israeli Army said in Tel Aviv that it had ordered the closing of only the Kfar Falus barracks but it said the order was not an "ultimatum," Washington Post correspondent Edward Walsh reported from Jerusalem.
The Army said the action was taken because of "deviations" by the Lebanese Forces from earlier Israeli directives that "no activity would be permitted which was not coordinated with Israeli Army commands in the various sectors."
Israeli military sources told Walsh that the "deviations" amounted to establishing the base without prior Israeli approval. They characterized the order as a "local matter" but said similar actions will be taken against other Lebanese Forces bases if they are set up without Israeli permission.
The Israeli sources said they did not know how many Lebanese Christian soldiers were at the base but that the number was not significant. Israel, they said, had given the Lebanese Forces "a day or two" to leave.
Fady Hayek, military spokesman for the Lebanese Forces, said the Christian militias would not comply with the Israeli directive.
"Our command has decided that we should stay there," Hayek said after the 24-hour deadline cited by the Lebanese Forces had passed. He said there was no apparent reason for the sudden Israeli move, adding that there was permanent contact and sometimes coordination between the Christian militia and Israeli forces in southern Lebanon.
The friction between Israel and the once-friendly Lebanese Christian militias is seen by observers as likely to complicate Israel's plan to move the foccupation forces south from the Beirut suburbs and out of the Chouf Mountains to the Awwali River, just northor city in southern Lebanon.
The partial Israeli pullback is to be the first step in an eventual full withdrawal from Lebanon but the Lebanese Forces oppose a partial by Israel as long as Syria refuses to remove its troops from the Bekaa Valley and northern Lebanon.
Christians living in the predominant--including women, children and old men--took to the streets early today, burning tires, blocking roads with barng slogans in support of the Phalangists, the dominant right-wing Lebanese Christian political party.
In Abree miles northeast of Sidon, Christian Lebanese, in a highly unusual protest demonstration, massed around an Israeli armored trooer and forced it to retreat. The scene contrasted sharply with the rose-water and flower petals showered on the Israelis when theinks first rumbled into Chrtistian areas more than a year ago.
The Lebanese Forces were deployed in southern mountains south of Beirut after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The Christian militias were encouraged to gain a foothold there to replace Palestinian bases and help the Israelisent a guerrilla return to the south and the Chouf mountains.
The Lebanese Forces have seven barracks in the Israeli-occupied territory between Beirut and thder regions patrolled by the militia of Saad Haddad, an Israeli-controlled former Lebanese army officer, the Meported. It said the seven barracks accommodate a force ofoops, 700 of them fulltime regulars.
The Lebanese Forces' militant nationalism soon proved to be a source wkwardness to the Israelis, as did right-wing Christian attacks against Palestinians in Israeli-controlled areeen the Lebanese Forces and the Israelis also soured last September following the assassination of president-elect Bashir Gemayel,ader of the Christian militia, and the massacre of Palestinians at the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps by Leba that had serious repercussions for Israel, which was in control of the camps.
While the Lebanese Forces hay with the Israelis in getting the Palestinians and Syrian forces to leave Beirut, the Chouf and the south, thmmitment is to an independent Lebanon free of foreign domination.
Lebanese Forces officials also have made no secret about tension between them and Haddad's who have tried to curb the Phalange-dominated Lebanese Forces' freedom of movement.
One political observer in Beirut interpreted today'sd by Israel to "simplify" the web of militia networks in southern Lebanon in favor of Haddad, who is directly eli officers.
Meanwhile in Tripoli, north of Beirut, heavy fighting was reported in the center of the city d anti-Syrian Lebanese militias after Syrian troops withdrew to the suburbs. Syrian forces in the region have ly moved into Tripoli and out again, but have kept the city within reach of their artillery.