July 17, 1981 – Orange Skies Over Beirut – Taking Sides – Kremlin Anxiety Over Poland
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July 17, 1981 – Word from Beirut this day – Israeli air raids over Beirut and targets throughout Lebanon as the situation continued to spiral out of control. The latest raid on Palestinian bases targeted PLO Headquarters as well as two eight story buildings claimed by the Israelis to house the command center of the Al Fatah Guerrilla group; the largest of the organizations within the PLO, as well as the Headquarters of the radical Popular Democratic Front for The Liberation Of Palestine. Israeli jets also bombarded targets in the southern part of Lebanon, reportedly including one of the country’s largest oil depots. During the night, Israeli gunboats shelled Lebanese coastal targets believed to be inhabited by Palestinian guerrillas. By this action Israel had given formal notice that it would no longer avoid attacking Palestinian military or administrative objectives that had been deliberately placed next to civilian population centers. For their part, Palestinian gunners in Southern Lebanon launched artillery and rocket attacks on Israeli. One of the rockets hit the general hospital in the Northern Israeli resort town of Nahariya where three Israeli civilians were killed.
Meanwhile on Capitol Hill; The Reagan Administration was expected to proceed with the delivery of 10 more F-16 fighter-bombers to Israel. Although Secretary of State Alexander Haig reportedly said that no decision had been made formally by President Reagan, the fact was, it would come as a great shock to members of Congress as well as many others around Washington if Mr. Reagan cancelled the deal. In fact, several congressmen indicated publicly that they believed the decision to proceed with the delivery of the aircraft was made any days before this latest series of events in Lebanon unfolded and shortly after the Israeli raid that destroyed Iraq’s Nuclear reactor. The current issue was further complicated by Israel’s decision to use American-made jets to bomb Lebanon. But that was said not to deter the Reagan Administration to go ahead on the agreed deal, despite all indications it would be a blow to U.S.-Syria relations.
And the Kremlin was expressing anxiety over the latest events in Poland, which saw the Polish Communist Party Congress chose a 200 man central committee by secret ballot. Later on, the Party was expected to choose its leader, also by secret ballot. Soviet media was taking a cautious approach in reporting the Congress. No mention was made by the Kremlin that the Poles broke with Socialist Bloc traditions by deciding the elect the next Party Leader through a secret ballot. Nor was it reported that the Congress voted to expel from the party former Party leader Edward Gierek. Such actions were considered to be revisionism by the Kremlin and that was worrisome.
And that’s just a little of what happened, this July 17, 1981 as reported by The CBS World News Roundup.