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Israel Voices Charges Against Syria at U.N. Security Council; Apologizes for Bombing

In a fighting speech today before the United Nations Security Council, Ambassador Abba Eban, head of the Israeli delegation to the U.N., charged Syria with attempting to carry out a preconceived plan to grab Israeli territory. “The same tenacity we showed in defending our deserts we will show again in defending our swamps,” he warned.

In an address lasting for about one hour, Mr. Eban defended Israel’s right to drain the Huleh swamps. He pointed out that the Huleh reclamation project is an integral part of Israel’s development because of its importance as a source of irrigation for the arid regions of the Jewish state.

At the same time, the Israeli representative publicly apologized to the United Nations for the recent retaliatory bombing of Syrian positions after the murder of seven Israeli policemen by Syrian troops who invaded Israeli territory in the demilitarized zone. “Israel regrets that it felt constrained to take action which may not have been compatible with the terms of the armistice agreement,” he said.

Mr. Eban asked the Security Council to accept Israel’s sincere expression of regret and assurances that it was only the result of extreme provocation and feeling that there was need for energetic self-defense that motivated the bombings. “This provocation has gone on and has indeed assumed a more systematic and scarcely less murderous aspect,” he declared.

EBAN INSISTS ON ISRAEL’S SOVEREIGNTY OVER ITS DEMILITARIZED ZONE

The Security Council, which met to discuss the Israeli-Syrian conflict, was told by Mr. Eban that Israel rejects in its entirety the contentions made by Syria and backed by U.N. Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. William E. Riley that under the Israeli-Syrian armistice agreement there was any limitation put on the signatories in respect to a demilitarized zone other than the purely military requirements of keeping the zone free of military forces.

The Israeli delegate blasted the Riley thesis, expressed in a memorandum to the Security Council several weeks ago, that sovereignty was affected in any way by the demilitarization of an area. He told the Council that in meetings and in letters U.N. mediator Ralph J. Bunche had given that concrete assurance to the Israel Government before the latter signed the armistice agreement.

“I solemnly swear to the Security Council that my government would never have set its hand to an agreement which limited its sovereignty in any way,” Eban said. He asserted that Riley had read into the armistice agreement with Syria what was not there.

In the course of his address, Mr. Eban emphasized repeatedly Israel’s contention that the armistice agreements were purely military documents–which he noted was why they were supervised by military men–and that they carried no political, economic or social ramifications. On the contrary, he said, it had been Israel’s clear understanding with Dr. Bunche that Israel had a moral obligation to develop the demilitarized zone comprising the Huleh region, not to let it languish. He traced the history of the Huleh concession, and said that Gen. Riley exceeded his powers in questioning the legality of the concession.

“THERE CAN BE NO ISRAEL WITHOUT THE PRECIOUS SOURCES OF THE JORDAN,” EBAN SAYS

“There can be no Israel without the precious sources of the Jordan,” the Israeli diplomat stated. “We shall sign no peace under which they are abandoned. We shall preserve our swamps and we shall make them into healthy and fruitful regions as we are making the desert bloom.” He concluded his speech by stressing, as he has often before, that the fundamental and chronic violation of the armistice agreements is the refusal by the Arab states to and the uncertain and temporary period of the armistice by signing a permanent peace. He reaffirmed the desire and willingness of Israel to conclude that peace.

Gen. Riley, who followed Mr. Eban with a statement to the Council, declared that the machinery of the Mixed Armistice Commission was “entirely adequate” to deal with the current dispute and expressed his regrets to the Council that it had been brought into the case. He asked the Council, since the case had come before it, for clarification and guidance on “the troublesome question of administrative authority in the demilitarized zone.”

Gen. Riley defended the position he had taken in the memorandum attacked by Israel–a memorandum that had ordered Israel to cease its work on the Huleh drainage project–by quoting Dr. Bunche. He said that Dr. Bunche had authorized him to make a statement which included the following, quoted from Dr. Bunche: “It was recognized that the gradual restoration of normal civilian life in the demilitarized zone could neither be automatic nor left to the discretion of the conflicting parties. It was provided, therefore, that the chairman of the Mixed Armistice Commission should be the responsible agent for guiding this process.”

Gen. Riley also quoted from a Bunche communication of June 26, 1949, which Riley claimed was the only authoritative declaration by Dr. Bunche on the question at issue, since both Israel and Syria had accepted it as an authoritative interpretation. “As civilian life is gradually restored (in the demilitarized zone),” Dr. Bunche wrote, “administration will take shape on a local basis under the general supervision of the chairman of the Mixed Armistice Commission. The chairman of the Mixed Armistice Commission, in consultation and cooperation with the local communities, will be in a position to authorize all necessary arrangements for the restoration and protection of civilian life. He will not assume responsibility for direct administration of the zone.”

Gen. Riley said that Dr. Bunche shared his view that no other communications between Bunche and the governments concerned could be considered to have any official standing as a basis for interpreting Article Five of the armistice agreement, “since it was this note of June 26, alone which the parties themselves accepted for this purpose.” After Gen. Riley concluded his statement, the Security Council adjourned its session until May 2.

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