UNITED NATIONS, N.Y. (Dec. 21)
Maj. Gen. E.L.M. Burns, chief of staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization in Palestine, today informed the Security Council that Israel committed “a deliberate violation” of the armistice agreement with Syria when Israel armed forces attacked Syrian gun positions on Lake Tiberias. At the same time, he reported to the Council that Syria had committed a number of serious provocations against Israel in the last year-and-a-half.
Gen. Burns’ report, which will form the basis for further Security Council discussions of Syria’s complaint against Israel when the Council reconvenes tomorrow, makes it clear that Israel-Syrian relations have for some time now been extremely strained. The report discloses that by December 9, two days before the Israel attack, the Israel Syrian Mixed Armistice Commission had on its blotter 568 Syrian complaints, and 401 Israel complaints. This backlog, Gen. Burns declares, “indicates the extent to which the traditional Armistice Commission procedure of formal discussion has broken down.
However, while reporting objectively the logic behind many of Israel’s complaints against Syria, Gen. Burns pointedly places the latest in the same category with “the Kibya and Gaza incidents, with which the Security Council has had to deal.” Since, in connection with both those incidents, the Council had censured Israel, the phrasing of the Burns report was seen here as a possible invitation to the Council to condemn Israel for the latest attack.
After quoting an announcement by the Israel Foreign Ministry which linked the Israel attack with the shelling of Israel fishing boats and their police escort on the day before the battle, Gen. Burns concedes that “incidents connected with fishing in Lake Tiberias have from time to time increased the tension between Israel and Syria.”
The UN truce chief tells of futile Israel attempts to negotiate a fishing agreement covering Lake Tiberias with Syria. He confirms earlier Israel Government reports, which had pointed out that Israel was willing to give fishing permits to individual Syrians “on personal application to the Israel authorities.” On these points, he declares, “the Israel suggestions have not been accepted Syria.”
Gen. Burns makes one positive suggestion for possible easing of the tensions between Syria and Israel, by suggesting “there might be a kind of gentleman’s agreement concerning Israel police boats” on Lake Tiberias. He declares also that “the Syrian authorities could, without impairing their legal position in the matter, authorize individuals residing in Syria to apply for fishing permits issued by the Israel authorities.”