Syria Agrees to Israel’s Drainage Work in Demilitarized Zone

In an informal six-hour meeting of the Israel Syrian Mixed Armistice Commission both the Israelis and the Syrians agreed that peaceful drainage work would be continued by the Israelis on their own soil between the Israel settlement of Tel Katzir and the Syrian village of Tewfik, southeast of Lake Tiberias.

In contrast to the usual procedure, the MAC session ended not with the customary condemnation votes but with a mildly worded statement by MAC chairman Col. Christian Moe of Norway in which he reported that both sides undertook to settle future disputes peacefully. This is the first time since late 1955 that the two sides sat down around the same table.

The commission discussed today a series of incidents which occurred on November 6 and which ended tragically in the slaying of an Israeli policeman and the wounding of a workman. As UN observers established, an Israeli work party entered the demilitarized zone on Israel soil and with loud speakers assured Arabs in the neighboring Syrian village that there was nothing to fear and that only peaceful drainage work would be undertaken. The Israeli work party moved in only after notifying UN observers of its intentions.

In reply the commander of the local Syrian troops informed the local UN observer that he would open fire. Two minutes later he did. The only time the Israelis fired the UN report said, was after they had become targets. A short cease-fire was established and then broken by the Syrians as Israeli policemen and UN observers attempted to extricate the victims of the first burst of rifle and machinegun slugs.

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