JERUSALEM (Jan. 31)
One Israeli border patrolman was killed, and two injured, when Syrian gun posts and mortar batteries reopened fire at noon today, for the fourth successive day, against Israelis near the settlement of Tel Katzir, in the demilitarized zone southeast of lake Tiberias.
Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion is in constant touch with the situation, while the Foreign Ministry has taken up the matter with the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization as well as with the United Nations Secretariat in New York. The Cabinet, at its session here today, discussed the Syrian border flare-up, going into the national security and foreign relations phases of the Syrian incursions.
As on previous days, Syrians disguised as “farmers,” but wearing soldiers’ boots, entered the area and started cultivating the land in the demilitarized zone. When the Syrians were challenged, the “farmers” opened fire, and were supported by heavy firing from emplacements on the Syrian side of the frontier. The patrolman killed had been pinned down by firing which kept would-be rescuers from reaching the fallen man.
At nightfall, the firing subsided, but the tension in the area prevailed. According to the Israelis, the issue concerns a Syrian effort to establish sovereignty over a small plot of land on the Israeli side of a drainage canal dug there with the consent of the UN Truce Supervision Organization.
The land in dispute comes fully under Israeli jurisdiction, and the Syrians have no role whatever in any arrangements that might be made concerning that land between Israeli and the UN Truce Supervision Organization.
Israel notified the Chief of Staff of UNTSO two weeks ago that it is willing that he mediate the dispute over this plot of land with Syria, but only in an atmosphere of calm and not under pressure of force.
U. N. MILITARY OBSERVERS ENDANGERED BY FIRING FROM SYRIA
Israel has now protested to UNTSO not only about the latest shootings but also about the overflights, over Israeli territory, Saturday, of two Syrian, Russian-type MIG-17 fighter planes.
Yesterday, Col. Raymond Pirlot, of Belgium, chairman of the Israel-Syrian Mixed Armistice Commission, arranged a cease-fire twice. During one of these lulls, the UN team was able to extricate some of its military observers who had been endangered by firing from the Syrian side.
Brigadier Meir Zorea, Israeli Army commander in the region, told military correspondents at his headquarters today that Israel is determined to maintain the status quo in the region and will not permit Syrians to establish “new facts.”
Exhibiting heavy mortar shells fired by the Syrians in the current series of clashes, the general charged that the Syrians have concentrated large units in their section of the frontier. He said they are trying “to impose their sovereignty over land which is officially in Israeli demilitarized zone.”