JERUSALEM (Jul. 17)
Syrian troop concentrations were seen by Israeli units building up all during last night along the border as the situation remained tense today following the Israeli air strikes last Thursday in reprisal for Syrian sabotage acts on Israeli territory.
Truckloads of Syrian soldiers were spotted pulling up close to the Israeli frontier and taking up positions opposite the Israeli settlements of Almagor and Tel Katzir. Intense air activity was also observed over Syrian air space during the night when two Syrian jets flew close to the Israeli border for several minutes.
Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin, meanwhile, presented to the Cabinet today the latest reports on the Syrian border situation. Foreign Minister Abba Eban reviewed the international aspects of the situation. While last Friday Israel immediately accepted a plea by Gen. Odd Bull, Chief of Staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, for a cease fire along the border, Damascus has not yet responded to the plea.
Observers here noted today that Israel’s other neighboring Arab states confined themselves to expressing solidarity with the Syrian government but failed to take any effective action such as declaring a state of emergency or reinforcing their border positions with Israel. This seemed to indicate, the observers pointed out, that the neighboring Arab states realize that the Israeli action last Thursday was only a one-time reprisal measure against the El Fatah terrorists and was not a major operation.
In a radio interview broadcast yesterday by Kol Israel, the Israel radio network, Mr. Eban expressed the hope that the major powers would use their influence with the Damascus government to ease the tension on the border and ensure peace. He also voiced the hope that the “state of equilibrium” achieved in the clashes along the border would now be followed by “an equilibrium of peace.”
The Foreign Minister said that he was convinced that Israel’s reaction to Syrian sabotage efforts against Israel had not weakened the effect of Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba’s renewed peace plea, which, Mr. Eban said, he hoped would eventually be taken up by other Arab states.
Gen. Rabin said the clash Thursday was the first time that French-made Mirage-3jets had shot down Soviet-made MIG-21 jets. He said the clash lasted two minutes and was fought at low level by four Israeli jets. He said the shot-down Syrian jet was hit by cannon fire from an Israeli plane. He ridiculed the Syrian report that two Israeli planes were shot down during the fight, emphasizing that all four jets returned to their bases in Israel.
The Damascus Radio monitored here yesterday lodged most of the blame for the Israeli air strike on “American imperialism” and called upon all other Arab states to break their diplomatic ties with Washington.