Eshkol Reports to Cabinet on Syrian Threats; Air Patrols Increased

Prime Minister Levi Eshkol told his Cabinet here today that the Government is determined to defend itself “by all available means” against the threats to the peace on the northern border, arising from Syrian provocations in the Lake Tiberias area.

Mr. Eshkol reported at the Cabinet meeting on the situation along the Syrian border, where Syria has been massing troops and increasing tensions just beyond Lake Tiberias — the body of water lying entirely within Israel’s territory, where Israel shot down a Syrian-owned Soviet-built MIG-17 jet fighter last week, downing not only the plane but also its pilot.

Foreign Minister Abba Eban reported at the Cabinet meeting today on the developments of the diplomatic front in regard to the Syrian issue. Israel has notified every friendly power, through its diplomats in the various capitals and through conversations with foreign ambassadors here, of the tense situation along the Syrian border, Mr. Eban told the Cabinet.

Twohuge searchlights atop the hills in Syria near the northeastern corner of Lake Tiberias turned their illumination on that area all through the night, last night. When daylight came, it was noted that there was intense military activity, on the ground and in the air, by both sides along the entire Tiberias area. Both Syrian and Israeli planes seemed to have increased their air patrols, each side alert but carefully staying within its own air space.

An Israeli Coast Guard vessel is still stranded on sandbanks in Lake Tiberias, about 200 yards from the far shore near the Syrian border. Syria has refused to lift its threats to bomb the Israeli salvage operations in the lake, unless Israel allows Syria to fish in Israel’s lake for the lost airplane and the drowned pilot. Israel has refused, and still refuses, to permit Syria to fish for the plane and pilot in Israeli waters, although Israel has assured Syria, through the United Nations, that it would turn over to Syria both the plane and the pilot’s body, after these are recovered by Israel.

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