JERUSALEM (Aug. 24)
The gravity with which Israel views the new border hostility created by Syria in the Lake Tiberias area was stressed today by Foreign Minister Abba Eban at an urgently-summoned conference with Lt. Gen. Odd Bull, chief of staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization.
As the aftermath of a sea and air clash over Lake Tiberias on August 15, in which two Soviet-made Syrian MIGs were shot down, one with its pilot into the Lake, Syria has refused to allow Israel to salvage a Coast Guard vessel stranded on a sandbar in the lake. The vessel was the initial target of the Syrian action. Israel halted salvage operations shortly after a U.N. cease-fire was established as a step to ease the border tensions.
An equally serious development was an announcement in Damascus by Syrian Chief of Staff Swedani that Syria had decided to halt efforts to resolve border conflicts through such international forums as the U.N., and to move directly with military action against Israeli “aggression.”
Mr. Eban warned Gen. Bull today of possible “serious” developments, and told the U.N. official that, while Israel had shown great restraint and patience while waiting for Gen. Bull to continue negotiations with Syrian authorities in Damascus, Israel could not wait indefinitely or permit the situation to continue without some specific information of progress to resolve the deadlock. Mr. Eban asked Gen. Bull to ask Syria for a definite reply to enable Israel to proceed with the salvage operation.
SYRIAN RADIO CONTINUES TO BROADCAST THREATS AGAINST ISRAEL
It was indicated that Mr. Eban also informed Gen. Bull about Israel’s concern over Syria’s open threats against Israel’s security and territorial integrity. It was noted that not only had Syria refused to allow Israel to salvage the Coast Guard ship which is within Israeli sovereign territory, but also that Syria had assembled armor and troops in the area with the apparent intention of using force to prevent the salvage effort.
Meanwhile, Damascus Radio continued today to assert that Syria was no longer practicing “defensive action” but that it had “taken the offensive.” Israeli sources said that Israel could not tolerate indefinitely either the prevention of salvage of the ship or the Syrian threats against its existence.
Mr. Eban reportedly conveyed many of these views to Gen. Bull in what may have been one of the most solemn talks between the two in recent months. Gen. Bull also met briefly yesterday with Moshe Sasson, the new director of the armistice affairs division of the Foreign Ministry, and with outgoing director Mordechai Kidron.
It was learned from UNTSO sources here that Gen. Bull still has received no clear reply from the Syrian Government on salvaging of the Coast Guard vessel. UNTSC sources said that Gen. Bull was determined to continue his efforts with Syrian authorities to end a deadlock which has already lasted for more than a week.