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Israel Starts Salvage Work of Vessel in Lake Tiberias; Syria Agrees

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Salvage work on an Israel Coast Guard cutter, stranded in Lake Tiberias since the Syrian-Israel clash in the area 10 days ago, began today after United Nations officials persuaded Syria to end its opposition to the operation. The Syrians had massed troops and armor at the site on the northeastern shore of the lake to back their warnings to Israel against the salvage attempt.

An Israeli spokesman, announcing that the salvage work had been started, said: “We have succeeded in what we sought: to reassert the principle that Israel sovereignty alone covers the entire Lake Tiberias.”

The spokesman said that Israel could not accept Syria’s implied claim to decide whether Israel could carry out the salvage work. However, he added, Israel agreed to continue suspension of such work while Lt. Gen. Odd Bull, chief of staff of the U.N. Truce Supervision Organization, pushed his efforts to obtain an agreement with Syrian authorities to avoid any action that might cause a new clash.

Yesterday, Israel accepted Gen. Bull’s request for an additional short deferment, but Premier Eshkol issued orders for salvage work with or without Syrian agreement and visited the site personally to supervise preliminary arrangements. Gen. Bull finally obtained Syrian agreement yesterday, and Premier Eshkol ordered the work to start this morning.

DANGER OF SYRIAN-ISRAEL CLASH REMOVED BY U.N. MEDIATION

An Israeli speedboat, carrying three U.N. officers and an Israeli representative to the U.N. Syrian-Israeli Mixed Armistice Commission, reach the stranded vessel this morning. Fifteen minutes later, more boats, carrying salvage equipment and more U.N. and Israeli officials, reached the spot, and work began immediately.

A special U.N. team was posted on the northeastern shore to ensure that the salvage activity was carried out in peace. An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman emphasized today that the U.N. presence gives additional proof, if any was necessary, that Lake Tiberias was entirely within Israeli sovereignty. He indicated that the U.N. negotiated agreement had removed a dangerous focal point which had been endangering peace on Israel’s northeastern border.

(A report from Syria today said that the Syrians have succeeded in recovering the Soviet-made Syrian MIG which was shot down by Israel into Lake Tiberias, together with its pilot, on August 15, No confirmation of this report was received from Israel. However, Israel had been offering all the time to return the pilot’s body and the salvaged MIG to Syria after they are brought up from the waters of Lake Tiberias.)

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