Tension Mounts on Israel-Syrian Border; Premier Eshkol Warns Syria
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Tension Mounts on Israel-Syrian Border; Premier Eshkol Warns Syria

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Tension continued to mount along the Israel-Syrian border today as Syrian positions, apparently seeking to provoke a major clash, used tank guns and other arms in directing fire at Israeli positions and patrols in a number of incidents throughout the weekend.

Syrian bombardment today resulted in fires breaking out at the former site of Notera settlement on the Israeli side of the border and the wounding of two Israelis who were called to a meeting with U.N. observers.

Warning that the continuing Syrian bombardments were pushing the two nations to the brink of war, Israeli military officials said today that the attacks on Israeli farmers by Syrian tanks constituted a "most blatant" invitation to retaliation. The warnings came after a statement by Prime Minister Levi Eshkol that "Syria is not immune to treatment in kind."

The Premier declared in a press interview that "we must warn Damascus that we shall not tolerate these incursions and wanton murder." He said Israel was trying to limit her military measures to self-defense "but I cannot exclude the possibility that we may have no other recourse but deterrent measures."

In the first of the weekend attacks, the Syrians moved tanks into positions at two places on the Israel border and fired at an Israeli tractor working on a field near Tel Katzir settlement southeast of Lake Tiberias. The gunners then opened machinegun fire at the tractor driver but he managed to escape safely. The vehicle was not damaged.

In a second incident, three Syrian tanks fired simultaneously at Israeli positions in the Orazin area north of Lake Tiberias. Israeli officials said that the Syrians had sent field workers into the Israeli area to draw an Israeli response, but opened fire with the tank guns before the Israelis were able to take any action to expel the field workers.

It was also noted in connection with this incident that the Syrians broadcast a communique announcing that the Israelis had driven out the Syrian workers even before the shelling began. In fact, Israeli officials said, Israeli troops held their fire until some 40 Syrian shells had been fired.

This morning, Syrian tanks again went into operation, firing at an Israeli tractor and at an Israeli patrol in the Huleh area. The Israel Army spokesman said that the Syrian positions directed automatic fire at the Israeli tractor moving along a road inside Israeli territory and parallel to the border. A half hour later, an Israeli patrol moving towards the tractor was fired on from the same Syrian position. The patrol returned the fire after the Syrians used tank guns resulting in a fire at the former site of Notera settlement.

The two Israelis were wounded this afternoon a half hour after both sides had agreed to a call for a cease fire by U.N. observers. The Syrians opened fire again, hitting two of five Israelis who were riding in two jeeps while en route to meet with U.N. observers. They had been summoned by the observers to testify over the earlier shooting at the Israeli tractor. Israel filed complaints on the incidents with the Israel-Syrian Mixed Armistice Commission of the United Nations.

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