UNITED NATIONS (Nov. 25)
Israel has officially charged Syria with the “crimes of murder and mutilation committed on the persons of Israeli prisoners of war, officers and men of the Israel Defense Force who were taken prisoner by the Syrians in the region of the Golan Heights.” The complaint was submitted by Israeli Ambassador Yosef Tekoah to Secretary General Kurt Waldheim and the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva. Tekoah, in his covering letter to Waldheim, stated that the photographs sent to the Red Cross illustrating Israel’s charges were not sent to the UN chief executive because of their “abhorrent nature,” According to the Israeli envoy, “After the Syrian forces that had penetrated the region of the Golan Heights had been driven back. Israel Defense Forces discovered proof that 28 Israeli soldiers, who had been taken prisoner by the Syrians, had been murdered in cold blood after their capture by the soldiers of the Syrian Army.”
The Israeli diplomat provided the particulars of the localities and of the number of murdered Israeli POWs found in them: the bodies of 11 Israeli soldiers were found at the Hushneyah crossroads; 7 bodies were found at Hushneyah village; 3 bodies were found at Tel Faris; and at least 7 Israeli POWs were murdered by the Syrians at the Israel Defense Forces strong-point on Mount Hermon. “In light of the condition in which the bodies were found, it is clear that the Israeli soldiers were murdered systematically and in cold blood after they had been taken prisoner,” Tekoah stated in his report. “They were blindfolded, their hands were bound, and in certain cases their legs also.” Tekoah specified the findings as follows:
HUSHNEYAH CROSSROADS: The bodies were found in a wadi concealed methodically but not completely by stones and shrubs. In every case, their hands were bound behind their backs with laces taken from their own boots, and their eyes were blindfolded with rags or bits of clothing. Some of the bodies were found unclothed and unshod. Examination of the bodies discloses that the prisoners were shot at very close range. Every body was riddled by a number of bullets. Considering that some of the bodies were found unclad and stripped of all their personal belongings, including identity discs, it has been possible to identify only six by name.
HUSHNEYAH VILLAGE: The murdered Israeli POWs were found all together in a field near the village, their hands bound, their eyes blindfolded. Of the seven bodies, only three could be identified by name. Five of the bodies were found with their upper parts bare. Two other bodies were discovered dressed only in undershirts. All the bodies were found, as said, together in one spot. Beside the bodies were found shirts of the murdered men. On examination, it was seen that the shirts were intact and not pierced by bullets. Empty cartridges were found only a meter away from the bodies. One of the murdered men was found with his legs bound.
TEL FARIS: Here the bodies were found in a ditch, the hands of all three of the murdered men tied with rope. The men were clad in their underwear only. All had been shot at very close range. All have been identified by name.
MOUNT HERMON STRONG POINT: At least 31 soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces surrendered on Oct. 8 to a Syrian force which surrounded the position. According to the testimony of Syrian officers and men who were taken prisoner by the Israeli Defense Forces, the last 5 of the 31 Israeli soldiers to emerge from the strong-point when the garrison gave itself up were shot dead while their hands were raised and they were unarmed. The testimony in question affirms that the 5 Israeli prisoners who were shot were murdered on the specific orders of the officer commanding the Syrian battalion on the spot. Two other Israeli soldiers were murdered as the line of prisoners marched towards the neighboring Syrian strong point. According to the evidence of the Syrian prisoners, orders were given to the Syrian escort to kill every Israeli prisoner who lagged behind. Two of the prisoners had difficulty in walking because they were wounded, and they were accordingly shot dead by the Syrian soldiers.
Five photographs are attached which show with horrifying clarity what was seen by the Israeli soldiers who found the bodies of the murdered Israeli prisoners of war. It is possible to distinguish plainly that the prisoners were concentrated in a single group and then were shot dead at point-blank range. It can also be seen that all of them had been blindfolded with bits of clothing and rags, and that the hands of every one of them had been bound behind his back.
PLANS EMANATED FROM CENTRAL AUTHORITY: Tekoah stated: “The fact that four separate groups of bodies of Israeli prisoners of war were found in different places leads to the conclusion that in this war methodical murder was perpetrated in accordance with plans and orders emanating from a high central authority. The murder of prisoners of war constitutes a violation of Article 13 of the Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of prisoners of war. Under Article 13, the deliberate murder of a prisoner of war is a grave violation of the Convention. Needless to say, the murder of prisoners of war constitutes the most serious imaginable infringement of the whole basis of the Convention and of the principles of humanity accepted among civilized peoples.”
The Israeli envoy added: “So as not to cause additional anguish to the families of the murdered men, the Government of Israel has refrained until now from bringing these dreadful facts, in all their tragic detail, to the knowledge of the general public. Since, however, the story has been widely reported in the press, the Government of Israel regards it as its bounden duty to bring the shocking findings which have come to light to the knowledge of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Government of Syria bears unequivocal responsibility for these methodical crimes.
DEMANDS OF THE ISRAEL GOVERNMENT: “The Government of Israel calls upon the International Committee of the Red Cross to take, at once, the necessary steps to condemn the barbaric and disgusting crimes that have been described, and to ensure that proper and full protection be extended to Israeli prisoners of war,” Tekoah stated. “It demands that every means be taken immediately to guarantee the health, welfare and honor of the Israeli prisoners of war held captive in Syria.”