Israel Starts First Pullback; Undof Reports No Incidents

The Israeli army began today to pull back from the southeastern part of the territory it captured from the Syrians in the Yom Kippur War. The withdrawal, the first of four under the Israeli-Syrian disengagement agreement, will be completed by tomorrow. Officers of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) have begun marking the new line to be taken over by UNDOF as the Israelis move westward. As in the process used in the Sinai. UNDOF will hold the territory evacuated for 24 hours and then turn it over to Syrian forces. The Israeli evacuation included the transfer of military equipment and captured material and the blowing up of military installations.

Syrian civilians, meanwhile, are trying to speed up the Israeli evacuation and hundreds of them are making their way across the lines to their villages. Children who talked to Israeli newsmen said they were sent by their parents to make sure that the Israelis did not blow up their houses. They said that since the war they had been living in tents near the battlefield because the Syrian government would not let them settle near Damascus. Some Israeli soldiers seemed sorry to leave. “Too bad we have to leave,” one soldier said, “now that we are spending most of the time getting sun tanned.”

The UNDOF spokesman, Rudolf Stajduhar of Yugoslavia, told newsmen later that the disengagement is proceeding smoothly with “no major problems.” He said UN observers had reported some shooting in various places on the front line in the past few days, but they were considered “local and sporadic” incidents. He said neither side replied to the shootings and neither side lodged any complaints.

Stajduhar said that UNDOF headquarters in Damascus and the forward headquarters near Sasa were supervising the disengagement process. He said Israeli and Syrian officers consulted constantly with the UN officer in charge but did not talk directly to each other. Both sides were cooperating fully, the UN spokesman said, and he expected full implementation of the agreement by June 26, the date set in the Geneva accord.

After the Syrians move into the formerly Israeli-held territory on Saturday, two UNDOF inspection teams will tour both sides of the new line, examining the thinning-out arrangements and report back to UNDOF headquarters which will in turn report to both sides. Stajduhar said that UNDOF is already at full strength with 1217 out of the planned 1250 man-force consisting of troops from Austria and Peru supported by Canadian and Polish logistic forces.

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