TEL AVIV (Jun. 23)
The Israeli-Syrian disengagement process appears to be proceeding smoothly and indications are that it will be completed by Tuesday according to the agreed schedule. Israeli troops pulled back today from the last of the area captured by Israel during the Yom Kippur War. The fourth and final stage of disengagement will see Israel’s withdrawal from the Heights town of Kuneitra, captured in the 1967 Six-Day War and from the western slopes of Mt. Hermon.
There were no ceremonies when the Israeli forces moved out of the 72 sq. kilometer western edge of the Yom Kippur War enclave. A few hours before the tanks and vehicles departed, Israeli and United Nations officers visited three villages which had been under Israeli control since Oct. The villagers who remained there had no complaints. Among the areas handed over by the Israelis today was a military cemetery containing the bodies of 780 Syrian and Morrocan soldiers killed during the war. The UN officer praised the way the Israelis had maintained the cemetery.
In Jerusalem, UN spokesman Rudolf Stajduhar said inspections by the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) after the first two stages had been satisfactory and had revealed no problems or infringements of the Geneva agreement. He said both sides had decided to forego an inspection after the third stage is completed tomorrow when Syrian troops move into the area Israel had turned over to UN forces today. He said the final inspection will be on Wednesday and after that there would be inspections every two weeks unless more frequent inspections are requested by either side. Stajduhar said that since the disengagement agreement began there has been no destruction by Israel of any civilian buildings or installations although military installations have been destroyed.
The schedule now calls for Israel to leave Kuneitra and the western slopes of Mt. Hermon on Tuesday afternoon. UN troops will take over and two hours later the UN will turn Kuneitra over to the Syrians for civil administration only. The Hermon will remain under UN control. Stajduhar said he did not know how many Syrian civilians would return to the buffer zone around the Kuneitra region. He said the Syrian authorities will allow civilians in only gradually for fear of mines and other explosive devices. Israeli sources say that Israel believes that the more civilians who return the better as long as they are not terrorists and go about the task of rebuilding their lives in the area. Stajduhar said the UN will begin tomorrow staking out the boundaries of the buffer zone using black-painted oil drums along the fields and blue and white drums at road crossings.