TEL AVIV (Jul. 30)
A gang of terrorists attempting to infiltrate Israel by drifting across the border in a balloon was foiled when the balloon came down near Tannin village in south Lebanon. According to one report, the 3-4 terrorists were killed in the crash but other reports from Beirut said no bodies were found near the scene, indicating that the would-be infiltrators escaped.
The story, unconfirmed, was published in Yediot Achronot yesterday. While Israeli security circles were skeptical, they made it known that the early warning systems have been improved to cover possible infiltration attempts by air at low levels that would avoid radar detection. Terrorists from south Lebanon have repeatedly tried to infiltrate Israel by land or sea routes and, in most cases, have been thwarted.
To have made an attempt by balloon, which depends entirely on wind drift to reach its objective, the terrorists must have had the assistance of Syria the only hostile neighbor with sophisticated meteorological equipment to provide accurate data on wind direction and weather changes, Israeli sources said. According to these sources, Syria is actively promoting terrorist assaults on Israel, but in a manner that would not incriminate the Damascus government.
Meanwhile, it was reported from Damascus yesterday that Syrian President Hafez Assad met with former Texas Governor John Connelly, contender for the Republican Presidential nomination who dropped out early in the primaries race. They reportedly discussed Middle East developments. Connally arrived in Damascus Sunday on what was described as a private visit to the region. Assad met earlier in the week with former Undersecretary of State Joseph Sisco who is currently on a private tour of Middle East capitals.