Israeli authorities are consulting with the United States on what to do about the seriously deteriorating situation on the Syrian front where artillery and tank duels continued this morning for the 21st consecutive day. Sources here said Israel is faced with a decision either to remain passive returning Syrian fire only when provoked–or to launch offensive action aimed at silencing the Syrian batteries and tank guns.
The dilemma is two-fold, sources here indicated. If Israel holds its forces in restraint until U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger visits the Middle East again to try to work out a disengagement accord with Syria, Israel runs the risk of serious escalation and mounting casualties. Kissinger, presently honeymooning in Mexico, is not expected back in Washington until mid-April and probably will not visit the region before the end of this month.
On the other hand, if Israel launches an offensive operation. its outcome is unpredictable and might adversely effect the entire Middle East situation, the sources said. The Syrians meanwhile have made it clear that they intend to continue their escalation on the northern front. Yesterday Syrian news media departed from its usual factual reportage of events on the front and indulged in commentaries of a clearly provocative nature intended to increase tension.
This morning, Syrian artillery and tanks opened fire along the entire Golan front at 10 a.m. local time. Israeli forces returned the fire which was still continuing at noon. No casualties were reported on the Israeli side. Late this afternoon Syrians directed fire at the Israeli civilian settlements on the Golan Heights, causing a further escalation of fighting there. There were no casualties, but electric and water supply networks were damaged. An Israeli army spokesman said that as a result of the escalation and the observation that Syrian forces were also on special alert, the Israeli army has increased its forces in the north and the army has been placed on a higher state of alert.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.