JERUSALEM (Sep. 21)
Israel troops moved into the demilitarized El Auja zone near the Gaza border last night in a move designed to force Egyptian compliance with the terms of the armistice agreement and with previous promises to remove two military posts illegally within the zone. The Israelis took up positions inside Israel territory but in the demilitarized zone set up by the armistice pact.
All was quiet today as Israel patrols guarded the area and United Nations observers arrived to investigate the situation. UN truce chief Maj. Gen. E.L.M. Burns who was scheduled to go to Cairo today, changed his plans and remained here. He called at the Israel Foreign Ministry to seek a “full explanation” of the move. (In Cairo, Col Salah Gohar head of the Palestine division of the Egyptian War Ministry, asserted that when the Israelis occupied positions at Nizana they imprisoned a UN truce observer and wounded three Egyptian soldiers.)
The Israel troops have been instructed to observe the cease-fire and Israel has indicated its willingness to withdraw them when Egypt removes its two posts, Israel also charged that the Egyptians have been destroying border markers erected in the area by an Israel surveying team which has been accompanied by UN observers. The surveyors have come under fire from the two Egyptian outposts, Israel charged in a statement by a Foreign Ministry spokesman who announced the move.
U.N. TRUCE CHIEF INFORMED OF THE MOVE; ASKS FOR TROOPS REMOVAL
Gen. Burns, who met with Arthur Lourie, deputy director general of the Israel Foreign Ministry, and Joseph Tekoa, the Israel delegate to the Gaza pacification talks, called upon Israel to remove the troops. He was given firm assurances that this would be done as soon as Egypt withdrew her forces which were illegally stationed in the demilitarized zone and undertook to cease interfering with the border demarcation project. He was also informed fully of the details of the Israel military movement.
Meanwhile Maj. Francois Giacommagi, head of the Israel-Egyptian Mixed Armistice Commission, informed Israel that he was sending UN observers to the scene to take up positions along the border. He asked that they be permitted to travel freely throughout the zone. Permission was granted immediately.
(In Washington State Department sources indicated concern over the Israel move. No official comment was forthcoming, however, and the Department was awaiting further reports from American diplomats in Israel and Egypt.)
Explaining the background of the Israel move, the Foreign Ministry spokesman said that in a large-scale action and in deliberate violation of the armistice agreement, Egyptian Army units have pulled down and destroyed markers along the international border between Nizana and the demilitarized zone. He revealed that this information came from a UN observers’ report which had just reached the Foreign Ministry.
EGYPT CHARGED WITH “DELIBERATE SABOTAGE” BY ISRAEL
“This act was deliberate sabotage on Egypt’s part and came as the culmination of a long series of other Egyptian violations dating back to the beginning of this year.” the spokesman stated. He detailed a number of violations, including attempts to use force against the Israel surveyors and accompanying UN observers. Israel’s repeated protests were unavailing, he stressed.
As a result of the border marking process it was established that the Egyptians had moved their positions into Israel territory inside the demilitarized zone in contravention of the armistice pact. Repeated Egyptian promises to remove these outposts have remained unfulfilled and these same posts have been involved in offensive actions against the surveyors, the Israel spokesman charged.
“This state of anarchy in the demarcation zone” continued for about seven months he noted adding that according to the UN observers’ report all Egyptian military posts in the area received instructions on March 25 of this year to fire on any person, including UN personnel who approached the border. In fact, the spokesman stressed, Egyptian positions in the demilitarized zone opened fire three times in March and six times in subsequent months and some of these firings were accompanied by forays into the demilitarized zone and wanton demolition–all in violation of the armistice pact.
Announcing that the Israel troops would be removed after the Egyptians withdrew their posts and agreed not to tamper with the border markers, the Israel spokesman said that Israel is ready to go back to the original agreement and carry through the border marking project jointly with Egypt. In such an event the marking posts would be set right on the border lines. He stressed that Israel reserves the right, however, to complete the marking of the border on her own, setting up posts in her territory and taking whatever measures she deems necessary to protect them.