JERUSALEM (Dec. 27)
Israel has now officially established a naval base at its Gulf of Akaba port of Elath. The frigate Miznak, which arrived yesterday at Elath, has enough gunpower to outshoot any possible gun positions that Egypt might try to reestablish at the southernmost tip of the Sinai Peninsula overlooking the waterway from the Red Sea to Elath.
The arrival of the Miznak, which made a 42-day journey to Elath from Haifa, by way of the Cape of Good Hope, is being hailed by the Israeli press today as a major factor complementing the Sinai campaign. The press consensus is that opening of the new naval base, giving Israel a two-sea Navy–with Halfa on the Mediterranean, and Elath in the South–is an achievement of greater importance then any possible accomplishment on the diplomatic front.
Stationed at Elath, the Miznak’s guns command the site of former Egyptian batteries at Sharm el Sheikh, which kept Israel shipping from using the Gulf of Akaba Now, should the Egyptians try to rebuild the Sharm el Sheikh batteries, after Israel has completed troop withdrawals, the Miznak’s gunpower could still keep the gulf open, most of the newspapers here point out.
“There will be no retreat from Elath,” the Orthodox newspaper Hatzofeh declares. “The enemy’s attempt to erect new barriers against Elath shipping would immediately meet Israel naval power. The area, which has been held dear since the days when King Solomon’s mines were located there, will remain a base for trade and communication with Asia and Africa.” The Davar, leading pro-government laborite newspaper, states: “The way is now opened, not only to Israel but to all peoples, linking the continents in the same way as the Suez Canal.”
Further details about the Miznak’s trip from Haifa were revealed today. The frigate left Haifa November 6, immediately after Israel’s victorious conclusion of the Sinai campaign. When the warship bunkered at Capetown, South Africa, the officers and crew had orders to mingle as little as possible with the local Jewish community, lest the secret of the ship’s destination be revealed. Jews in Capetown invited the officers and crew to receptions which were declined by the Miznak’s personnel.
After refueling at Capetown, the Miznak proceeded northward. North of Djibouti the ship traveled in full blackout until it reached Elath. The Miznak is one of two frigates in Israelis navy. However, a third frigate, captured from the Egyptians after the ship had tried to shell Haifa, is now being reconditioned for Israeli use.