Israel Weighs Moves to End Egypt’s Harassment of Chartered Shipping

Top-level consultations will be held in the Israel Foreign Ministry tomorrow to decide on what action should be taken to combat continued Egyptian harassment of Israeli-bound shipping in the Suez Canal, a Ministry spokesman said today.

The decision followed the arrival of the Israel-chartered Norwegian freighter S.S. Mars at Haifa with a report that Egyptian authorities had detained the ship at Port Suez for four days during which the crew had been refused permission either to bring fresh water aboard ship or to leave the vessel.

“Not a single Israel-chartered ship has been permitted to pass through the canal without some deliberate delay,” the spokesman added. “This policy is a flagrant violation of Egypt’s obligation to safeguard freedom of navigation.”

SPOKESMAN CHARGES “DELIBERATE HARASSMENT”

The spokesman said the treatment given the Mars was another example of “deliberate harassment of Israel-bound shipping” and that Israel took “an especially grave vies” of the Egyptian refusal to provide water to the crew.

The spokesman said the Egyptians were following a deliberate harassment technique based on a device of informing ships in port Suez that orders had not been received from Cairo to allow the vessels to join Suez convoys, a policy not restricted to Israel-chartered boats.

He said it was evident that Egypt had established a policy that Israel-bound, Israel-chartered ships could not cross the Canal routinely but in each case required special permission from Cairo. This was seen here as an open Egyptian admission that political considerations were the basis for permitting passage. The fact that Cairo’s permission was needed was seen here as technical proof of the dominance of political motives. It was expected that Israel would make use of this fact when a decision was reached on what steps to take to combat the situation.

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