TEL AVIV (Feb. 25)
Tension along the Israel-Egyptian border grew considerably today following reports that Egyptian army units have entered the Gaza Strip which has hitherto been guarded by United Nations Emergency Force units and locally recruited police. The reports said that the Egyptian military units are virtually isolating the posts of the UN forces.
The deployment represented the first time that substantial Egyptian forces have been in the area since UNEF contingents began to patrol the Gaza-Israel border after the 1956 seizure by Israel of the strip and subsequent withdrawal by Israel forces.
It was also reported that for the past several days, substantial movements of Russian-equipped Egyptian troops have been observed from the Israel side in many sections of the Egyptian-Israel border areas. There were unconfirmed reports that two Egyptian divisions have been deployed in the Gaza Strip border area. Other Egyptian units were reported to have been stationed in Abou Ageila and Juscima, sites of sharp battles during the 1956 Sinai campaign.
The United Arab Republic also was reported to be concentrating forces on the northern front. Only national guard units and gendarmes were reported to have participated in the huge parade in Damascus earlier this week where UAR President Nasser received a salute on the second anniversary of the Egyptian-Syrian merger. The Army remained deployed on the Israel border.
GOLDA MEIR TELLS FOREIGN AMBASSADORS OF ISRAEL’S ‘GRAVE VIEW’
Mrs, Golda Meir, Israel’s Foreign Minister, conferred today with ambassadors of several countries and told them that Israel took a "grave view" of the reported United Arab Republic troop concentrations on the Gaza Strip-Israel border.
Israel military sources indicated the Army was keeping a close watch all along the border. However, while the military authorities were taking necessary precautions, the atmosphere in Israel toward the UAR military activities was one more of curiosity than tension. Opinion was widespread in Israel that Nasser would not dare to unleash a major attack on the borders and that Israel would not currently initiate new retaliatory action.
(U. N. sources in New York said this morning they had received no information on UAR troop movements in the Gaza Strip and Sinai and were awaiting an Israeli letter. An indication that Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold did not take an overly serious view of the latest reported developments was that he left this afternoon on a trip to Stockholm.)
Observers here, speculating on Nasser’s reasons, noted that tension had been built up in recent weeks by Nasser’s absolute refusal to allow passage through the Suez Canal of Israel cargoes and Nasser’s statement Monday that the Tripartite Declaration of 1950, committing the United States, Britain and France to oppose violent changes of Israel-Arab borders, was dead.
Another theory was that the troop concentrations were intended to demonstrate the seriousness of Nasser’s warning that Israel implementation of plans to divert some of the Jordan River waters for Negev irrigation would mean war. Still another was that the troop concentrations were Nasser’s answer to a statement by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion that he did not think Nasser would attack.