UNITED NATIONS, N.Y. (Feb. 10)
The United Nations Emergency Force, the police group that guards the relative peace between Egypt and Israel, is being cut down further by the reduction of its strength from the present 4, 560 men and officers to 3, 959, it was announced officially by the United Nations Secretariat today.
UNEF’s former strength had been 7, 000 men and officers. The reduction of the present strength by 600 men, it was stated, is being carried out as the result of recommendations made recently by a survey team that examined UNEF’s operations for Secretary-General U Thant. The report had been adopted by the last General Assembly, which also approved a serious reduction in the UNEF budget. The 1966 budget had been set at $18, 519, 000, down by about $3, 500, 000 from the 1965 expenditures.
The UNEF’s “whittling” process has led some delegations to fear that further reductions in money and personnel might lead ultimately to the liquidation of the Force. The UNEF stands on guard on the Gaza Strip side of the border with Israel, along the Egyptian-Israeli demarcation line in the Sinai Desert, and at Sharm el-Sheikh, an Egyptian promontory overlooking the Gulf of Akaba and the Straits of Tiran.
Prior to Israel’s war against Egypt in 1956-57, those Sharm el-Sheikh heights held Egyptian artillery which prevented Israel from enjoying freedom of shipping to and from the port of Eilat. Now the UNEF outpost guarantees Israel’s freedom of shipping in the area.