Soviet Naval Forces Reported Sailing in Direction of Israel and Egypt

Defense Department sources revealed today that a Soviet naval force was sailing in the direction of Israel and Egypt to take a possible role in the Mideast crisis. The new information showed a change in Russian naval deployment in the Mediterranean. The Soviet cruiser, destroyers, frigates, submarines, and other craft had previously been shadowing the U.S. Sixth Fleet. The Russian ships are equipped with anti-aircraft missiles and surface-to-surface missiles.

A report from Ankara received here today simultaneously said that the Turkish Government was requested by the Soviet Union to grant rights for a Soviet naval flotilla of 10 warships to pass through the Dardanelles en route to the eastern end of the Mediterranean. The move was considered an indication of Moscow’s intention to strengthen the Arabs in their present conflict with Israel.

U.S. officials said tonight that the Mideast crisis remained highly inflammatory and that it was too soon to conclude that war danger had passed. State Department spokesman Robert McCloskey said “We are living through this hour by hour.” Administration sources said that the U.S. Government appreciated the Israeli Government’s policy of restraint. In appreciation, they indicated, the U.S. reassured Israel that America would honor its commitments.

A spokesman for the Department of State said today that the Government had “no comment” on reports that the Administration was preparing a compromise plan for Gulf of Akaba transit that would bar Israeli ships but permit passage of American and other ships bound for Eilat, It was believed that the purported plan had not yet been proposed to Israeli authorities.

A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy said today that reported compromise proposals for Gulf of Akaba passage involving denial of transit to Israeli flag ships had not been discussed with the Government of Israel. The spokesman said “no such proposals had ever been discussed with the Government of Israel.” He said “the attitude of the Government of Israel was made perfectly clear in the statement of Prime Minister Eshkol to the Knesset on Monday.

(Mr. Eshkol declared that “the Government of Israel has repeatedly stated its determination to exercise its freedom of passage through the Strait of Tiran and the Gulf of Akaba, and will defend it in case of need. This is a supreme national intention on which no concession is possible and no compromise is admissible. It is clear to us, and I feel it is now clear to the nations of the world that so long as the blockade exists, peace is in danger.”)

Sen. Jacob K. Javits, New York Republican, said yesterday after a meeting with Secretary of State Dean Rusk that the United States must prevent the Israelis from being “driven into the sea.” He said this should be done in concert with other nations if possible but alone if necessary. I cannot conceive our country abandoning the principle of freedom of the sea,” he declared. He pointed out that “this is not only a struggle for the preservation of Israel, but vital interests of others, particularly maritime nations are involved.”

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