LONDON (Dec. 21)
Reports of an alleged heavy build-up of Israeli military striking power along the East Bank of the Suez Canal, which may be presumably in preparation for a “blitz” deep into Egypt before Nasser can deploy his newly-acquired Russian weapons, were featured today in Cairo and Beirut dispatches to The Times of London and the London Daily Telegraph. The Times said Egyptian army officers are urging an attack on Israel before Israel hits them, but are restrained by the Russians “who know that Egypt is not ready to fight again.” According to The Times, the Soviet Ambassador in Cairo, Y. Nogradov, has so informed Nasser and warned him that Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev, who is scheduled to visit Cairo this month, “will tell the Arabs to hold their horses.”
The Times said that “foreign observers in Cairo are worried by the sudden build-up of air and ground forces on the East Bank of the Suez Canal” and the construction of forward fighter air strips only a few hundred yards from the Canal banks. The observers were reported saying that Israel appears “to have moved into position to strike deeply into Egyptian defenses which are not as strong or well prepared as Nasser’s words may have led some to believe, even around Cairo and Alexandria.” Egyptian army officers who fear that Nasser would not survive as president after another defeat by Israel, “are itching to attack” and, if Nasser “is unwilling to take a quick initiative in a military situation which they honestly believe is becoming more dangerous every day, they might have to take the initiative on their own,” The Times reported.
The Daily Telegraph said in its report from Beirut that “the trouble and expense incurred in the construction of landing strips by Israel can only mean that Israel contemplates a strike at the defense positions in depth, designed to protect Cairo, Alexandria and the Nile Delta before Egypt’s new Russian weapons are deployed.” According to the report, the new tactical landing strips are considered significant because Israel already possesses two former Egyptian air bases, at Bir Gifgafa and Bir Thamada, 70 miles east of the Suez Canal.