TEL AVIV (Jan. 31)
The Suez Canal sector was reported quiet today after the 90-minute artillery flare-up yesterday and a military spokesman reported that there was no sign of activity along the Egyptian-held west bank of the canal.
Broadcasts over the Cairo Radio last night declared that Egypt had suspended all operations to clear the canal to permit the release of 15 merchant ships stranded in the southern portion of the waterway. The broadcasts blamed Israel for the suspension. The shooting yesterday followed Egyptian attempts to send survey boats into the canal’s northern sector. Israeli units fired warning shots at the craft. The Egyptians responded by shelling Israeli positions at Kantara and Dar Sueir.
Israel held that Egypt was violating the cease-fire agreement of last June when it sent boats into the northern sector of the canal without Israel’s prior assent. The agreement provided that neither side navigate or use the canal in any way without agreement by the other. Israel had agreed last week to Egyptian operations to clear the southern end of the canal to free the stranded merchant ships. Israel contended that Egypt’s attempt to enter the northern end of the canal yesterday constituted a violation of that agreement as well.