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Bar Lev: Russian Planning Detectable in Recent Egyptian Air, Ground Operations

Lt. Gen. Haim Bar Lev, Chief of Staff of Israel’s armed forces, says that Russian planning is detectable in the changed style and tactics of recent Egyptian air and ground operations in the Suez Canal zone. But the execution of the Russian plans is still “very much Egyptian” and, “on the whole deficient,” Gen. Bar Lev said in an interview prepared for publication tomorrow in the Jerusalem Post. Speaking of Israeli tactics, Gen. Bar Lev said they were no longer based on retaliation but on continuous military activity, the basic criterion being whether a certain military operation would serve Israel’s objectives. He said the objectives in the Suez Canal zone were to postpone an all-out conflict and to achieve a situation as close as possible to an actual cease-fire. Asked if Israel’s sole reply to Soviet military intervention in Egypt was by the Israel Air Force, Gen. Bar Lev replied, “We do, of course, have other means but are for obvious reasons not going into any details.” The Israeli general said that neither Israel nor Egypt were utilizing their full capability to inflict punishment on the other. “They could, theoretically, send a plane or two through to Tel Aviv,” Gen. Bar Lev remarked.

Continuing, he observed, “It was Nasser himself who said recently on television that it was possible to launch attacks on (Israeli) civilian targets, but the problem was, what would happen afterwards.” He said Israel too has “held back.” He said Israel’s defense forces had “an ace or two up its sleeve” and “retaliation needn’t necessarily be of the same coin.” Gen. Bar Lev said Israel couldn’t force Egypt to observe the cease-fire and, from the Egyptian point of view, they had to renounce it. “We must understand that the Egyptians cannot at one and the same time tolerate our presence on the (Suez) Canal and aspire to leadership of the Arab world, clamor for a political solution totally unacceptable to us and remain sitting quietly on their side of the canal.” Gen. Bar Lev indicated that he had little respect for the prowess of Egypt’s Army and Air Force despite some improvement shown under Russian tutelage. He said the Egyptian Air Force remained “at a generally low level.” He observed that, “As long as the Egyptians refuse to honor the cease-fire there will be sacrifices along the Suez Canal.”

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