WASHINGTON (Aug. 12)
The State Department said today it had been informed by Israeli Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin that Soviet anti-aircraft missiles were placed on the Egyptian edge of the Suez Canal four hours after the cease-fire took effect at 1 a.m. Cairo time last Saturday. State Department spokesman Robert J. McCloskey said: “We are looking into that report. As far as documentation is concerned, we have discussed this with the Israeli government and will be discussing this again.” In announcing the shooting halt last Friday, Secretary of State William P. Rogers and Mr. McCloskey termed it a “standstill cease-fire”; department sources said today that the “cease-fire” has been “effective,” but declined comment on the “standstill” aspect. Israel was said to have photographed the new SAM sites and presented the evidence to Washington via Ambassador Rabin.
It was not immediately clear whether the missiles were SAM-2s or SAM-3s. The cease-fire agreement prohibits military deployment within 32 miles of the canal on either side. The Israeli government accepted the cease-fire, risking the walkout of the Gahal faction and the breakup of the three-year coalition, largely on President Nixon’s assurances that military buildups would be prevented by surveillance. The new missiles were said by sources to have been borne to the canal front from 20 miles away in 30 trucks. There was speculation that the missiles may have been placed immediately prior to the beginning of the cease-fire, and that they were not noticed by Israeli surveillance until the sun started coming up. The administration, however, probably would deem the move a violation in spirit of the cease-fire by Egypt, which, while not formally accepting the ban on buildups, did not reject it either.
(In the Washington Post today, columnist Joseph Alsop said SAM-2s and SAM-3s had been emplaced in the “special combat zone” west of the canal a few days before the cease-fire in defiance of Secretary Rogers’ warning to Soviet Ambassador Anatoly F. Dobrynin that Soviet penetration into the 19-mile-wide strip paralleling the waterway would be regarded by the United States as an offensive move. “The main point,” Mr. Alsop wrote. “Is that all these Soviet forward moves were made after the American government took its famous initiative for peace. The more wishful American analysts are now claiming that the advanced missile emplacements in the special combat zone have been abandoned. They are probably wrong, as they have been quite regularly wrong in the past.” Mr. Alsop, who has followed a hard-line pro-Israel stance, said “Simple common sense ought to warn the American policy makers that appalling dangers may lurk in talks with the Egyptians and their Soviet masters because of the new situation.” (In New York, United Nations spokesmen said this afternoon they had no official word on the reports. They said they could not say whether missiles placements or other cease-fire violations had been observed by the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), but added that if there were any violations UNTSO would report them.)