Egyptian Overflights Along Suez Canal Continue to Puzzle Israelis

Israelis were still puzzling today over the reason for three Egyptian overflights of Israeli positions along the Suez Canal in the past 24 hours. The flights on Sunday and Monday brought stiff Israeli protests and formal complaints lodged with the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO). There was no repetition of the flights today and no indication that they were anything more than technical violations of the cease-fire. The Egyptian Sukhoi-7 fighter-bombers did not attack and were not fired upon by Israeli forces who are apparently under orders not to shoot unless shot at. The nationality of the pilots is not known. The Israeli communiques referred to UAR–meaning Egyptian–planes. According to some observers, the overflights were intended to impress young Egyptian officers who are restive over the cease-fire that Egypt is alert and unbending in its attitude toward Israel. Such demonstrations are considered necessary for home consumption because the post-Nasser regime of President Anwar Sadat is far from being firmly entrenched, Israeli sources said.

Other observers believe the Egyptians were trying to show that they accept the cease-fire only in its narrowest sense, namely that anything is permissible short of shooting. Still another view holds that the overflights were ordered to counter alleged reconnaissance flights over Egyptian positions by high altitude American U-2 planes. Egypt has protested formally to the U.S. A spokesman in Cairo claimed yesterday that the U-2s were photographing Egyptian positions and turning the pictures over to Israel. Apart from the overflights there were no signs of unusual activity on the Egyptian side of the canal. The Jordanian and Syrian borders were also quiet this week. But sporadic shelling was reported along the Lebanese border. Several mortar shells were fired at Metullah from Lebanese territory this morning, from the direction of Kela village. No casualties or damage was reported. Israeli forces returned the fire.

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