JERUSALEM (Jan. 7)
The Egyptians will resume their war of attrition sometime next month. well informed circles here today told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. According to information reaching here, the Egyptians now have more than 1000 artillery guns in the Suez Canal zone facing Israel in addition to the SAM-2 and SAM-3 missiles. The expectation that the war will be unleashed soon after the current cease-fire expires on Feb. 5, was bolstered by the fact that the Egyptians also have a Soviet pledge to defend the skies over Egypt. Israelis are absolutely confident that they will be able to hold the Suez Canal bank but fear it will result in heavier sacrifices than last year when Israeli air superiority, prior to the missiles’ installation, was unquestioned. Israeli sources noted that Israel has a United States pledge to intervene against an invasion of Soviet troops leaving Israeli forces to tackle any purely Egyptian invasion. But, sources observed, it is not yet clear to the Israelis at what point Soviet assistance turns an Egyptian invasion into a Soviet invasion.
(According to the New York Times’ Washington Correspondent, Tad Szulc, the Soviet military presence in Egypt “is estimated by United States officials here (in Washington) at 12,000 men, with no indication that this level of deployment is changing significantly.” Szulc added, that of this total, “thousands of Soviet officers and soldiers are believed to be manning SAM-2 and SAM-3 missiles in Egypt, including nearly 200 sites near the Suez Canal, according to American sources.” He added that most of the Soviet forces are believed to be “engaged directly or indirectly in operating the Egyptian defense system,” and that Soviet pilots are still reported to be flying MIG jet fighter-bombers on patrol and training missions.) The appraisal here is that the Egyptians will extend the cease-fire on Feb. 5 but sometime later, when Israel refuses to agree to a timetable for withdrawal from occupied territories, pressure from the Egyptian officer corps will force the UAR to resume the war. President Anwar Sadat is insisting that a precondition for a cease-fire extension is an Israeli timetable for withdrawal. Israel has maintained that “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the 1967 conflict to secure, recognized and agreed boundaries (is) to be determined in the peace agreements.”