JERUSALEM (Feb. 2)
Tension continued to build in Israel today as the end of the first extension of the cease-fire on the Suez Canal front neared without a specific commitment by Egypt to extend it. The general headquarters of the Armed Forces instructed all of its units to he on the alert in the event the Egyptians begin shooting on Friday when the cease-fire runs out. In a related development, Israel charged today that, for the second day in a row, Egyptian warplanes violated the stand-still phase of the cease-fire by overflights. Officials said that two Sukhoy-7 bombers flew over Israeli positions in the afternoon, and that two MIG-21s flew over Israeli positions later. Israel did not shoot at the intruding planes, the officials added. In a complaint filed with the United Nations Truce Supervisory team, Israel complained that MIG-21 interceptors flew over the canal twice yesterday. Israeli military officials reported that the massive buildup of Egyptian fortifications along the canal had apparently been completed and no such activity was reported today. The officials said that they were confident that the Israeli forces would have “the right answer” to any contingency that may develop Friday.
The officials also reported that the Egyptians had concentrated seven armor and infantry divisions, totally some 80,000 troops, along the front line of the canal, which they called “a very dense deployment.” They also reported that some 1,300 Russian-made tanks were in position along the canal, as well as more than 1,000 artillery pieces ranging from the huge 203-mm guns to heavy mortars. Antiaircraft now in firing position consists of SAM-2s operated by Egyptian personnel and SAM-3s operated by Soviet personnel, the officials said. The missiles cover almost the entire canal area and in some places as deep as eight miles into the Israel side of the waterway.
They reported also substantial assemblies of canal crossing equipment at several points where special sites had been prepared, cut into a high rampart that rune along the canal’s west bank. There are special approach roads to those landing sites. Troops on the Israeli side reported seeing jeeps with senior Egyptian officers coming and going on the front line and for the first time Egyptian soldiers were observed wearing helmets and carrying arms. (Premier Kosygin said in Moscow last night that the Middle East situation had reached a crucial stage and he called on Israel to take “concrete peaceful actions” to avoid “worsening” the situation. He spoke at a dinner at the Kremlin for a high-ranking Syrian delegation, led by Prime Minister Lt. Gen. Hafez al-Assad, renewing Soviet pledges of support for the Arab states. In a reference to the expiring Suez Canal cease-fire, he said attempts by Israel “to bargain from positions of rude force, will not lead to a solution of these issues but only make the situation more acute.”)