Cease-fire Begins: Sporadic Fighting Continues in Sinai, No Quiet on Syrian Front

About 20 minutes after the official time for the cease-fire on the southern front, the cease-fire went into effect at 7:12 p.m. It was quiet all along the front and from some of the positions the voices of singing soldiers could be heard. Only minutes earlier the air had been filled with phosphoric shells, the explosion of mortar shells and the staccato hammering of machineguns and automatic fire. Tanks were roaming the sand dunes and on roads that lead northwards to Ismailia and westwards on the Ismailia-Cairo road as well as southward to the Suez Canal south of the Bitter Lakes.

Following the government’s decision to accept the Security Council’s resolution, the Chief of Staff ordered all Israeli forces at the Egyptian front to hold their fire as of 6:52 p.m. local time as long as the Egyptians also honored the cease-fire. Fire did not, however, cease at the deadline. The war went on in full ferocity. It seemed as if the Arabs wanted to use up all the ammunition they had in their magazines before they held their fire. But gradually the shooting subsided and from the central sector of the Suez Canal front where Israelis are deep inside Egypt and some 50 miles from Cairo a report came in at 7:20 p.m. that some five minutes earlier quiet was reported in the area.

The fact that it was not Israel that asked for the cease-fire but the Egyptians through their Russian patrons, in itself tends to point out the great Israeli achievement of this fourth war between Israel and the Arabs. This appraisal was expressed in military circles here and was included in a statement made by Defense Minister Moshe Dayan this afternoon while visiting the Israeli enclave on the western side of the Suez Canal. Dayan said that Israel had not requested and had had no need to ask for a cease-fire. But once a cease-fire is proposed it should be accepted in such a way as to be binding on all belligerent parties and should apply to the lines existing at the time of the cessation of hostilities.

Indeed, the last hours prior to the cease-fire, Israeli forces on the west bank of the canal made an effort to establish their position as far as they could reach. The Israeli forces dashed north-wards toward Ismailia, reached Lake Timsah and the outskirts of Ismailia. They dashed southwards and reached the Suez Canal well south of the Bitter Lakes, knocking out as many Egyptian tanks as they could. “We lost count of them” said a senior Israeli officer tonight. Maj. Gen. Shlomo Gazit said that the cease-fire appeared generally effective on the Egyptian front although some sporadic firing continued after the deadline. He said “there is no cease-fire on the Syrian front since the Damascus government has not accepted the Security. Council’s call.” Earlier Dayan said that if cease-fire comes into effect “We shall be able to group here (on the west bank of the canal) very effectively. High terrain commands the entire plain and may afford our forces advantages in the fighting, should hostilities be resumed.”

Israelis claim to control an area of well over 1300 square kilometers on the west bank of the canal and to have cleared this area of scores of anti-aircraft, SAM missiles, artillery batteries and military installations, enabling the Israeli Air Force freedom of action especially in providing ground support. The Israelis also claim to control all three communication lines from Suez to Cairo – two roads and the railway line. Egyptian aircraft losses today were put at 11 planes including another Mirage. The Egyptians, though controlling two sections of the east bank of the canal, paid for it by losing 240 aircraft and 1000 tanks according to Israeli sources. Their losses in men amounts to many thousands, the sources said.

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