JERUSALEM (Nov. 13)
Israel charged Egypt with two more cease-fire violations along the Suez Canal today and difficulties continued to mount over checkpoints along the Suez-Cairo road, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and Gen. Ensio Siilasvuo of Finland, commander of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) met here this afternoon to discuss the problem. Israeli sources say that the checkpoint at kilometer 119 on the Suez-Cairo road has been turned over to UNEF in accordance with the six-point agreement signed by Israel and Egypt Sunday. They claimed that UN forces tried to set up an additional checkpoint which blocked Israeli traffic to the town of Suez and that this was dismantled yesterday by Israeli soldiers. Other sources said, however, that the Israeli army continues to hold the 119 kilometer checkpoint and that UNEF has set up its own checkpoint close by.
According to unconfirmed reports today, Israeli soldiers engaged in a brief scuffle with Finnish soldiers of UNEF when the latter attempted to set up a checkpoint on the outskirts of the town of Suez Israel has insisted on control of the road over which non-military supplies pass to Suez town and to the encircled Egyptian Third Army Corps on the east bank of the canal. According to Israel’s interpretation of the six-point agreement with Egypt, its transfer of the checkpoint to UNEF does not mean relinquishing control of the road. Dayan, accompanied by Chief of Staff Gen. David Elazar inspected the checkpoints along the Suez-Cairo road and visited the outskirts of Suez earlier today. Their tour coincided with one by Siilasvuo, and the two parties met and saluted but did not confer on the spot. Dayan’s meeting with Siilasvuo, who was confirmed yesterday as UNEF commander in the Security Council, was arranged for 3 p.m. local time in Jerusalem.
It was arranged after Dayan consulted with Premier Golda Meir on her return last night from the Socialist International meeting in London. The road issue is directly linked to a POW exchange. According to the six-point agreement, “As soon as UN checkpoints are established on the Cairo-Suez road there will be an exchange of all prisoners of war,” But the Egyptians apparently interpret the agreement to mean that Israel must turn over the road to UNEF. The differences were not resolved at the latest meeting between senior Israeli and Egyptian officers at the checkpoints yesterday. Their next meeting has been set for tomorrow.
(At the United Nations, Secretary General Kurt Waldheim issued a protest today regarding the checkpoint incident. According to a UN spokesman, Waldheim called Acting Israeli Ambassador Yakov Doron at the Israeli Mission to the UN to protest “the action and the situation that has resulted from it.” In another development a UN spokesman disclosed today that Undersecretary General Roberto E. Guyer left yesterday on a tour of Middle East capitals to discuss the Middle East situation, and the question of prisoners of war held both by Israel and Egypt and Syria. This is reportedly the first time the UN has taken any overt action on the POW issue. Guyer will visit Jerusalem, Cairo and Damascus.)
The cease-fire violations by Egypt were the second in two successive days. Israel charged that Egyptian troops opened fire twice at Israeli units building fortifications on the west bank of the Suez Canal in the Bitter Lake area and at two Israeli bulldozers preparing a ramp near Lake Timsah. An Israeli spokesman said that unlike previous cease-fire violations when the Egyptians shot at Israelis in disputed areas, today’s shooting was in an undisputed area where fortification work was continuing. Israel today also accused Syria of opening fire in the Mazraat Bet Jan area in Syria, the closest point to Damascus reached by Israeli forces when the cease-fire went into effect Oct. 22. According to an Israeli spokesman, the shooting developed into an artillery duel which lasted nearly three hours.