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Blockade of Egyptian Third Army Israel’s Trump Card at Geneva Talks by Gil Sedan, JTA Jerusalem Corr

The Israeli Navy is maintaining a 24-hour sea blockade of the encircled Egyptian Third Army, helping to preserve Israel’s trump card at the Geneva peace conference. The blockade is being conducted with total effectiveness by 40-ton Israeli gun boats of the “Swift” class, nicknamed “Dabur-im” (bumble-bees) by their crews, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency learned today. The tiny vessels crisscross the Gulf of Sitez on a round-the-clock basis making it Impossible for the Egyptians to sneak ammunition or other banned supplies to the Third Army, at least by sea

Recent reports that the Third Army has been supplied with ammunition prompted this JTA correspondent to visit the Suez front and accompany one of the gunboats on a patrol mission. The vessels, designed by the United States Navy to patrol rivers in Vietnam, have proven excellent sea boats in the frequently rough waters of the Gulf of Suez. During the Yom Kippur War they sank Egyptian gunboats three times their size.

They have been in service with the Israel Navy for three years. A relatively small number of them are based at the former Egyptian port of Adabiyah on the western shores of the Gulf of Suez which Israeli forces occupied a few hours before the cease-fire went into effect Oct. 24. The patrol missions take the gunboats on the east-west courses across the Gulf. They are within range of Egyptian shore batteries and the crews are constantly drilling or on the alert. There is keen competition between the crews to see which one can shave more seconds off the time It takes to man action stations when general quarters sounds.

The 22-year-old skipper of one of the gunboats told this reporter that he loved the craft but wished It was “Just a few meters longer and a little faster.” Then it would be “the ideal vessel to bo on in time of war.” The young officer said he preferred the “Daburim” to Israel’s larger. more sophisticated gunboats. “This is much more real, more classic navigation” he said.

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