TEL AVIV (Dec. 13)
Important political significance was seen here today in President Anwar Sadat’s firing of the Egyptian Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Saadeddin Shazli on the eve of the Geneva peace conference and his replacement by Maj. Gen. Mohammed Gemassi. the chief Egyptian negotiator at the Kilometer 101 cease-fire talks.
The major reshuffling of the Egyptian high command which included the firings of the commanders of the Second and Third Armies, was viewed in Israeli circles as an important victory for President Sadat and his policy of negotiation.
Shazli and a group of army officers around him had been outspoken in demanding renewal of the war by Egypt and were opposed to the Geneva conference. His ouster is expected to give Sadat a freer hand at the peace parley. The dismissals of Shazli and of Maj. Gens; Abdel Moneim Khalil and Abdel Moneim Wasel, commanders of the Second and Third Armies respectively, was motivated primarily by the “military mistakes” that allowed an Israeli task force to punch a hole through Egyptian lines and establish a salient on the west bank of the Suez Canal during the second week of the Yom Kippur War.
After that fiasco, the Egyptian armor remained pinned down in the narrow bridgehead it had gained on the east bank of the Suez Canal in the first hours of the war and the initiative went to. Israeli forces. Sadat is said to believe that Shazli supplied him with incorrect reports as to the extent of the Israeli breakthrough. Sadat is also believed to hold Shazli directly responsible for Egypt’s failure to follow up the initial success of its Oct. 6 surprise attack and penetrate deeply into Sinai.
Shazli’s successor. Gemassi, has been a rising star in the Egyptian military hierarchy. His conduct as chief of operations at general headquarters and as chief negotiator at Kilometer 101, recently won the praise of the War Minister, Gen. Ahmed Ismail, who recommended him for the Chief of Staff position. Gen. Aharon Yariv, Israel’s chief negotiator at the Kilometer 101 talks, spoke well of Gemassi today. He described the 53-year-old Egyptian officer as a pleasant man with a sense of humor. “He is a person one can talk to and yet he can be very tough in negotiations,” Yariv said. (By Yitzhak Shargil)