TEL AVIV (Dec. 30)
Israeli forces, placed on a high state of alert, are bracing for a possible renewal of all-out fighting, including chemical warfare, on the Syrian and Egyptian fronts, it was learned today. The alert was ordered as shooting incidents mounted in frequency and intensity, particularly on the Egyptian front over the week-end. Israeli soldiers have been ordered to shave off their beards so that they can don gas masks in the event of a chemical attack.
While incidents on the Syrian front have been less frequent than along the Suez Canal. the Syrians are being watched most closely. They appear to be inviting local incidents that might be used as a pretext for full scale resumption of hostilities. Their intention seems to be to improve their military position before joining the Geneva peace talks. The Oct, 22 cease-fire found Israeli forces deep inside Syrian territory. The Syrian Army, which suffered severe losses during the Yom Kippur War, has since been re-enforced and re-equipped with Soviet artillery and armor. Large concentrations of Syrian troops and tanks have been observed on the cease-fire lines.
What worries the Israeli military most is evidence that both Syrians and Egyptians have been equipped for chemical warfare, outlawed by the Geneva Convention and, with one exception, never used after World War I. The exception was Egypt’s use of gas in the Yemeni civil war in the 1950s.
According to Israeli intelligence, every Egyptian and Syrian soldier on the front has been issued, in addition to gas masks, anti-gas injection kits and gas detecting devices. More ominous, the Egyptian and Syrian forces are reportedly equipped with gas spreading devices, indicating their precautions are against the affects of their own gas rather, than an anticipated chemical attack by Israel.
INCIDENTS MOUNTING ON EGYPTIAN FRONT
Meanwhile the list of incidents on the Egyptian front has been growing daily despite the presence of a large United Nations observers corps and UNEF, the armed, multinational UN Emergency Force set up by the Security Council to keep the peace. An Israeli soldier was wounded yesterday in an exchange of fire near the UN checkpoint at Kilometer-101 on the Suez-Cairo road. Fire exchanges were reported Friday and Saturday in the regions of Kantara, Fayid and Attaka. The Syrian front was quiet.
Egyptian Sam-6 missiles downed an Israeli pilotless plane yesterday. An Israeli spokesman said the drone was over Israel held territory. The Egyptians claimed it was in their air space, Israel denied an Egyptian claim to have shot down an Israeli jet Friday. Israeli and Egyptian tanks and artillery dueled all along the front Thursday and Friday. Israel announced on Friday the death of another Israeli soldier during an artillery battle northwest of Lake Timsah Wednesday night.
It was learned that Israeli Army engineers completed a land bridge across the Suez Canal which is in use supplying Israeli forces on the west side of the waterway. Egyptian engineers attempted to build a similar bridge in their sector but ran into difficulties and filled the gap with pontoon bridges. Israeli sources, meanwhile, continued to deny a report in the French newspaper Le Monde that a small Egyptian-Algerian force of battalion strength is encircled by Israeli forces between the large and small Bitter Lakes. The Algerian unit, under Egyptian command, was said to consist of about 500 soldiers with several tanks and half-tracks