Disengagement Proceeds Smoothly

Disengagement proceeded smoothly on the Egyptian front today but shooting continued on the Syrian front where an Israeli soldier was killed yesterday morning when his, vehicle hit a mine on a road in the Tel Antar region. Israeli forces were making preparations today for the next stage in their withdrawal from the west bank of the Suez Canal which is supposed to start tomorrow according to the disengagement time-table.

Egyptian forces should have completed by today a certain amount of demilitarization of their forces on the east side of the canal. United Nations teams will inspect the area tomorrow to determine the extent of the Egyptian “thinning out” operation which must accompany each phase of the Israeli withdrawal under terms of the disengagement accord.

Israelis are taking every moveable item with them as they retire from their “African enclave.” Military installations that cannot be moved are being demolished but no damage is being done to civilian installations such as roads. The Israeli Chief of Staff, Gen. David Elazar, had promised that Israel would not engage in a scorched earth policy but made it clear that this applied only to civilian installations. (Due to an error in transmission, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s Daily News Bulletin of Jan. 30 had implied erroneously that Elazar’s promise had included military installations.)

No direct reports were available to date as to whether the Egyptians were complying with the disengagement accord but there were some visible signs of preparations to move part of their forces westward. Large convoys of fuel were seen moving in the direction of the Third Army Corps, apparently to refuel the vehicles of the previously encircled army so that they can move out men and equipment. There were also signs that the Egyptians were building a bridge across the waterway for the vehicles to cross.

Meanwhile, Syrian and Israeli forces exchanged gun-fire today and yesterday. The Syrians fired a number of recoilless guns at Israeli positions in the Mazraat Bet Jan region this morning. The fire was returned. Yesterday the Syrians kept up intermittent artillery fire against Israeli positions at Tel Shans, Tel Antar, Tel Marli and Nassaj village. Israeli artillery and mortars returned the fire. There were no casualties.

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