Rabin, Peres Tour Sinai Passes Israel May Give Up

Premier Yitzhak Rabin and Defense Minister Shimon Peres inspected the Mitle and Gidi Passes in Sinai yesterday in what was apparently a personal evaluation of the situation should Israel agree to withdraw from the western reaches of the two strategic mountain passes in order to secure an interim agreement with Egypt. The two ministers, who, with Foreign Minister Yigal Allon comprise the government’s negotiating team for an interim accord, were accompanied on their day-long inspection tour by Chief of Staff Gen. Mordechai Gur and Gen. Yekutiel Adam, commander of the southern front.

ABU RODEIS PULLBACK WOULD BE EXPENSIVE

The Premier spoke at length with senior field officers on the possible military consequences of a partial Israeli withdrawal from the passes. The Premier and Defense Minister did not visit the Abu Rodeis oilfields in southwestern Sinai which is another key point that Israel may be prepared to relinquish in exchange for an acceptable interim agreement. It would be an expensive withdrawal, not only in terms of the lost oil which now covers most of Israel’s domestic needs, but the new fortifications that would have to be built. It was learned today that an Israeli withdrawal from Abu Rodeis would require the abandonment of a fortified defense line that cost Israel tens of millions of Pounds to build. A new line would have to be constructed to defend the approaches to A-Tour and Sharm el-Sheikh.

It was learned, meanwhile, that increased naval activity has been observed recently in Saudi Arabian coastal waters opposite Sharm el-Sheikh which controls the Straits of Tiran. The Saudian coast is barren, without civilian or military outposts, but Israeli authorities do not discount the possibility that the Saudians may take up positions in the area. They now have in their arsenal American “Hawk” anti-aircraft missiles which can be deployed swiftly on the Saudian side of the straits.

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