TEL AVIV (Sep. 1)
Defense Minister Shimon Peres said today that the Egyptians have withdrawn three battalions from the limited forces zone in Sinai east of the Suez Canal at the insistence of United Nations observers acting on a complaint from Israel. Peres made the disclosure at a meeting with 300 American-Jewish leaders participating in the United Jewish Appeals Prime Minister’s Mission currently in Israel. He said he learned of the Egyptian pullback on his way to the meeting.
His remarks cast further light on an Israeli-American dispute over alleged Egyptian violations of the Sinai interim agreement that flared earlier this week. The dispute is now said to have been resolved. But Israel still contends that there were at least six Egyptian battalions in the limited forces zone beyond the eight battalions allowed under the terms of the interim accord. The UN observers, supported by American technicians manning the electronic advance warning system in Sinai, claimed there were only three battalions in excess of the permitted number and these have been withdrawn.
U.S. DENIES ALLEGATION
The dispute with the U.S. developed over a charge in Haaretz Monday that reports by the American surveillance team were doctored and that the Americans deliberately produced fuzzy satellite photos of the area so that the deployment of Egyptian forces could not be pin-pointed.
The accusation drew an angry denial from Washington. Subsequently Israel and the U.S. agreed that the latest satellite photos were unclear because of clouds in the area. Israel is expecting a new set of pictures that will indicate the true situation on the ground.
Peres also told the UJA leaders that he learned that fire was exchanged today between villagers in southern Lebanon and terrorists. Describing the situation in that region, he said the local villagers were capable of preventing the return of the terrorists to the area adjacent to Israel’s borders.