TEL AVIV (Sep. 8)
The United States and Israel will hereafter jointly interpret satellite photos of Sinai to determine whether violations of the interim agreement with Egypt have occurred. It was disclosed today that Israeli intelligence officers joined U.S. officers at the office of the American Military Attache here to read the latest aerial pictures.
The photos cover the Sinai buffer zone and the limited forces zone. An earlier set of pictures was blurred. Israel had contended that Egypt had at least six-more battalions in its limited forces zone than the eight allowed under the interim accord. UN observers, supported by American intelligence data, insisted that there were only three unauthorized battalions and subsequently, only one.
A dispute arose over the American intelligence reports. The newspaper Haaretz charged last week that the Americans deliberately produced unclear satellite photos to prevent the detection of Egyptian forces. This was strongly denied in Washington and Israel and the U.S. agreed later that the photos were fuzzy due to cloud conditions.
The results of the study of the latest pictures by officers of both countries was not disclosed but Israeli experts henceforth will be allowed to study the photos along with the Americans.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and Israel are seeking to play down their dispute over oil prospecting in the Gulf of Suez by an American firm under contract to Egypt. Sources here said today that Israel may permit drilling in the gulf east of the demarcation line that separates Israel-controlled waters from those on the Egyptian side.
An American oil rig was ordered out of that area last Saturday by Israeli navy patrol boats. The rig’s moorings were cut, leading to U.S. charges that the Israelis had damaged American equipment. The U.S. also claimed that shots were fired. Israeli sources said the rifle of an Israeli navy crewman went off accidentally but no shots were directed against the American oil crew.
Differences over Israel’s rights in the gulf waters remain. But it is believed here that Israel will give in on the matter of oil prospecting. The rich Morgan oil fields in the Gulf of Suez extend into the zone claimed by Israel. But foreign companies have been drilling there for years and Israel is not now carrying out any drilling operations. Both Israel and the U.S. are anxious to settle the problem.