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Cease-fire Talks Postponed Indefinitely; Artillery Duel Erupts During Talks

November 30, 1973
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Cease-fire talks at this site broke down today after another deadlocked meeting between Israeli and Egyptian negotiators. Today’s meeting was interrupted by a 35-minute small arms and mortar duel between Israeli and Egyptian forces just a mile down the Suez-Cairo road from the UN tent where the Israeli and Egyptian generals were meeting. Gen. Ensio Siilasvuo, commander of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) said “no concrete results were reached” at today’s meeting and “no firm date was fixed for the next meeting.” He said he would remain “in touch with both parties.” The continuing impasse in the cease-fire stabilization talks has increased fear in Israel that warfare may be resumed by Egypt before the Middle East peace conference opens in Geneva Dec. 18. The Israeli Army has been placed on a full alert–including all reserve units–against that possibility. it was learned today.

(In Washington, George Vest, State Department spokesman, took a calm view today of the suspension of the talks and about the artillery duel. He said that “there have been ups and downs, including the Syrian refusal to exchange prisoners,” but added, “I am not aware of any activity that would do anything to prevent a continuing positive” move toward the peace conference in Geneva.)

This morning’s shooting outbreak was the latest in a series of incidents along the Suez cease-fire lines in which three Israeli soldiers were killed and six wounded since Sunday. UN Truce Supervision officers accompanied by an Israeli and Egyptian liaison officer were pinned down by the fire when they tried to halt the shooting. It was not immediately determined which side opened fire first. During the exchange, the Egyptian negotiator Gen. Mohammed Gemassi left the UN tent to watch the machine gun and mortar bursts only a short distance away. Israel’s chief negotiator. Gen. Aharon Yariv, emerged later to attend memorial services for Israeli soldiers missing in action and presumed dead. Both negotiators later returned to the UN tent but soon adjourned their meeting. Both appeared grim. Gemassi was reported as saying after the talks that the situation was “very, very bad.”

The somber mood of the deadlocked negotiations was reinforced by the short recess for a brief but solemn desert memorial service for fallen Israeli soldiers whose place of burial is not known. The Israeli flag near the tent was lowered to half-mast. The Israeli delegates at the talks left the tent and went to the Israeli mast where they saluted and stood at attention until the flag was again raised. The desert memorial service coincided with one held at the central military cemetery at Har Herzl in Jerusalem and at seven provisional military cemeteries.

Thousands of families came to Har Herzl. Army Chief Chaplain Mordechai Firon officiated. Gen. Yonah Efrath, the central command officer, said the dead soldiers had known what they were fighting for and what they were defending. He said that while they had fought against overwhelming force to contain the initial attack they knew that the Israeli defense forces would drive the enemy back. Other thousands of bereaved families came to the provisional military cemeteries at Beer Ygeba, Beeri, Mishmar Hanegev, Affulah, the Ghett Fighters Cemetery and Kiryat Shaul. At each cemetery an army representative and an army chaplain led the service.

Sources here said the talks had shifted from technical means to bring about the disengagement of forces called for in the Kissinger six-point program which Israel and Egypt signed Nov. 11 to issues of principle and in that the two sides are totally incompatible. The Egyptians claim that the disengagement clause of the Kissinger formula is a preamble to implementation of Security Council Resolution 242 and demand a maximum Israeli pullback of its forces from the Suez Canal. Israel claims that the disengagement clause calls for a mutual pullback, not a one-sided withdrawal. Observers do not believe an agreement can be reached at Kilometer 101 and expect the issue to be referred to the Geneva peace conference. The big question here is whether the Egyptians will revert to warfare before the conference opens or after it has opened.

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