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CAIRO: Egypt today [May 17] called on the United Nations to pull its peace-keeping troops out of the border with Israel as Army chiefs in Cairo ordered their troops to prepare for defensive action against Israel.

On Israel’s northern border, Radio Damascus called on Arabs to unite “for the final battle” against Israel. Radio Damascus and the morning papers in Syria reported that the Syrian armed forces have been placed in a state of alert. All measures “had been taken in preparation for the eventuality of aggression by Israel”.

The Radio said the alert was decided on the basis of intelligence of Israeli troop concentrations at the Syrian border and after aggressive and provocative statements by Israeli leaders.

Syria’s Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister, Dr Ibrahim Makhous, flew to Cairo today to discuss the rising tension on her frontier with Israel and Egypt’s reaction.

At the same time, the Syrian Premier, Dr Yousef Zeayen, and the Army Chief of Staff, Maj-Gen Ahmed Seidani, went today to Syria’s frontier area with Israel to inspect the front lines.

The call for withdrawal of the blue-bereted UN Emergency Force from the Israeli border to the Gaza strip came from Marshal Abdel Hakim Amer, First Vice-President and Deputy Supreme Commander of the armed forces.

Marshal Amer’s letter to the UNEF Chief, Major-General Indar Jit Rikhye, quoted by Cairo Radio, asked him to concentrate his troops in the narrow Gaza strip along the Mediterranean and keep away from the Egyptian border.

Marshal Amer called for the UN forces withdrawal “so that it may not face any threat in case of military operations breaking out”.

UN troops, mostly Scandinavian, are present in the 100-square miles strip in force, but have only patrols along the 117-mile desert border stretch running southeast from Rafan to the Gulf of Aqaba.—Agencies

Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2017