As hopes for a comprehensive peace settlement between Egypt and Israel grow, for the American technicians manning electronic surveillance posts in the Sinai desert, it will be business as usual this Christmas.
GV: Sinai and Mitla Pass. (TWO SHOTS)
LV & SV: American base and signs "Buffer Zone"(TWO SHOTS)
SV: Vehicles passing checkpoint.
GV: Base buildings with radio antennae.
CU: Duty operations chief talking on radio telephone to surveillance station "Alamo".
SV: Observer looking through window with binoculars.
SV: Observer looking out at, and comments on, Egyptian surveillance post.
GV: Overlooking Gidi Pass.
LV & SV: Men relax in canteen.
LV & SV: Male and female personnel playing pool. (THREE SHOTS)
SV: Men playing table soccer.
LV & SV: Lounge with decorated Christmas tree. (TWO SHOTS)
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: As hopes for a comprehensive peace settlement between Egypt and Israel grow, for the American technicians manning electronic surveillance posts in the Sinai desert, it will be business as usual this Christmas. There are the 200 civilian volunteers who keep a constant watch from their three posts in the narrow United Nations buffer zone in Northern Sinai for any signs of a breech of the peace.
SYNOPSIS: The Mitla and Gidi passes are strategically vital. To the West is Egypt, to the East, Israeli forces. Here, where wandering Bedouin were once the only regular visitors, engineers from Texas have built three posts full of sophisticated equipment to monitor the peace. For nearly two years, trained personnel linked by radio have watched and listened to the desert.
These men and women are not soldiers. That job is left to the United Nations military forces. But, whatever the outcome of the present negotiations, these support posts may stay on. In Washington at the weekend, the Israeli Prime Minister Mr. Menachem Begin outlined peace plans that would entail Israeli withdrawal from Sinai. But he said he would want the watching posts to remain.
Thousands of miles away from their families in the United States this Christmas, there are few compensations. Although the personnel can leave the base, there is little point as they are virtually isolated in the desert.
The stations were designed and built early last year by a team from Dallas, Texas and cost more than 16 million dollars. Most of that went on the electronic paraphernalia of peacekeeping, but some was also spent on providing recreation facilities for personnel for their off duty hours.
Even here, Christmas cannot be allowed to pass without the traditional festivities.