JERUSALEM (Sep. 1)
United Nations agencies and representatives of the Western Powers worked feverishly today to obtain an Israel-Egyptian cease-fire agreement to prevent further deterioration of a situation verging perilously close to war. An aerial dogfight over Israel territory, which saw two Egyptian jet fighter planes downed, and a successful punitive expedition deep into Egyptian territory to destroy the headquarters of the Egyptian terrorist bands operating on Israel soil were the latest developments in the border crisis.
Major General E.L.M. Burns, head of the United Nations truce supervision organization, pleaded today for a cease-fire by both sides until such time as “the appropriate organ” of the United Nations could deal with the “very dangerous threat to peace.”
His plea followed a warning issued by the Israel Foreign Office that the continued Egyptian acts of violence and incursions into Israel territory, continuing even after Egypt had announced a cease-fire effective Tuesday, had rendered the Egyptian-Israel armistice “virtually inoperative.” The Israelis charged that “from a claim to rights of belligerency, Egypt has gone over to active warfare.”
ISRAEL AGAIN OFFERS CEASE-FIRE IF EGYPT ENDS ALL RAIDS
The Israel Government, which had previously informed Gen. Burns that it would agree to a cease-fire if Egypt would admit responsibility for the terrorist attacks on Israelis during the past nine days, notified him tonight that Israel will take no military action provided that all attacks by Egyptians, in whatever form, cease.
On Wednesday, Gen. Burns admitted that he could give no assurance of a complete and immediate cessation of attacks by Egyptian terrorist squads operating on Israel soil.
In disclosing tonight’s answer to Gen. Burns, the Foreign Ministry spokesman pointed out that so far Israel had not received answers to the questions it had previously posed to him regarding guarantees and assurances on Egypt’s part concerning aggressive acts committed by its forces.
The Israelis declared in a statement today that the punitive raid carried out Wednesday night “after days of forbearance maintained in the face of extreme provocation,” served to “make it clear that a campaign of bloodshed and destruction cannot long be carried out with impunity and that an armistice agreement was meant for mutual, and not for one-sided observance.”
Earlier, the Foreign Ministry released a detailed list of 31 border aggressions committed by the Egyptians between Aug. 22 and Aug. 31, including attacks that took place 25 miles within the border and only a few miles from Tel Aviv.
SHARETT CONFERS WITH CABINET, REPORTS TO PARLIAMENT
In his statement today, Gen. Burns said that nine days of violence, in which seven Egyptian and II Israelis had lost their lives and 24 Egyptians and 19 Israelis had been wounded, had “culminated” in the destruction of the police station and other building at Khan Yunis by the Israeli forces. UN observers, he said, were now investigating “this very serious incident.”
Israelis, their nerves frayed by nine days of Egyptian attacks, noted with some asperity the concern shown by the UN official over the Khan Yunis destruction and contrasted it with his previous silence on Egyptian actions. One of the major factors militating against acceptance by Israel of the cease-fire Gen. Burns proposed on Tuesday was his failure, in Israel eyes, to distinguish between Egyptian attacks and Israel defensive measures.
Gen. Burns reported today that he was maintaining the closest contact with Dag Hammarskjold, the UN Secretary General, and keeping him informed of his moves to secure a cease-fire agreement from both sides.
Premier Moshe Sharett conferred at length with his Cabinet today on the security situation. Later, with Defense Minister David Ben Gurion and Chief of Staff Brig. Moshe Dayan, he reported to the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee on the current developments.
ISRAEL FIGHTERS DOWN TWO EGYPTIAN JETS; DESTROY FORT
The spectacular air-battle occurred today in southern Israel. The two Egyptian planes, identified as British-built Vampire jet fighters, were flying south towards Gaza when they were intercepted by two Israel fighters. One of the enemy planes was said to have exploded in mid-air. Both crashed on Israel soil near Yad Mordecai.
Egyptian sources did not admit the aerial defeat but announced that two of their planes had collided and crashed in landing. Israel sources claimed today that a third plane which the Egyptians admitted had crashed on its return to an Egyptian base earlier in the week was a jet fighter that had been hit when Israeli interceptor planes repelled a flight of Egyptian jet fighters.
Israel’s punitive expedition struck last night against the Egyptian military base at Khon Yunis, in the Gaza strip, from which the terrorist units operating in Israel territory were being directed. The expedition, using tanks and armored cars, smashed through Egyptian military outposts, silenced them and made a frontal attack on the Taggart fortress at Khan Yunis which housed the military headquarters and the Egyptian police station. The garrison was quickly routed and the fortress, built by the British during the Mandate, was leveled to the ground.
The Israelis then withdrew, carrying their casualties-one dead and eight wounded Israel sources estimated Egyptian casualties at 40 killed and 40 wounded. Egyptian dispatches, which admitted loss of 10 men killed and 12 wounded, revealed that the “Palestine National Defense Force” was involved in the action. This force is a national guard formation recruited by the Egyptians from among the Palestine Arab refugees in the Gaza strip.
Trouble developed along the Israel-Syrian frontier as well today, after a period of comparative quiet. A Syrian outpost opened fire on shepherds from the settlement of Gonen and then, under cover of heavy fire from the post, a unit of armed Syrians crossed the frontier and drove off most of the settlement’s flocks.