TEL AVIV (Dec. 21)
An Egyptian-piloted MIG-17, one of the planes supplied to the United Arab Republic by the Soviet Union, was shot down yesterday when Israeli patrol planes encountered eight MIGs over the southwestern portion of Israel.
Seven of the eight planes, flying in two formations of four jets at six miles up, escaped into Egypt when the eighth was downed. A parachute was seen opening as the Israelis turned back and resumed their patrol.
The pilot who made the kill, an Israeli-born 26-year-old officer, said at a press conference later that it was “not a fight, but a pursuit” because the Egyptians had no stomach for combat. He said the Egyptians were so rattled that they failed to release their spare gas tanks to give them extra maneuverability when the Israeli fighters descended on them.
At this point, Col. Ezer Weizmann, commander of the Israel Air Force, who was also present at the press conference, interjected grimly: “The Egyptian’s primary mistake, for which he was shot down, was his penetration of Israel’s air space.” Several times in the last few weeks, Egyptian and Syrian based planes have flown over Israeli territory, chiefly at night, on photo reconnaissance missions.
For the first time this morning, Radio Cairo admitted that Egyptian planes had flown over Israel. In its version of the fight which cost the United Arab Republic one MIG-17, the Arab radio–in a Hebrew language broadcast–charged that Israeli planes had penetrated Egyptian air space over the Sinai Peninsula and had been “chased” back “deep into Israel territory.”
(The authoritative Cairo newspaper Al Ahram boasted yesterday that the Soviet Union has supplied the United Arab Republic with enough spare parts, Soviet-manufactured arms for MIG-17 Jet fighters to last the UAR five years, according to a dispatch received in London from the UAR capital.)