JERUSALEM (Oct. 31)
Israel’s Cabinet discussed at its weekly meeting here today–at the last session prior to next Tuesday’s general elections–the various incidents of violent clashes that broke out on Israel’s Jordanian and Lebanese frontiers this weekend. Even as Gen. Yitzhak Rabin, chief of staff of Israel’s defense forces, was reporting to the Cabinet on yesterday’s clash with Jordanian troops in the Latrun area, a new, two-hour shooting match between the Jordanians and Israelis erupted in the same sector. Preceding that action, the other incidents this weekend included:
1) A raid last night by EI Fatah terrorists who blew up a pumping station near the Israeli settlement of Rosh Haayin, about three miles from the Jordanian border. 2) A three-hour battle between Israelis and Jordanians yesterday in the no-man’s-land of the Latrun bulge, in the Judean hills half-way between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. 3) An Israeli military action against two Lebanese villages, in retaliation for three recent EI Fatah incursions against Israel.
JORDAN CLAIMS 15 ISRAELIS KILLED IN BATTLE; ISRAEL DENIES CLAIM
The battle in the Latrun area started yesterday morning, when 30 Israeli tractors moved into that bulge to plow the land in no-man’s-land, while Jordanian tractors started ploughing at the same time in the opposite direction. When Jordanian troops started shooting at the Israelis, Israeli soldiers posted as guards returned the fire. The fighting lasted three hours before military observers from the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization got Jordan to accept a full cease-fire.
An Israeli army spokesman said two of the Israeli soldiers were slightly wounded. The Jordanian radio, which reported that, following the exchange, the area was visited by King Hussein and Prime Minister Wasfi Tal, claimed that 15 Israeli soldiers were killed and 15 Israeli tractors were knocked out. The Israeli army spokesman denied there were any fatalities on the Israeli side.
This morning, the Israeli tractors resumed their work in the Latrun bulge. While the area is technically a no-man’s-land, Israel has been cultivating the land there since 1948. As the work proceeded today, the Jordanians started shooting again, at noon, using mortars and machineguns. The Israeli military guards returned the fire and the U.N. military observers tried immediately to arrange a cease-fire. However, Jordan refused at first to halt its firing. Finally, after the exchanges lasted two hours, the U.N. men succeeded in getting Jordan’s consent to halt, and relative quiet reigned once more in the region.
(In Washington, Israeli diplomats relayed details today of the Jordanian army attack in the Latrun area in a report to the State Department. The Israelis reported that the Jordanian regular forces fired with heavy weapons and that two Israeli tractor drivers were wounded.)
The latest EI Fatah action, resulting in the destruction of the pumping station near Rosh Haayin, was the first in the Jordan border area in four weeks. There were no casualties as a result of the explosion. A month ago, after a spate of such raids into Israeli settlements, evidently originating from Jordanian bases, Israel warned openly that such attacks would no longer be tolerated. Following Israel’s warning, Jordan’s King Hussoin stated publicly that his Government disassociates itself from sabotage activity that “might harm the Jordanian nation.”
ISRAELIS CRITICIZE GOVERNMENT FOR REPRISAL AGAINST LEBANON
The action on the Lebanese border, the first such Israeli military blow against Lebanon since the conclusion of the Israel-Lebanon armistice agreement in 1949, was in reprisal for EI Fatah raids into Israel in June, in August and, again, last week.
The Israel troops crossed the border, entering the village of Chule and destroying the home of the local chief after waking its residents and escorting them out of the building. They also wrecked three reservoirs near Mis EI Jamal. Both villages are about two miles from the border. There were no Israeli casualties, and apparently none among the Lebanese. The Israeli troops were under strict orders to refrain from actions causing casualties among the population of the villages.
The reprisal raid against Lebanon was criticized by the Israel press today as at least partly a domestic political move by the Eshkol Government on the eve of next Tuesday’s general elections to be held in Israel. Critics pointed out that Lebanon has been the most peaceful of Israel’s Arab neighbors, and that the Beirut Government apologized publicly for the last EI Fatah raid into Israel.