JERUSALEM (Jul. 14)
Israeli planes tangled in a dogfight over Syria today with Syrian Soviet-built MIGs and shot down one of the Syrian jets.
The clash developed when the Syrian planes attacked the Israeli planes which bombed and strafed Syrian trucks working on a project to divert Jordan River headwaters. All Israeli planes returned safely to their base. They also attacked an anti-aircraft battery which opened fire on them during the strafing operation. (A Syrian Radio broadcast claimed that two Israeli planes were shot down).
Israel said the planes were sent into action following four saboteur efforts within the last 48 hours by raiders from Syrian bases which cost the life of an Israeli civilian, and wounded two soldiers and one civilian. An Israeli spokesman said that the air raid was ordered after a long series of terrorist operations in Israeli territory, causing civilian deaths and casualties and destroying farm equipment.
He declared that Israel’s air action was aimed at making it clear to Syrian authorities the gravity Israel ascribed to the sabotage activities and killings, particularly the four actions in the past 48 hours. The raid was also intended, he said, to make it clear to the Syrians that quiet along border which Israel seeks must prevail on both sides.
According to the spokesman, the air assault was described as “highly successful.” He said that the planes began to withdraw after completing their assignment when the four Syrian jets appeared. The pilot of the disabled Mig was seen to parachute down. The other Syrian jets then withdrew from contact, the spokesman said. He added that this was the first Israel reprisal raid carried out by air.
ISRAEL WARNS U.N. ON SYRIA; ESHKOL CONFERS WITH CHIEF OF STAFF
Prior to disclosure of the air raid, Israeli officials reacted with strong warnings to the United Nations here over the saboteur attacks from Syria. Israel authorities informed the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization this morning of the gravity with which Israel viewed the “murder and sabotage” and that it placed full responsibility for the incidents on Syria.
Joseph Tekoah, the Foreign Ministry’s acting armistice division head, called in Gen. Odd Bull, the UNTSC Chief of Staff, to inform him the attacks were a serious breach of the Israel-Syrian armistice. He also told Gen. Bull that the assaults were also a breach of the promise which Damascus leaders had made last year to Gen. Bull to preserve quiet on the Israel-Syrian border. Gen. Bull expressed regrets over the incidents and the loss of life.
Premier Levi Eshkol conferred at length this morning with Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Abba Eban on the new developments. One of the first expected Israeli steps is expected to be invitations to foreign diplomats in Israel, including the Soviet ambassador, to call at the Foreign Ministry to receive full and detailed information on the latest saboteur incursions by El Fatah commandoes. The Foreign Ministry cabled its representatives in overseas capitals to give them full briefings and to instruct them to inform the respective foreign ministries of the developments.
THE TERRORIST ACTS WHICH PROVOKED ISRAEL’S RETALIATION CITED
Yehoshua Levi, 42, of Tiberias, was killed yesterday when the command car in which he was riding with two soldiers hit a mine near Almagor village, north of the Sea of Galilee about a half mile from the Syrian border. The blast hurled one of the Soldiers out of the car. His uniform caught fire. He was reported in critical condition in a Haifa hospital. The other soldier was slightly wounded. Levi, father of five children, was a Jewish National Fund reclamation department worker for 17 years. He was killed not far from the spot where two other JNF workers were killed in an incident two months ago.
Later, a tractor working farther north, near Rosh Pina village, hit a mine, seriously wounding 15-year-old Yaron Landesman. He is a member of the Ayelet Hashachar kibbutz. Police found tracks leading to the Syrian border from the sites of the mines.
Three explosions rocked the village of Metullah, Israel’s northernmost point in the upper Galilee mountains on the Lebanese border on Tuesday night, blowing holes in a building. There were no casualties. The marauders came from Lebanon but were believed to have been Syrians who entered Lebanon and then infiltrated Israel to plant the explosives. In the fourth incident, saboteurs believed to be Syrians set off an explosives charge under a house near Yuval on the Israeli-Syrian-Lebanese border causing damage to the house but no casualties.
The Damascus Radio broadcast a statement this morning that Syria had no connection whatever with the incidents. However, reports arriving here said that Syria has been concentrating troops on its Israeli border and that the concentrations were started before the latest incidents began. This indicated to observers here that Syrian authorities knew about the incidents and were preparing for possible Israeli reprisals. Another report said that Syria had declared a state of emergency for its army.
Gen. Bull was told by Mr. Tekoah that the saboteurs could not have crossed the armistice lines into Israel without the knowledge of personnel manning the Syrian border posts lining the frontier. Israel officials meanwhile were reported to be considering lodging a complaint with the United Nations Security Council to warn it about the seriousness of the situation. Political sources said that it could not be tolerated indefinitely.