Israel Captures Sharm-el-Sheikh, Jericho, Bethlehem; Army Reaches Suez Canal

Israel’s armed forces, striking hard on two fronts in the third day of the Arab-Israel war, knocked Jordan out of the conflict today and seized Sharm-El-Sheikh, which controls the Strait of Tiran, in a two-pronged drive in the Sinai Peninsula. The armored columns driving west were reported as having reached the east bank of the Suez Canal.

Israel officially announced, in a statement by Israel’s Chief of Staff, Gen. Yitzhak Rabin, that its forces had captured Sharm-El-Sheikh, near the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, from which Egyptian forces had maintained a blockade of the Tiran Strait since United Nations Emergency Force troops were pulled out last week at the demand of Egyptian President Nasser. He also announced the capture of Old Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Jericho in Jordan. Capture of Ismailia, the Suez Canal key center, also was reported.

Airforce commander General Moti Hod announced at a press conference that during the 60 hours of warfare, the Israeli forces have destroyed 441 enemy planes, practically wiping out the airforces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan and seriously hurting the Iraqi airforce.

The badly beaten Egyptian forces, apparently totally unable to cope with Israeli mastery of tank-air warfare, were reported retreating to a mountainous region in central Sinai but it was not certain they would give battle there. Most of the fighting in Sinai took place in the triangle formed by Abouageila, Rafia and El Arish. Most of Israel’s air power, having decimated the air arms of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Syria, was shifted to the Sinai to give air support to the tank battles. A report from the Sinai front, confirming earlier official statements that in the first two days of fighting, 200 Egyptian tanks had been destroyed or captured, said that 150 Soviet-made tanks were seized virtually untouched.

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