JERUSALEM (Jul. 9)
The Israeli Cabinet devoted the greater part of its meeting today to a report and discussion of the renewal of fighting Saturday on the Suez Canal. Two Israeli soldiers were killed and 20 wounded in the fighting which began in the morning and continued spasmodically until evening in the same area where fighting took place a week earlier.
Gen. Moshe Dayan, Minister of Defense, reported on the situation to the Cabinet. Later, the Government spokesman who had referred to “local incidents” a week earlier, declined to characterize the latest outbreak. The Government, reportedly, took a most serious view of the developments although they were not believed likely to escalate into a large-scale renewal of the war. Israel, as did Egypt, asked an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council to consider the developments. (For report of Security Council developments, see Page Two.)
Informed sources pointed out here that the fighting was occurring in an area where the cease-fire line was poorly demarcated. Egypt, it was pointed out, had only the Port Fuad area as a bridge head on the east bank of the Suez Canal and the Egyptian attacks, aimed at dislodging the Israelis from the difficult terrain between Ras al Eish and Port Fuad, could have been aimed at enlarging the Egyptian bridgehead.
Observers here also reported a political motive in the renewal of the Egyptian attacks–the desire to show the instability of the cease-fire lines and the ever-present danger of clashes before the United Nations General Assembly resumes its emergency sessions on Wednesday. It was also considered likely that Col. Nasser wanted to show the Arab world that Egypt had not given up and that the war was not ended.
Gen. Chaim Herzog, broadcasting over Kol Israel, commented that the border incidents should be of greater concern to Cairo than to Jerusalem. He pointed out that the Israeli forces are now only 100 miles from Cairo and their retention of the Sinai Peninsula gave Israel an additional 18 minutes warning of attack on the radar screens.
EGYPTIAN ARTILLERY OPENED FIRE ON ISRAELI EAST BANK POSITIONS
The latest incident began Saturday morning shortly after 9 A.M. when Egyptian artillery and tanks on the west bank of the Suez Canal opened fire on the Israeli positions across the canal in the Ras al Eish area. The Israelis there hold a narrow exposed strip of land between the canal and swamps. The barrage lasted for several hours. While it was in progress, an Egyptian force moved south out of Port Said and set up additional mortar positions on the west bank.
About three hours after the start of the shooting, the Israelis called for air support and Israeli planes overflew the canal to silence the Egyptian batteries which, by this time, had also brought Israeli forces at Kantara, about 23 miles south of Ras al Eish, under fire.
The Egyptian firing was halted for three hours but resumed in the afternoon, with Kantara the main target. The Egyptians also scored hits on a convoy of jeeps carrying the wounded out of Ras al Eish. The firing died out toward evening.
During the afternoon, four Egyptian MIG fighters crossed over the canal into Israeli airspace and were challenged by two Israeli Mirage fighters. One of the invaders was shot down as the other three fled back to Egypt.
Israeli officials denied Egyptian charges that Israeli planes had bombed civilian areas of Port Said and declared that the Israeli attack had been limited to military targets.
Cairo Radio repeatedly broadcast charges over the weekend that the Israeli forces, in violation of the cease-fire agreements, were trying to dislodge the Egyptians from their east bank foothold at Port Fuad and to occupy the area. Port Fuad is directly across the canal from Port Said.