JERUSALEM (Oct. 22)
Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, speaking at a meeting of the Cabinet, declared today that the “base” Egyptian attack and sinking of the destroyer Elath had “intolerable implications,” and that Israel’s citizens and servicemen “will not be left unprotected.”
Among those attending the Cabinet meeting were Capt. Shlomo Harel, commander of the Israeli Navy, and Gen. Yitzhak Rabin, Israeli chief of staff. Capt. Harel, Gen. Rabin and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan presented a report on the disaster. Members of the Cabinet then stood silently to honor the memory of the dead sailors.
The session began with the statement by Premier Eshkol, who had been briefed beforehand by the military commanders. He charged that the Egyptian attack from Port Said had been carried out without any reason and that the Elath had been outside Egyptian territorial waters. He declared that the attack was “a most dangerous infringement of international sailing rights and must be regarded as an infringement without precedent of the cease-fire agreements.”
It was confirmed at the meeting that Lt. Gen. Odd Bull, the chief United Nations cease-fire observer in the Suez-Sinai sector was asked to notify Egypt that the Israeli Navy and Air Force would be in the area of the incident in strength but solely for rescue operations.
The sinking of the Elath, the worst disaster in the brief history of Israel’s Navy, reportedly has given rise to considerations of an Israeli retaliation, informed observers said today. However, it was generally believed that the Government would not order any reprisal at all, or that it would at least refrain from immediate retaliation, if it considered that to be the wisest course.