TEL AVIV (Nov. 21)
Israeli casualties in the first air-tank clash with Jordan since the end of the June war today were reported as three soldiers killed and one wounded, the latter an Israeli pilot whose plane was shot down by Jordanian ground tire. Though the pilot was seen ejecting from his crippled plane and parachuting down, the Jordanians claimed he was found dead.
The Israelis sent their jets into action against a concentration of Jordanian tanks which had been shelling Israeli positions across the Jordan River, the cease-fire line since the end of the June conflict. The action took place in the Um Shurt region, south of the Damiyah bridge, an area previously calm where there has been a considerable amount of agricultural produce traffic between the occupied West bank and Jordan.
(At the United Nations, Israel filed a complaint against Jordanian breaches of the cease-fire, warning of the gravity of four days of Jordanian attacks across the cease-fire line. Israeli Ambassador Gideon Rafael asked, in the letter, that it be circulated among Council members but he did not ask for a Council meeting on the complaint.)
(In Washington, the State Department criticized the new Israeli-Jordanian fighting. State Department spokesman Robert McCloskey said that the United States had expressed to both countries its concern and that the four days of incidents appeared to have escalated in size and seriousness.)
JORDANIANS BROUGHT UP TANKS TO CONCENTRATE ON ISRAELI POSITION
The Israeli Army spokesman said that the Jordanians attacked this morning against an Israeli position south of the Um Shurt passage on the Jordan River and that Jordanian fire spread to other positions, with Israelis returning the fire. He said the Jordanians used tanks which had been brought to the site during the night, which he called proof of Jordanian plans for an unprovoked and premeditated attack. Israeli units responded with artillery fire and then planes were called in to silence the tanks whose gunfire was preventing evacuation of the first casualties of the tank fire.
The spokesman said that at least six Jordanian tanks and one armored car were destroyed in the pinpoint Israeli air assault. Fighting subsided after about four hours. According to Jordanian sources, efforts were made by Israelis to save the pilot and for some time Israeli planes flew over the scene in an effort to spot the sight of the pilot’s parachute landing. Later Jordanian officials said that the pilot was found dead.
Israeli officials pointed out that the Jordanians had been involved in various mine-laying and other sabotage activities and that they had fired on Israelis who were dismantling an anti-vehicle mine on a patrol track. The tanks were brought into the section for the first time today by the Jordanians.
The step-up of Jordanian action was believed to have been in reprisal for shelling yesterday by Israeli units of Jordanian positions at a refugee camp on the East Bank in which the Jordanians made lurid claims of heavy civilian refugee casualties. Observers stressed that the air attack was directed only against the Jordanian tanks from which Israeli forces had been attacked and that Israel sought to keep the action localized. It was suggested that Jordan was anxious to rebuild the Jordanian armed forces morale, which was shattered in the June war and that this might have led to the orders for four consecutive days of shooting at Israeli targets across the cease-fire line.