JERUSALEM (Mar. 31)
Prime Minister Levi Eshkol reiterated today at the regular Cabinet meeting Israel’s determination to continue its duty of guarding the security of border settlements in a statement regarded as another warning to Jordan to halt all attacks whether by terrorist infiltration or by shooting across the cease-fire lines.
He spoke shortly after Israeli officials reported that very heavy damage was inflicted on Jordanian army and El Fatah commando bases all along the East Bank of the Jordan River in the daylong air and artillery battle Friday. Maj. Gen. Chaim Bar-Lev. Israeli Chief of Staff, said the action was even more concentrated than that of last Feb. 15 when Israeli jets and artillery struck heavy blows at Jordanian gun positions which had been shelling Israeli border settlements. Gen. Bar-Lev reported that on Friday many more Jordanian and El Fatah positions were hit, among them the big terrorist base at Karameh, which came under air bombardment. Damage at the Karaineh base, the principal target of Israel’s March 21 raid, was described as severe.
The Prime Minister’s warning was contained in a report to the Cabinet on the incidents last week and on the deliberations of the United Nations Security Council, which was called into urgent session for the second time in 10 days on complaints by both Israel and Jordan. The Cabinet will meet tomorrow to hear a report from Foreign Minister Abba Eban on his current trip to Europe, from which he returned tonight.
Despite the warnings, guerrillas slipped into Hebron today and killed an Israeli Druze border policemen and injured a companion. A Hebron resident was killed and a child injured in the same attack because they were in the line of fire. The intruders opened fire on the police in a Hebron market. The injured policeman ran for reinforcements while the other one chased the intruders, who killed him and made off, A curfew was imposed on the area while a search for the marauders was started.
WIDE VARIETY OF EL FATAH BASES SEVERELY HIT IN FRIDAY EXCHANGES
Gen. Bar-Lev reported also that another heavily hit target was the Jordanian township of Shunch which had been evacuated of all civilians and converted into an El Fatah base. The police stations at Addsiyah and Manshiyeh, which had served as a springboard for El Fatah incursions into the Beisan Valley, were completely destroyed by Israeli artillery fire, A Jordanian Army camp at Um Keiss, site of long range artillery emplacements, was also destroyed as was a Jordanian Army convoy which Israeli planes spotted nearby, he reported.
Israeli casualties in the Friday fighting were one soldier killed, three seriously wounded and five slightly wounded. An Israeli jet was hit by anti-aircraft fire over Karameh but managed to return to Israeli territory where the pilot bailed out safely.
Damage on the Israeli side of the demarcation line was confined to civilian installations in a chain of agricultural settlements extending from the Sea of Galilee in the North to Jericho on the shores of the Dead Sea. These came under heavy Jordanian artillery and small arms fire intermittently throughout the day. No casualties were reported among the settlers who took to bomb shelters.
The Israeli settlements hit by Jordanian guns were Massada, Ashdot Yaacov. Tel Katzir, Shar Hagolan, Kfar Ruppin, Beth Joseph, Yardena and Gesher. It was at Massada that four kibbutz members were killed when a tractor-drawn platform on which they were riding hit a mine in a banana plantation. Four others were injured, three of them seriously. Among the injured, though only slightly, was Frederick Rosenfeld, a 26-year-old volunteer from Washington, D.C. The dead were buried today because the heavy shelling on Friday prevented a funeral and Jewish law forbids burials on the Sabbath.
Prime Minister Eshkol visited the damaged settlement Friday evening. Gen. Bar-Lev spent the night travelling from settlement to settlement for a first hand assessment of the damage. Speaking to a group at Shaar Hagolan, Mr. Eshkol said that the fight against El Fatah terrorists was in some respects more difficult than last June’s Six Day War. “There are political mine fields we have to cross,” he said, noting that Israel must consider world opinion and the attitude of friendly nations. He added, however, that Israel had a variety of methods to deal with the terrorists.
It was obvious from the damage that the Jordanians were intent on hitting civilians, destroying homes, utilities and means of livelihood. The children’s home was hit at Massada and the kindergarten was hit at Tel Katzir. Cowsheds, chicken houses, water pumping systems and electric power houses and wires were blasted. A large plywood factory near Ashdot Yaacov was set afire. But yesterday and today, volunteers poured in from neighboring villages and kibbutzim to help with repairs.
Prime Minister Eshkol promised speedy compensation for the damage and warned Jordan of further Israeli retaliation should any settlements be attacked again. Labor Minister Yigal Alon, who visited Massada yesterday, said the Jordanian attacks were a direct result of the Security Council’s March 24 resolution condemning Israel for its military operation against terrorist bases in Jordan a week earlier. He said the resolution encouraged El Fatah to launch new aggression.