TEL AVIV (Sep. 8)
Fierce, prolonged artillery duels erupted on two Israeli fronts today, the most serious extending over the entire 103 mile length of the Suez Canal where Israeli and Egyptian units battled until United Nations observers finally managed to implement a cease fire just as evening fell. The other clash, between Israeli and Jordanian artillery, was centered in the Beisan and Jordan valleys where at least four Israeli settlements came under intense bombardment. There are no UN observers on the latter front but the shooting subsided before noon after Israeli gunners were reported to have inflicted heavy damage on Jordanian positions. A military spokesman said that in both instances, the shooting was started by the other side.
The Suez clash was regarded as the most serious from both military and diplomatic points of view. The Suez Canal zone has been the focus of attention at the UN Security Council for the past week where Israel has charged Egypt with responsibility for a raid by commandos who ambushed an Israeli patrol two weeks ago, killing two soldiers and kidnapping a third. Only last Friday another Israeli soldier was killed and three were injured when their jeep hit a mine on a Sinai road near the canal. The shooting today reportedly was begun by Egyptian snipers who fired on a party of Israeli sappers who had just dismantled and detonated a mine on the canal’s East Bank.
The Egyptian fire was returned in kind but ten minutes later Egyptian artillery opened up and soon the shelling of Israeli positions became general, from Kantara at the canal’s northern entrance to Port Tewfik in the south. Nearly two hours later, a cease fire was arranged through the UN observer teams and Israeli gunners complied. But the Egyptians kept shooting and the Israeli artillery was forced to resume fire. Another cease fire was called and again the Israelis agreed but the Egyptians continued to fire for another half hour.
Like the Suez clash, the fighting on the Israel-Jordan demarcation line began with a relatively minor exchange of small arms fire after Jordanians aimed bazooka shells at an Israeli border police armored car in the Beisan region. Jordanian mortars and artillery opened fire beginning an exchange that lasted for three hours. As more Jordanian guns were brought into play, the settlements of Beth Joseph, Yardena, Neve Urr and Maoz Chaim came under fire, sending civilians into bomb shelters. No casualties were reported on the Israeli side. It was disclosed however, that seven Israeli border policemen were injured by Jordanian gunfire in two incidents near Neve Urr and Yardena on Friday.
Those attacks started when a border police armored car came under small arms and bazooka fire. The fire was returned but a short time later another armored car received a direct hit which set it afire. The bazooka attacks originated from positions near Manshiyeh village in Jordan. Those positions were reported hit in today’s clash.
Meanwhile it was disclosed that schools in Yardena and Beth Joseph were not opened on schedule last week because of a lack of bomb shelters. School inspectors ordered the suspension of classes in both settlements until adequate arrangements could be made to protect the children in emergencies.