Shooting, Mining Incidents Reported in Suez Zone; to Evacuate Kantara Civilians

Two Israeli soldiers were injured in the Suez Canal zone this afternoon, one by a mine and the other by an Egyptian sniper who fired a single shot into Kantara from the west bank of the canal. The mine victim was riding in a halftrack north of Port Tewfik. A military spokesman said the mine had been newly planted.

A police border patrol armored car was attacked with bazooka and machine-gun fire in the northern Beisan valley near Ashdot Yaacov this morning, a military spokesman reported. It was the third such attack on border patrols in two days. An attack on a foot-patrol of border police was also reported. There were no casualties in either incident. According to the spokesman, the attack on the armored car was made by saboteurs entrenched in the deserted Jordanian village of Bakoura.

Kantara, the only civilian center on the Israel-occupied east bank of the Suez Canal, was heavily damaged by the Egyptian artillery barrage Sunday. Today, Israeli authorities reached an agreement with the representatives of the remaining civilian population there to evacuate them to a safe spot in the Sinai hinterland unless Egypt is willing to accept them, or at least the women and children. Brig. Motta Gur, Israeli commander of the Gaza strip and Sinai, who visited Kantara today, suggested that the Mayor make one more request to the Egyptian authorities. He noted that the Egyptians have persistently refused the transfer of Kantara’s civilians to the canal’s west bank although the civilians themselves have repeatedly requested transfer. There are about 900 remaining in the town on the once busy northern entrance to the canal which provided them with a livelihood. But all have been living on welfare provided by Israel since the canal’s shut-down 15 months ago.

Egyptian artillery Sunday severely damaged a Coptic church in Kantara and hit several mosques. Israeli authorities reported. The town was a main target of Egyptian gunners despite its non-military character. The gunners sighted on the church tower and on the minarets. Two local residents were injured in the shelling which forced the population to take refuge in shelters for many hours. The priests of the Coptic church were reported deeply grieved by the damage. Repairs had only just been completed on damage done during the fighting of June, 1967. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and Israeli Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Chaim Bar Lev visited the Suez Canal zone Monday and inspected Israeli positions opposite Ismailia and Suez. They were accompanied by Gen. Yeshayahu Gavish, commander of the southern front.

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