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Bar-lev Tells Cabinet Egyptian Artillery Attack Started Without Provocation

Maj. Gen. Chaim Bar-Lev, Chief of Staff of Israel’s armed forces, reported to the Cabinet yesterday that Egypt’s massed artillery attack across the Suez Canal Saturday had been carefully planned in advance on the highest level in Cairo and was started without any provocation.

(Reports received at the United Nations in New York yesterday from Lt. Gen. Odd Bull, chief of the UN Truce Supervision Organization, blamed Egypt for starting the battle. Gen. Bull reported that his staff members observed “mortar and heavy artillery fire initiated by United Arab Republic forces” at 2:45 p.m. Saturday near Kantara. The fire was returned by Israeli forces 10 minutes later according to the observers’ report. Gen. Bull said that similar reports of hostilities begun by Egyptian forces came from other observation posts along the 100-mile Suez Canal front. Gen. Bull’s report said both sides used artillery, mortars, light and heavy machine guns and tanks and in addition, “the United Arab Republic forces used rockets.”)

Gen. Bull left for Cairo this morning to meet with Egyptian officials, apparently in connection with Saturday’s shelling, and to inspect damage to UN posts along the canal. He was accompanied by his senior advisers.

An Israeli soldier was wounded by an Egyptian sniper north of Port Tewfik this morning. He was fired on from the West Bank of the Suez Canal while he was drawing water from a tank truck, a military spokesman said.

Saturday’s Suez Canal clash occupied most of yesterday’s Cabinet meeting. Another session has been called for today to hear the conclusion of Foreign Minister Abba Eban’s report on the Middle East diplomatic situation. His report will be discussed at a third Cabinet session scheduled for Thursday. Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Rabin, also reported to the Cabinet yesterday on U.S.-Israel relations. The Government’s secretary, Michael Arnon, told newsmen later that Mr. Rabin had made no reference to any political conditions attached by the U.S. to the sale of 50 F-4 Phantom jets to Israel.

Foreign Minister Abba Eban said on a television interview last night that the Egyptian artillery barrage Saturday may be regarded as Cairo’s reply to Israel’s query about whether Egypt was prepared to agree to establish a lasting peace in the area. The question was forwarded to the governments of Egypt and Jordan through the UN special peace envoy, Ambassador Gunnar V. Jarring. The attack strengthened Israel’s resolve not to move from its present positions on the cease-fire lines, Mr. Eban said. He added, however, that the avenue of contact with the Arabs through Dr. Jarring must be kept open and the hope for an eventual peace settlement must not be given up. Asked to comment on the opinion expressed by Defense Minister Gen. Moshe Dayan that peace with the Arabs was not possible in the foreseeable future, Mr. Eban said that Jewry and Zionism have never shrunk away from any objectives because they did not appear realistic at the time. He said that peace is preferable to a cease fire and that should be Israel’s basic aim.

The evening newspaper Maariv reported today that the Israel Army has taken special measures to prevent future Egyptian commando incursions across the Suez Canal into Israel-held Sinai. Israel reported that two and possibly three such raids involving 50 commandos took place during Saturday’s artillery duel. Maariv did not say what the measures were but commented that the Egyptians were apparently trying to convince their soldiers that the Suez Canal could be crossed. The newspaper Yediot Achronot reported that Gen. Dayan found the body of a slain Egyptian commando during his inspection of the canal’s East Bank yesterday. The dead soldier was wearing an inflatable rubber suit, apparently for crossing the canal, and had several Kalatchnikoff rifle magazines on his person, the newspaper reported.

Funerals were held in a number of Israeli cities and towns today for the 15 Israeli soldiers who were killed in last Saturday’s Egyptian artillery attack along the Suez Canal. Thirty-four were wounded. In the Knesset (Parliament) the entire chamber and the visitors’ gallery rose to observe a minute of silence in tribute to the fallen soldiers. A funeral was held in the Galilee town of Rosh Pina today for Gilad Shamai, a soldier killed in a clash with saboteurs near the Lebanese border Saturday. He was buried next to the grave of his brother who was killed two years ago when his tractor hit a mine near Korazim, north of Lake Tiberias.

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