TEL AVIV (Mar. 11)
A new, fierce artillery, tank and mortar battle erupted along the Suez Canal today after a morning of intermittent small arms clashes between Israeli and Egyptian forces facing each other across the 150 yard-wide waterway. Both sides were reported to be massing troops and rushing reinforcements to the area as cries were sounded in Cairo to avenge the death of Egypt’s Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Abdel Moneim Riad, killed during an artillery duel Sunday.
The new eight and one-half hour clashes were described as “at least as heavy” as Saturday’s and Sunday’s artillery duels which cost Israel three dead and 14 wounded and destroyed parts of the Egyptian oil refineries near Port Suez. Israeli sources said today’s battle, in which two soldiers were wounded, developed as a result of Egyptian sniping which escalated into an exchange of automatic weapon and machine-gun fire. By late afternoon, big guns on both sides were brought into action from Port Suez in the south to Qantara in the north. Israeli officials said Egypt had rejected one cease-fire request from United Nations observers before accepting a second one.
During a lull in the fighting yesterday, Israeli positions along the canal were inspected separately by Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and Yigal Allon who was Acting Prime Minister of Israel until the appointment of Mrs. Golda Meir to the Premiership today. Both were accompanied on their tours by Maj. Gen. Chaim Bar-Lev, Chief of Staff of Israel’s armed forces. Mr. Allon declared later that “if Egypt renews its aggression” along the Suez Canal, Israel “will reply in strength.” The Israeli fortifications were reportedly far stronger than they were last Oct. 26, the occasion of another Egyptian artillery barrage that took 15 lives.
(The semi-official Cairo daily Al Ahram reported today that “troops were being massed and new military preparations made.” The paper referred to “a state of maximum alert” and said new fighting could break out momentarily.)