President Nasser Threatens to Strike Israeli Civilian Targets, Belittles Raid

President Gamal Abdel Nasser threatened today to hit civilian targets inside Israel. The Egyptian leader spoke at a May Day celebration in the Cairo industrial suburb of Helwan. His speech was broadcast by Cairo radio and monitored here.

Col. Nasser voiced his threat after claiming that yesterday’s Israeli commando attack on installations in southern Egypt “failed completely” because Egyptian intelligence anticipated the attack and Egyptian defense forces drove off the raiders. “I am announcing today that, in view of Israel’s aggression against our civilian targets, the whole world must know that we have the right to hit civilian targets inside Israel,” Col. Nasser said.

President Nasser claimed in his speech that “60 percent of the fortifications” of the Bar-Lev Line which Israel erected on the Suez Canal had been destroyed in Egyptian artillery attacks which, he said, marked the first phase of an all-out effort to drive Israeli forces from the canal’s east bank. The Israeli fortifications were named for Maj. Gen. Chaim Bar-Lev, Chief of Staff of Israel’s armed forces.

Col. Nasser said they were erected because “Israel wants to remain in these occupied regions for an unspecified time” and “we cannot accept this.” He said the Egyptian battle plan went into operation at the beginning of March when almost daily artillery duels across the canal began. “After this period of battles along the canal, Lt. Gen. (Mahmoud) Fawzi, the Minister of War, informed me and the Cabinet last week that our armed forces had been able to destroy 60 percent of the fortifications…We informed Gen. Fawzi at the Council of Ministers that the armed forces will proceed with their plan until they complete the destruction of the remaining 40 percent of the Bar-Lev Line,” Col. Nasser said.

Referring to yesterday’s Israeli commando raid, he said, “Our armed forces predicted the Israeli action on Sunday and forecast that Israel would strike at the water sources. The planes came but were unable to achieve their purpose, and dropped their bombs far from the targets they were headed for.”

President Nasser appeared to be taking advantage of foreign press reports that Israel had “backtracked” on its original statement that the raid did severe damage to the Haj Hammadi dam, the Idfu bridge and electric power lines near Isna. Israeli spokesmen said today that the intent of the strike deep into Egypt was more psychological than destructive and demonstrated the vulnerability of the Upper Nile Valley. Foreign news correspondents who were flown over the alleged target area said today that they saw no evidence of damage. But an Israeli military spokesman derided these reports and said “foreign correspondents in Cairo were taken for a real ride.” He suggested that “correspondents have another look–25 kilometers due west of Luxor or 55 miles southwest of Kena where they will find what is left of six high tension pylons and the automatic control center of a 500 kilovolt line sprawling on the ground.”

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