TEL AVIV (May. 21)
Israeli tank and infantry forces, backed by jet planes and helicopter gunships, crossed into Jordan today in a “flushing out” operation against Arab guerrillas in the Safi area on the southeastern tip of the Dead Sea. The action followed an increase in sabotage activities in that area. Ten incidents have been reported in May, four of which were at the potash plant area at Sodom, and three in settlements in the area. The other three incidents were further south near Eilat.
Israeli sources said they found no resistance as all Jordanian and other armed personnel evacuated the area upon seeing the approach of the Israelis. A few sporadic shots and a volley of mortar fire was reported. A number of Israeli planes were in the air but, except for the interception of a Jordanian vehicle trying to reach the scene of action, they did not participate in the action, a military spokesman said. He said the action took almost eight hours, with Israel in Jordanian territory most of the time. He said the Israelis suffered no casualties.
Jordan Radio said Israeli forces, estimated at one tank company and one infantry company, crossed the cease-fire line near Wadi Arabia, south of the dead sea, at 9 a.m. and moved on the Safi and Qasr Feifa areas but were driven back. It reported that Jordanian forces engaged the Israelis and “drove them off” and said the fighting raged until 1:30 p.m. The retreating Israelis blew up five houses around Safi, Jordan said.
Meanwhile, saboteurs from Lebanon attempted to destroy houses at the Avivim settlement in Upper Galilee near the Lebanese border. Settlement guards were attacked around midnight by fire from the border. The watchmen returned the fire. A search of the area uncovered two explosive charges under two houses at the edge of the settlement. Both houses, occupied by large families, were evacuated until the explosives could be dismantled.