JERUSALEM (Jun. 19)
The massive Israeli air strike yesterday against military positions in Jordan was ordered in retaliation for a progressive increase in “Jordanian aggression” against Israel in which terrorist organizations and the Iraqi expeditionary force participate along with Jordanian Army regulars, the Defense Ministry said.
A communique issued by the Ministry said 600 “acts of aggression” were committed from Jordanian territory so far this year. The number of incidents rose sharply in the last two months during which there were 40 attacks by artillery, 107 by mortars, 17 by tanks, 17 by Soviet-made rockets and seven by anti-tank and recoilless guns, the communique stated. In addition, it said, there were 48 cases of mining during recent months and intensive small arms and bazooka attacks by guerrillas. The Israelis said they killed 66 guerrillas and took 20 prisoners during this period. The communique stressed that Jordanian attacks were aimed not only at military positions but at roads, bridges, settlements, factories, agricultural vehicles and farm workers.
Although the Israeli jets had bombed and strafed Jordanian military installations in the vicinity only a few hours before, traffic across the Allenby and Damiya bridges spanning the Jordan River was normal today.
Yesterday’s air strike, described as one of the heaviest against Jordan since the 1967 war, involved an undisclosed number of aircraft of various types including twin-engine jet bombers. The strike lasted nearly six hours and was concentrated near the north shore of the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley for a distance of 38 miles north of the Dead Sea. An Israeli military spokesman identified some of the targets as Jordanian artillery batteries near el Zahadne and other positions near the Abdullah Bridge. The spokesman said the Jordanian guns there had shelled a Coptic monastery at Kasr el Yahud near the bridge. Another target further to the north was an artillery battery at el Wahadna which had shelled Israeli settlements and field workers in the southern Beisan Valley.
A military spokesman reported that eight Arab infiltrators were killed in two battles today in the Golan Heights and in the Gaza Strip. Those in the Heights were identified as Syrian intelligence officers apparently on a reconnaissance mission. They carried field glasses and Russian-made cameras. The group was apparently the second intelligence team sent by Syria in recent days. Last week five Syrian intelligence officers were captured by an Israeli patrol in the same region.
A military spokesman said several brief artillery exchanges took place yesterday across the Suez Canal, He said the shooting was relatively minor and no casualties were suffered on the Israeli side, Several shells were fired at Israeli farm units in the Beisan area last night from Jordanian territory.
Israeli officials said yesterday that the air attack on Jordanian positions was not linked directly to the artillery barrage that killed an American tourist, Shirley Louise Anderson, of Rochester, N.Y., at Kallia beach on the north shore of the Dead Sea on Tuesday. But a Government spokesman said that the incident in which an Israeli civilian was also killed and another American tourist wounded, “triggered” the air strike, Baghdad Radio claimed today that Iraqi gunners stationed in Jordan were responsible for the fatal barrage and quoted a Baghdad newspaper’s allegation that Miss Anderson was an agent of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
Addressing a Labor Party rally in Haifa yesterday, Minister of Information Israel Galili said the air strike followed Israeli warnings to Jordan which apparently had no effect. He said, “We acted on firm knowledge that the recent attacks at Kallia, the Abdullah Bridge and the Beisan Valley are made by Arab guerrilla groups in close coordination with bases of the Jordanian Army.” He said that the Amman Government has made no attempt to restrain El Fatah and other terrorist groups but rather allowed them freedom of movement and cooperated fully with them.