TEL AVIV (Jun. 24)
Israeli and Egyptian jets fought an air battle over the Gulf of Suez today as Egyptian commandos staged their third foray in three days against Israeli positions on the east bank of the Suez Canal. The site of the raid was an Israeli Army outpost at El Shatt, four miles north of Port Suez. An Israeli military spokesman said one Egyptian MIG-21 was downed in flames over Egyptian territory and that its pilot was apparently killed. All Israeli jets were reported to have returned safely to their bases. Egypt said it shot down an Israeli plane. The spokesman said Israeli forces repulsed the Egyptian commando attack which came during an intense artillery barrage. One Israeli soldier was killed.
Authorities here assessed the results of yesterday’s Israeli commando raid against military positions in Jordan which severely damaged the $85 million East Ghor Canal, that country’s major irrigation project. The raid followed two warnings from Premier Golda Meir to King Hussein of Jordan against continuing artillery attacks on Israeli settlements in the Beisan Valley. The Ghor canal diverted water from the Yarmuk River to irrigate farms in northern Jordan. It was completed five years ago after six years of construction and served an estimated 60,000 Jordanians. Most of the benefitting farmers were said to have left the region as a result of frequent artillery battles.
Observers here noted that increased commando raids by Israelis and Arabs in the past few days have significantly altered the military operations which were hitherto confined largely to artillery exchanges. On Sunday, an Israeli raiding party hit an Egyptian naval radar station on the Gulf of Suez. Egyptian commandos made two attacks on Israeli positions on the canal’s east bank Sunday and Monday. Israeli sources said the Egyptians were repulsed at the perimeter of the fortifications and left three dead behind. A military spokesman said that in today’s commando raid, the Egyptians attacked with grenades and machine guns but were forced to retreat. Cairo claimed today that 22 Israelis were killed. Egypt says total casualties in the three raids were 40 Israelis and three Egyptians killed and six Egyptians wounded. Israel says one Israeli was killed and five were wounded, against four Egyptians known dead.
Reports from Cairo today said that President Gamal Abdel Nasser fired Egypt’s Air Force commander, Gen. Mustafa Shalabi El Henawi, and replaced him with Soviet-trained Gen. Aly Mustafa Baghdadi. Gen. Baghdadi is the fourth commander named to head the Egyptian Air Force since most of it was destroyed by Israeli jets in the opening hours of the Six-Day War.