TEL AVIV (Jul. 21)
Artillery duels broke out anew today along the Suez Canal following a four-hour ground and air battle yesterday that saw the first Israeli air attack on Egyptian ground installations in nearly two years. An artillery and tank battle near the Bitter Lakes, Firdan Bridge spanning the Canal and north of Qantara today injured two Israelis, according to a military spokesman.
Egyptian authorities today invited newsmen to see remnants of 19 Israeli planes which they claimed were shot down in yesterday’s fighting near Port Suez but cancelled the tour at the last minute, claiming that the area was under heavy shelling. An Israeli spokesman said there was no shelling in that area today.
A military spokesman said that Israel yesterday bombed and strafed Egyptian ground-to-air missile bases, anti-aircraft positions and artillery installations between Port Said and Qantara. The Israeli Air Force was reported to have lost two jets but the pilots bailed out safely into Israeli occupied Sinai. Israel said Egypt lost five jets–two Sukhoi-7s, two MIG-17s and MIG-21s–all of which were said to have crashed in Egypt. Cairo Radio claimed that its pilots and anti-aircraft artillery downed 19 Israeli planes and that Egyptian aircraft struck a tank column, three radar installations, artillery emplacements, an ammunition dump and a Hawk missile site in the Israeli-occupied Sinai. Egypt reported one plane lost.
ISRAELIS ATTACK, OCCUPY BRIEFLY EGYPTIAN ISLAND SOUTH OF CANAL
The fighting began yesterday with an attack by Israeli troops on Green Island, an Egyptian island stronghold at the southern outlet of the Suez Canal that serves as an anti-aircraft base. The Israelis occupied the fortress for about 50 minutes and left an estimated 25 killed and dozens wounded, officials said. Israel said it lost six men and that nine were wounded in the raid in which its troops destroyed an 85-millimeter anti-aircraft battery, a radar post, several smaller anti-aircraft guns, most of the island’s machine gun nests and a number of buildings.
An Israeli military spokesman said that the attack was the costliest since military operations of this nature began last year. He rejected Egyptian claims that 30 Israelis were killed and a Mirage jet was shot down in the raid on the artificial island fortress constructed atop a submerged rock in shallow waters, some two miles south of Port Tewfik. The fortified base safeguarded the southern entrance to the 100-mile-long Canal. It has long buildings and a wide courtyard and housed radar-controlled anti-aircraft guns and other weapons. Egyptian artillery continued pounding the island during and after the raid, an Army spokesman said.
Israeli planes, following the Green Island attack, hit Egyptian positions across the Canal, including a missile site west of Port Said, a city at the northern end of the Canal, and the city itself. The air strikes were accompanied by artillery exchanges along the northers sector of the waterway. At first the Egyptians used massed anti-aircraft artillery against the Israeli Jets and then sent up its planes to bomb Israeli positions in the Romania area near Port Said and Port Fund, near Tantara, Ismailia and Port Tewfik. The five were reported to have been shot down in the air battles that followed. Three Israeli soldiers were wounded as a result of the Egyptian Air Force activity, three others were wounded by artillery. An Israel military spokesman said that one Israeli jet was downed by an air-to-air missile, the other by anti-aircraft guns.
BLAMES EGYPT FOR ‘TOTAL DISREGARD’ OF 1967 CEASE-FIRE AGREEMENT
The clashes came after “850 violations of the cease-fire by the Egyptian forces” across the Canal, said Kol Israel, Israel’s national radio. It accused Egypt of staging at least 10 commando raids and 50 mining incidents. Another spokesman said that Israeli Jets attacked Egyptian positions because of Cairo’s “total disregard” of the 1967 cease-fire agreement. Dr. Mohammed H. el-Zayyat, the Egyptian Government spokesman who will soon be Ambassador to the United Nations, termed Israel’s air raid “vindictive operations against civilian as well as military targets and very serious escalation, escalation toward what I don’t know.” Meanwhile, President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt was reported today to have conferred with his top military officials. The clashes yesterday were the most violent since last March 8 when Egyptians intensified their military action along the Canal, action that has continued daily together with threats and open statements of belligerence, an Israeli official noted. He said the latest measures were designed to prevent further escalation.