TEL AVIV (Jul. 31)
Syrian warplanes struck today at an Israeli position near the Lebanese-Syrian border where Israeli jets attacked guerrilla bases yesterday for the first time since the June 1967 war. Israeli officials also reported that the Syrians opened artillery fire at Quneitra and Tel Abou Hidda in the central section of the occupied Golan Heights. Initial reports were that the Israelis suffered no casualties. The Syrian artillery bombardment was described as fierce.
The Israeli Air Force did not intercept the Syrian jets, an Israel Army spokesman said. But he noted that this was the first time the Syrians attacked ground positions from the air. (Damascus Radio said Israeli jets attacked Syrian and that three of them were shot down by anti-aircraft fire. The Syrian air assault, it said, was “in retaliation for enemy planes’ aggressive actions against our positions.”)
Israel military officials also reported that an Israeli patrol clashed at dawn with a saboteurs gang in the Mount Hermon area, the general site of the Israeli air blow yesterday and the Syrian air response today. One of the saboteurs was killed and one Israeli soldier slightly injured. In a Suez Canal incident, Staff Sgt. Zeev Poznik was killed and another Israeli soldier injured yesterday when Egyptians opened artillery fire at Israeli positions after a 24 hour lull in the Suez Canal sector. Israeli forces returned the fire.
Israeli observers said the Syrian air and artillery action might be retaliation for Israel’s air blow in which, according to a Syrian communique, 11 persons were injured. However, they added, the Syrian actions might have been taken as an independent initiative as part of an “eastern command” plan to relieve the pressure now exerted by Israel on the Egyptians at the Suez Canal cease-fire line. The “eastern command,” in which Syria, Iraq and Jordan nominally participate, was established on initiative of Egyptian President Nasser, purportedly to save him the need to come to the aid of Jordan if Jordan was attacked by Israel. The observers noted that the “eastern command” is directed by an Iraqi officer. They noted also that it appeared it was President Nasser, rather than Jordan, who was under the severest strain and that he might have asked the Syrians to start military operations against Israel to present Israel with the problem of a war on two fronts.