Israel Believed Unlikely to Permit Jordanians to Repair Bombed Ghor Irrigation Canal

Israel is not likely to permit Jordanian workers to repair the Ghor irrigation canal, Jordan’s largest irrigation project, which was damaged for the second time in two months yesterday by Israeli jets. The jets struck at military objectives in Jordan in response to an upsurge of Jordanian shooting across the cease-fire line and guerrilla raids on Israeli settlements and military units. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said last night that in view of Jordan’s “daily aggression,” Israel cannot be expected to exercise “special caution” in the targets it selects for reprisal.

The 50-mile Ghor canal takes its water from the Yarmuk River, a tributary of the Jordan. It irrigates farm land populated by more than 20,000 Jordanians and it is considered one of the most vital projects in this water-poor region. The canal was blasted by Israeli commandos last June 23 also in reprisal for a escalation of shelling and raids by Jordanian forces.

ATTACKS ON SETTLEMENTS WERE RESUMED WHEN CANAL REPAIRS WERE COMPLETED

The canal is within easy range of Israeli guns but Israel agreed at the time to permit Jordanian workmen to carry out repairs provided Jordan ended artillery attacks and guerrilla incursions against Israel in that area. For two weeks the border was quiet. But once the repairs were completed, the attacks resumed, reaching a peak over the past week-end. Israeli officials said the two-week hiatus proved that Jordanian authorities could control their own army and restrain the guerrillas if they wished to.

Observers on the Israeli side of the border said today that the water level in the Ghor canal appeared down to zero. Yesterday’s jet strike ruptured one of the canal’s walls and the water poured back into the Yarmuk riverbed only a few yards away.

Israeli sources said today that the blasting of the Ghor canal was “poetic justice” since it was Arab snipers in the early fifties who prevented Israel from carrying out its original national irrigation project by firing on workers near the Bnot Yaacov bridge. They noted further that Jordan, Lebanon and Syria had collaborated in a project to divert the headwaters of the Jordan River in order to deprive Israel of its rightful share of the waters. Now, they said, Jordan is suffering the loss of the Ghor canal waters and Israeli forces have also damaged the main water canal that brings water from the Nile to Port Said and other Egyptian towns in the Suez Canal zone.

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