TEL AVIV (Sep. 9)
Israeli planes, tanks and troops struck Egypt today in the heaviest raid in the Middle East since the June, 1967 Six-Day War, A military spokesman said that assault craft landed tanks on the Egyptian coast of the Gulf of Suez opposite the Israeli-occupied Sinai Desert and that Israeli forces smashed Egyptian military positions, army posts, radar and rocket installations and construction sites along a 30-mile front.
The spokesman said that the attack lasted 10 hours, and that an estimated 100 Egyptians were killed. Israeli troops retreated with one slightly wounded soldier, and one Israeli airplane was downed, the spokesman said. The pilot parachuted into the Gulf and planes and ships were searching for him.
When the attack force returned to its bases, it left behind numerous destroyed tanks, armored troop carriers, trucks and other vehicles belonging to the Egyptians. It returned with all Israeli equipment intact.
The military spokesman said that the raid took place between El Hafayer, 24 miles south of Suez and Ras Zafrana, 54 miles south of the city, which is at the southern end of the 103-mile-long Canal.
DAYAN AND MRS. MEIR TELL REASONS FOR BLOW AGAINST EGYPT
Defense Minister Moshe Dayan said that today’s blow at Egypt was a reaction to a recent intensification of Egyptian fire across the Suez Canal cease-fire line. He was echoed by Premier Golda Meir who said in an official statement issued later that the assault was aimed at “driving home to the Egyptian authorities the fact that aggression cannot fail to evoke appropriate reaction.”
“We have repeatedly stated that in the absence of peace we are willing to, and ready to, comply strictly with the cease-fire, but only on condition that compliance is reciprocal,” Mrs. Meir stated. “This applies to Egypt and to all neighboring Arab states. If they keep the peace, they will find reciprocity on our side.”
Gen. Dayan called the surprise attack on Egyptian positions along the west coast of the Gulf of Suez a “heavy and devastating blow” and warned the Egyptians that they are liable to even heavier blows. He said that last night’s sinking of two Egyptian torpedo boats at their moorings was a preliminary phase of today’s operation.
In reply to questions, the Defense Minister told newsmen he did not think today’s action would achieve “full tranquility” along the Egyptian-Israeli cease-fire line. But he did not think that it brought the situation to the verge of a new war in which both sides were ready to advance from their present positions. “We are very selective in our activity as to timing and types of weapons used,” he said.
Military observers noted that Egyptian fire-power had been taking an increasing toll of Israeli troops along the Canal front in recent months. There was no indication if American-made F-4 Phantom jets were used in the attack. The first consignment of Phantoms arrived last week in Israel.
The Air Force, coordinating its efforts with the Navy and Army, attacked and destroyed various targets including two anti-aircraft missile sites.
The raid action began early Monday and by mid-day the forces had left Egyptian soil. The full operation began Sunday night when Israel Navy commandos sank two Russian-made Egyptian torpedo boats moored in the area. The Israeli forces began moving after the boats were demobilized.
“Not a single Egyptian plane appeared in the sky. Not a single Egyptian boat appeared. Not a single Egyptian ground force appeared to engage us.” the military spokesman said. “Methodically and in a very orderly fashion, the task force attacked one target after another.”
A senior military officer said that this action “proved to the Egyptians that Israel is capable of striking anywhere, at any time it chooses. And we have faced President Nasser with a new problems exposed flank.”
The largest previous attack since the war occurred on March 21, 1968 when air and ground forces struck Jordan in retaliation for a number of guerrilla attacks. Israelis claimed killing 150 El Fatah members while losing 24 troops. Jordan said it killed 200 Israelis in the 14-hour fight.
In Cairo, Egyptian military spokesman denied the Israeli reports of landings and said that the task force has been driven off with “huge losses in life and equipment.” He called the action an Egyptian victory. The military spokesman said that Egyptian anti-aircraft gunners had shot down three Israeli jets and sank two naval vessels before the Israelis “retreated” to the Sinal Peninsula.
World-wide news media were mobilized to cover a new Middle East war early today, one that didn’t break out. A report by Columbia Broadcasting System correspondent Anthony Hatch in Jerusalem that Israel had invaded Egypt this morning sparked a rush to airports by scores of newspaper reporters and TV cameramen in full battle gear.
The Government Press Office here reported that it was deluged with cables from correspondents all over the world announcing that they were enroute to Israel to “cover the war.” But it turned out to be not a new war but another Israeli punitive raid against Egypt–on a larger scale than usual.