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Egyptian Vessels Shell Northern Sinai in First Naval Attack Since 1967-eilat Sinking

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Two Egyptian destroyers and several smaller craft shelled the Israel-occupied northern Sinai coast last night but were driven off by Israeli planes. Israeli jets attacked Egyptian positions and military targets in the northern section of the Suez Canal today and returned safely to their bases, an Israeli military spokesman reported.

The Sinai shelling 25 miles east of the Canal, was Egypt’s first naval action against Israel since Soviet Komar-type missile craft sank the Israeli destroyer Eilat in international waters off Alexandria two years ago. The attack was carried out by one destroyer of the “Skory” class, a vessel of 3,500 tons displacement, another destroyer of unidentified type and smaller craft. Israeli officials said the Egyptian naval guns hit nothing but sand in an action that lasted 30 minutes. A reporter and a photographer representing a journalists’ pool were flown to the site and reported seeing only shell craters in sand dunes. Israeli officials said the naval task force apparently left Port Said last night, reached their target area at 10:30 p.m. local time, and fired hundreds of shells none of which found a target.

An Egyptian military spokesman claimed in Cairo today that the naval attack inflicted “heavy losses in personnel, weapons and equipment” and that Israeli jets staging a retaliatory raid over the Canal were repulsed. The Egyptians claimed that anti-aircraft guns aboard their ships scored hits on two pursuing Israeli planes. Israel denied that any planes were lost.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Gen. Moshe Dayan warned on a radio interview that last week’s three Egyptian commando raids across the Suez which took three Israeli lives were no threat to Israeli military strong points along the waterway. Even if Egyptian raids in unpopulated areas between Israeli positions are occasionally successful, I am certain that our lines will not be upset and that we shall find a military solution which will prove to the Egyptians that such raids are not to their advantage-since they will sustain many more losses than we” he declared.

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