TEL AVIV (May. 31)
Israel Air Force Jets bombed Egyptian positions in the Suez Canal zone three times today and returned safely to their bases. Two attacks were launched in the morning. An afternoon attack lasted two hours and 20 minutes, a military spokesman reported. Fifteen Israeli soldiers were killed yesterday, 13 of them in two Egyptian ambushes along the east bank of the Suez Canal and two in a clash with guerrillas in the Jordan Valley. One Israeli soldier was wounded on an Egyptian air raid over the northern section of the canal zone today. The planes were driven off by antiaircraft fire and one is believed to have been hit although it was not seen crashing. Yesterday’s death toll was the highest Israeli forces have suffered in a single day since the June, 1967 war. Officials here said the Egyptian commando action on the Suez Canal front, coordinated with heavy artillery barrages, indicated that the increased Soviet military presence in Egypt was beginning to make itself felt. The Egyptians are now attempting large scale raids across the canal as well as air assaults apparently without worrying about their rear echelons coming under Israeli air attack, the officials said. Nevertheless. Israel Air Force Jets pounded Egyptian artillery positions along the canal for more than seven-and-a-half hours yesterday and returned safely to their bases.
In addition to the dead, four Israeli soldiers were wounded in the ambushes and four more were wounded in the Jordan Valley clash. The Egyptians took two Israeli soldiers prisoner. Yardena settlement in the Beisan Valley was attacked with mortar fire Friday night but there were no casualties or damage. A military spokesman said the first Egyptian ambush occurred at about noon Saturday. An Israeli mobile patrol was caught on a narrow road between a hill and salt marshes, a site known as kilometer 12, south of Port Said. The Egyptians opened fire with bazookas at point blank range, killing nine Israelis and wounding four. They took one prisoner before retreating under Israeli return fire. As Israeli re-enforcements rushed to the scene, Egyptian artillery opened fire across the canal. Israel Air Force jets were called in to silence the Egyptian batteries. They attacked continuously from about one p.m. local time until almost eight p.m., a military spokesman said. A second Egyptian ambush hit an Israeli patrol at 6:30 p.m. at kilometer nine, somewhat to the south of the scene of the first ambush. Four Israeli soldiers were killed and a fifth was taken prisoner before the Egyptians retreated.
Reports of the ambush were announced in Cairo before they were announced here. The delay on the Israeli side was in order to notify the next of kin of the dead soldiers. The names of only three of yesterday’s casualties were released this morning. They are Sergeants Yaacob Heichler, of Ashkelon and Yaacob Heichler, of Tivon, killed in the Canal Zone and Pvt. Nissan Dori, 19, of Ramat Hasharon, killed in the Jordan Valley. Israeli sources said today that the quantity of Soviet arms flowing into Egypt is much greater than originally estimated. That information and yesterday’s Suez ambushes were discussed at today’s weekly Cabinet meeting.
(Egyptian President Garnal Abdel Nasser, who returned Friday to Cairo from consultations in Khartoum, the Sudan, with Sudanese and Libyan leaders, stated that Soviet advisers are ‘with Egyptian troop everywhere.”) Israeli sources expressed concern over the fate of two Israeli pilots recently shot down over Syria and taken prisoner. They are Gideon Magen and Pinhas Nahmani, both of whom were slightly wounded when they were captured. So far Syrian authorities have prevented representatives of the International Red Cross from visiting the prisoners. The body of a Syrian soldier killed in a clash with an Israeli patrol in the Golan Heights last week was returned to Syria today under the auspices of the International Red Cross.