TEL AVIV (Jul. 6)
Israel’s Chief of Staff, Gen. Haim Bar Lev, disclosed today that at least two Soviet SAM-3 missiles have been fired at Israeli aircraft over the Suez Canal zone in recent days. He reported that the Egyptians and Russians were inching their missile bases ever closer to the canal zone and that Israeli jets have been attacking those bases and have destroyed five of them. Three Israeli jets were lost in the attacks so far. Gen. Bar Lev made his dramatic disclosures at a press conference here. Asked if any Russians were killed in the Israeli attacks on the missile bases, he replied, “I don’t know, but I think so.” Gen. Bar Lev said that Russian pilots were not detected in the canal zone, adding, they do not need to come in view of the anti-aircraft defence. Gen. Bar Lev said that the first SAM-3 missiles known to have been fired in combat were reported by Israeli pilots returning from one of their daily sorties. He did not indicate whether any of the Israeli planes were hit. But he disclosed that the three Israeli jets downed last week–two on June 30 and one yesterday–were hit by SAM-2s, missiles that had hitherto been ineffective against low flying aircraft.
According to Gen. Bar Lev they were fired from improvised, non-concrete launching pads which the Egyptians set up during the night between last Monday and Tuesday. He said tens of missiles were fired at the Israeli attackers but only three scored hits. Gen. Bar Lev said that the Egyptians, aided by the Russians, have succeeded in moving a dozen or more ground-to-air missile bases within range of Israeli jets flying missions over the canal zone. He said the missiles were mainly SAM-2s but were supported by at least two batteries of SAM-3s manned exclusively by Soviet personnel. The Egyptians are manning the SAM-2s. Gen. Bar Lev said, but with Russian advisors who are “more than advisors.” He said, “We feel the Russian hand in almost every field of planning, operating and directing the SAM-2 missiles. According to Gen. Bar Lev, the missiles are now deployed within a rectangular area the eastern line of which is located 15-20 miles west of the Suez Canal and its western limit, midway between the canal and Cairo. He disclosed that Israeli planes flying over the canal were fired on by SAM-2s and in one case a missile exploded in midair and fragments fell on an Israeli outpost on the east bank of the canal. This indicates that the missile launching pads are located within 20 miles of the canal since 20 miles is the range of the SAM-2.
Replying to questions, Gen. Bar Lev said the new development was considered “rather serious” but, he added, “This does not mean we have lost our air superiority as the number of missile bases is rather small.” He warned, however that “under cover of these batteries, the Egyptians and Russians can move their missiles further eastward toward the canal and then it would be more difficult for Israeli planes to act over the canal zone.” He said the Russians and Egyptians were trying to deprive Israel of freedom of operation along the waterway and to build up Egyptian forces for an offensive operation. (The problem of Soviet military escalation in Egypt was raised in the House of Commons today by Paul Rose, a Labor MP. In a question addressed to Foreign Secretary Sir Alec Douglas-Home, he wanted to know if, in view of Soviet operational flights and missile escalation he would authorize the sale of Chieftain tanks to Israel. The Foreign Secretary said in a written reply that “It is not our practice, nor has it been the practice of previous governments, to comment on the details of particular arms transactions. We will, however, continue to consider each application for arms sales carefully on its merits, taking into consideration the situation in the area.”)