JERUSALEM (Sep. 23)
Israel denied today that it has mobilized its reserves for possible intervention in Jordan. According to latest reports. Syrian invasion forces have suffered a serious setback and there were indications that Damascus was preparing to disengage and pull back. There have been no signs of any move by Iraqi forces stationed in Jordan to enter the battle on the side of the Palestinian guerrillas fighting King Hussein. Israeli authorities are continuing to keep a close watch on events in Jordan. But they do not consider it wise or necessary to intervene at the present stage, informed sources said. Israel’s policy of non-intervention would change however, if certain new developments occurred. According to the sources these would be Syrian occupation of the Gileadheights which would expose Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley to artillery bombardment; direct intervention by the 12,000-man Iraqi forces in Jordan or an imminent threat to the lives of 54 hijacked airline passengers held hostage by Arab terrorists in Jordan.
Israeli military intelligence, which was the first to report the Syrian capture of Irbid, Jordan’s second largest city, reported today that Jordanian forces succeeded in breaking through Syrian lines around Irbid and now have the city under siege. Amman claimed that King Hussein’s forces have destroyed 80 Syrian tanks. The Syrians have at least another 300 combat ready tanks and several divisions they could throw into Jordan but Israeli sources said today that Syria seems to have ended its offensive and may be willing to withdraw with the prestige of its initial victories intact. The Syrian Government never officially acknowledged that its army was fighting in Jordan. Syrian forces wore the battle dress of Palestinian commandos and Syrian tanks were painted with commando insignia. To maintain the fiction that only Palestinians were fighting, Syria did not employ its air force, made up largely of Soviet MIGs, which vastly outnumbers Hussein’s 29-plane air force.
LIKELIHOOD OF U.S. INTERVENTION SEEN LESSENED BY HUSSEIN GAIN
The apparent change in military fortunes in favor of King Hussein lessened the likelihood of United States intervention in Jordan. In recent days the U.S. Sixth Fleet has reportedly moved into the Eastern Mediterranean in a position to support a U.S. airborne landing in Jordan which has no outlet on the Mediterranean. U.S. military transport planes have been on the ready at bases in Europe and in Turkey for the past week to evacuate Americans from Jordan should that become necessary. It was noted here that American transports sent in to evacuate American civilians could land troops at the same time. The U.S. would require permission from Israel or Lebanon to fly over their territory. It was indicated here that Israel would readily grant permission if asked. Military observers here noted that U.S. intervention in Jordan would be far more difficult than was the landing of marines in Lebanon in 1958 to quash a revolt against the pro-Western government. The lack of a Jordanian coastline would force the U.S. to rely on an airlift and to depend on Hussein’s forces to control the Amman airport at least until U.S. troops landed in force. In Lebanon the Americans encountered no opposition but in Jordan they would be opposed by a guerrilla force commanding artillery and tanks. Observers here said that from the military standpoint, Israel was better suited than the U.S. to intervene in Jordan.
The fighting in Jordan between Arab and Arab continued to have a profound impact on West Bank residents. A group of physicians and nurses hurried today to the Damiya bridge on the Jordan River after hearing rumors that injured Jordanian civilians had been brought to the bridge for treatment in Israel. The rumors proved to be unfounded. During the day, girl students at a high school in Nablus read rites from the Koran in memory of Palestinians killed in the Jordanian civil war. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan made a visit today to Nablus for talks with the mayor and other officials on the situation across the border. West Bank residents generally reacted favorably to a pledge yesterday by Israeli Health Minister Victor Shemtov to accept injured women and children and aged Jordanians for treatment in Israeli hospitals. However, there were no indications that the Jordanian Government had any interest in the proposal.