JERUSALEM (Oct. 29)
Israeli Premier Golda Meir’s disclosure Sunday at a New York youth rally that four Soviet-piloted planes had been shot down in Israel seven days before the 90-day ceasefire went into effect, was reported here yesterday. The story of the air battle was published yesterday in Maariv, Israel’s largest daily newspaper. Although details of the incident had been widely circulated outside Israel, they had not been published here until this time, since the government had not announced them. Information now available discloses that the battle on July 30 involved several scores of planes and took place over the village of Ein Sachuna, 20 miles south of the southern end of the Suez Canal on the Egyptian-held side. Three Soviet pilots were seen bailing out. A fourth Soviet plane exploded in mid-air. No Israeli planes were downed. According to the military correspondent for Maariv, the Soviet losses in the air engagement forced Marshal Pavel Kutachox, commander of the Soviet Air Force, to conclude that his pilots were too inexperienced to tangle with the Israeli pilots. Several days after the dogfight, he arrived in Egypt and ordered Soviet pilots to refrain from any future engagements in which they did not have a marked advantage. The Maariv correspondent also stated that perhaps this incident had cleared the way for Israeli acceptance of the cease-fire seven days later since it indicated the Soviet’s readiness to risk eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with the Israelis.