TEL AVIV (Sep. 19)
The cease-fire with Egypt was severely shaken on the eve of the High Holy Days as Israeli and Egyptian forces exchanged fire across the Suez Canal for the first time in 13 months. Israeli war planes reportedly attacked Egyptian missile sites yesterday in retaliation for Friday’s downing of an unarmed Israeli transport plane hit by Egyptian missiles while in flight over Sinai 25 miles east of the canal. Seven crew members killed in the attack, were buried today. The eighth bailed out safely. In a separate incident, a four year old Arab girl was killed and five adults and six local Arab children were injured today by a hand grenade hurled at a throng near Herod’s Gate in Jerusalem. Police arrested 15 persons for questioning.
Israeli leaders met for urgent consultations at Premier Golda Meir’s home over the attack on the transport which Defense Minister Moshe Dayan described on a televised interview as “more than a provocation, an act of war.” Thousands of Israeli soldiers home on holiday leave reportedly phoned their units to find out if they were needed following the attack on the transport. Israeli sources released no details of the battle across the Suez Canal. United Nations observers and Egyptian sources said the attack was carried out by three Israeli planes each of which fired two American-made Shrike air-to-ground missiles. But authoritative sources in Jerusalem said last night that Israel will try to maintain the cease-fire and prevent escalation in the canal zone despite Egyptian provocation.
In an interview published in Haaretz today, Gen. Dayan said he would not be surprised if the Egyptians renewed hostilities some time before the end of the year. He said the suspension of deliveries of U.S. Phantom jets to Israel constituted a deterioration of the balance of military power in the Middle East. It does not mean, Dayan said, that in case of war we can be defeated, “but when one side continues to get supplies and the other side not–the relative situation of the second side deteriorates.” The downing of the Israeli transport occurred a week after Israeli machinegunners shot down an Egyptian Sukhoi-7 fighter bomber flying low over Israeli positions on a reconnaissance mission. The transport was described as a propellor-driven Boeing Strato-Cruiser used for both civilian and military purposes.
ATTACK ON PLANE PREMEDITATED AMBUSH
Israeli military sources said it was the victim of a premeditated “ambush.” They said the Egyptian missiles, probably Soviet-made SAM-2s, were fired from a base near the Suez Canal south of Ismailia. The plane was flying at 25,000 feet when it was hit. The survivor said he happened to be near an exit door when the hit was scored and bailed out. The plane went into a spin and crashed in the Sinai desert.
Observers here linked the Egyptian attack to pressure by Cairo on the United States to extract concessions from Israel on the eve of the United Nations General Assembly fall session which begins Tuesday. They said President Anwar Sadat was apparently encouraged by information that the U.S. was withholding Phantom jets from Israel as a means of getting concessions and that might lead him to expect further American pressure if he impresses Washington with the danger of renewed warfare. One authoritative source said the Egyptian action demonstrated the fallacy of American thinking. Instead of inducing a more peaceful mood in Egypt. it has stirred up hopes that a victory over Israel might be won by combining diplomatic pressures with military action. President Sadat on Thursday denounced alleged reluctance by the U.S. to take a “firm stand” against Israel and charged the U.S. of responsibility for the “collapse” of hopes for an interim agreement.