Heaviest Fighting Since Six-day War Erupts on Golan Heights

Israel claimed today that six Syrian MIG-21s were shot down and 12 Syrian tanks destroyed in air and artillery battles over the Golan Heights described as the heaviest since the Six-Day War. One Israeli civilian was killed and two were wounded by Syrian shells in Merom Hagolan, one of three Israeli settlements that were shelled for nearly six hours by Syrian artillery today. A military spokesman said all Israeli planes returned safely to their bases. Damascus radio claimed that one Israeli plane was downed.

(In Washington, State Department spokesman Charles Bray declined to comment on the fighting. His response was consistent with the Department’s refusal to discuss border incidents since the Israeli-Lebanese action in Sept. following the Munich atrocity.)

Today’s clash was the second major outbreak of fighting along the Golan Heights since Nov. 9. It was precipitated, as was the Nov. 9 clash, by an Israeli Air Force attack on Syrian positions this morning in retaliation for renewed terrorist activities in the region. Two anti-vehicle mines were found near Nahal Golan early today and were dismantled. Footprints led across the Syrian demarcation line in the direction of the stronghold that was later the target of Israeli bombers.

Foreign Minister Abba Eban today defended Israeli air raids on Syria and Lebanon. He said they served to prevent more serious attacks on Israel and were Israel’s main contribution to the international efforts that have been called for to combat terrorism. “We tell other states to act and not to let the terrorists rest and we must do the same,” Eban said. He made his remarks in an address to the Jerusalem Press Club. (See separate story).

MEROM HAGOLAN HARDEST HIT

A military spokesman said that Syrian artillery opened fire about an hour after the Israeli planes returned from the morning raid. He said the targets were Merom Hagolan, Ein Zivan and Nahal Hagolan. Merom Hagolan was the hardest hit and suffered the only casualties in addition to some property damage. Israeli planes retaliated with attacks on Syrian artillery positions, two division command posts and an Army radar station.

The most distant target was about eight kilometers inside Syria. During the raids, Syrian interceptors challenged the Israeli planes and two Syrian MIGs were shot down, the military spokesman said. He said Israeli artillery and tanks were in action and scored hits on 12 Syrian tanks.

The spokesman said four more Syrian MIGs were shot down in dogfights this afternoon when the Syrians attempted to bomb Israeli forces along the cease-fire line. Israeli sources stressed tonight that the Syrians were responsible for the renewed fighting because the Syrian Army was coordinating activities with the terrorists. They noted that on Nov. 17 mortar shells were fired at an Israeli Army patrol and that two Israeli vehicles struck mines planted by terrorists.

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