TEL AVIV (Jan. 8)
Israeli and Syrian forces battled on the ground and in the air today. Israel claimed that its jets shot down six Syrian MIG-21s in a dogfight over Syrian territory and inflicted heavy damage on Syrian Army camps, radar stations and terrorist strongholds inside Syria. All Israeli planes were reported to have returned to their bases safely. Israel also claimed hits on six Syrian tanks. Two Israeli settlements, Merom Hagolan and Nahal Snir along the Syrian border, were heavily shelled by Syrian artillery. Two Israeli soldiers were reported slightly wounded. Meron Hagolan sustained heavy damage.
The latest flare-up of fighting between Israel and Syria–the fifth in the last two months–followed a series of terrorist attacks on Israel territory during the past 24 hours. A military spokesman said an Israeli patrol was ambushed by small arms fire near Kuneitra on the Golan Heights late yesterday an Israeli outpost in the Kuneitra area was shelled from Syrian territory during the evening; and a second Israeli patrol was attacked by small arms fire early this morning. The spokesman said the terrorist attacks were coordinated with the Syrian Army.
Air Force jets struck in retaliation this morning against terrorist bases near Dail and Mazirab in southern Syria; an artillery battery and two Syrian Army outposts southeast of Kuneitra; a Syrian Army camp at Nawa north of Dara and two Syrian radar stations, one near Nouweima and another near Shahabe. Later in the day, Israeli planes struck again, hitting targets at the Yahudieyeh Army camp near the seaport city of Latakia; Army camps at Tasas and Partus, and an Army camp and radar station at Karwousoa.
The air battle developed at noon today when Syrian MIG interceptors were sent up against Israeli planes attacking the radar stations. Israel said six of the MIGs were downed by air-to-air missiles. Israel denied a Syrian claim that two Israeli planes and four Israeli tanks were hit.
SYRIA APPEALS FOR HELP
Syrian artillery opened up a barrage along the cease-fire line shortly after the air battle. Israeli artillery and tank guns returned the fire in a duel which lasted until sunset. Israel said hits were scored on two Syrian tanks near Boukata and on four others in the central region of the cease-fire lines opposite Rafid. According to Israeli sources, returning pilots reported direct hits on Syrian Army installations. In one area ambulances were seen evacuating casualties.
At the height of the battles, Damascus radio broadcast an appeal to other Arab states to join in the fighting. The Damascus commentator stressed that Syria should not be made to stand alone against Israel which can concentrate its forces in the north because there is a cease-fire on the other fronts.
(A report from Cairo today said that President Anwar Sadat has instructed War Minister Gen. Ahmed Ismail to prepare an Egyptian military response to Israeli attacks on Syria. The report said a renewal of Egyptian military action after more than two years of observing the cease-fire was contemplated at the highest government levels in Cairo. Such action would be limited but could involve Egyptian air strikes at Israeli targets, the report said.)
Israeli circles said today that Syria’s appeal for help, also broadcast by the terrorist radio station in Dara, was not likely to be heeded. They said that Egypt has repeatedly warned Syria that it would not engage Israel every time an incident occurs. The Egyptians say they will go to war when they think they are ready and at a time of their own choosing.
Meanwhile, two parcels of arms and ammunition wrapped in raincoats were found today under a bush near Akhziv in Upper Galilee. The parcels were believed to have been left behind by terrorists who infiltrated from Lebanon recently but abandoned their sabotage mission in face of an Israeli manhunt. The parcels contained submachine guns, hand grenades and seven kilograms of explosives.