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Officials Skeptical About Revival of ‘eastern Front’

Israeli Air Force jets today shot down 13 Syrian MIG-21s in the biggest air clash between the two countries since the Six-Day War, a military spokesman announced here. One Israeli plane was hit. Its pilot parachuted safely and was picked up by a rescue helicopter. One downed Syrian pilot was reported rescued by the Israelis and taken to Israel where he is being treated.

According to an Israeli Army spokesman, the battle occurred over the Mediterranean Sea at about noon when an Israeli air patrol encountered Syrian interceptors off the Syrian coast. A report from Beirut said the dogfight took place over the Syrian port of Tartous, about 200 kilometers from the Israeli border. (Damascus acknowledged the fight today and admitted the loss of eight Syrian planes but claimed to have shot down five Israeli jets.)

Israeli spokesmen claimed that the outcome was “a heavy blow” to the Syrian Air Force which includes some 200 MIG-21 fighters. According to Israeli sources, today’s score by Israeli fighters brought to 60 the number of Syrian aircraft downed by Israel since the Six-Day War.

These include 48 MIG-21s, nine MIG-17 interceptors and three Sukhoi-7 fighter bombers. The most recent air battle between Israel and Syria occurred last Jan. 8 when Israeli planes attacking radar and military installations in Syria, shot down six MIG-21s. Israel lost three planes in all of its clashes with Syria since 1967.

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