Israel’s political leadership was reported Monday night to be seriously considering a military push beyond the cease-fire lines to pursue fleeing Syrian and Egyptian forces and deal them a “punishing blow.” One unidentified highly placed source in Jerusalem said, “I think we must hit them very hard for their dirty trick.” He was referring to the treacherous and infamous attack launched by the combined forces of Egypt and Syria against Israel on the day of Yom Kippur.
This line of thinking that began to emerge as reports from the fronts indicated a complete rout of the enemy, reflected bitterness and anger over the high casualties suffered by Israel as a result of the unprovoked attack. Israel claimed today that Syrian forces were fleeing in disarray on the Golan Heights and that the Egyptian army was crumbling on the Suez front as Israeli forces mounted offensives in all sectors. Syrian soldiers were reportedly abandoning vehicles and retreating on foot. Israeli forces were pursuing them to the cease-fire lines but were not crossing the lines, according to reports Monday evening.
ENEMY CHECKED AND DISINTEGRATING
Israeli Chief of Staff Gen. David Elazar said Monday night in Tel Aviv that the Egyptian and Syrian attacks have been checked and the Syrian and Egyptian forces are disintegrating. He said Israeli forces have “not yet” crossed the pre-Yom Kippur cease-fire lines on Syrian and Egyptian sectors. Addressing a crowded press conference, Elazar said:
“We are now 54 hours after the beginning of this war. This war was initiated by Egypt and Syria who attacked simultaneously on both fronts and succeeded in crossing the cease-fire line into our territory in the Golan Heights and along the Suez Canal. The first stage of this war was their attack and our defense. We managed to stop the attacking force after about thirty hours, that is to say yesterday (Sunday) evening.” (See separate, story on Elazar press conference.)
Reports from the southern front where the battles were fiercest during the first two days of the Egyptian assault across the Suez Canal, spoke Monday of mopping up operations. Gen. Abraham Mendler, commander of Israeli armored forces in the Sinai said in a message to his troops Monday that the Egyptians were suffering their fourth defeat at Israel’s hands. “Let us hope that this time they will come to the conclusion that stretching out a hand for peace is advisable over waving a sword,” the general said.
REPORTS FROM THE MILITARY FRONT
Israel Air Force Jets were reported during the day to be pounding Egyptian bridgeheads on the east bank of the Suez Canal and Egyptian armor deployed there. The rout of the Syrians became apparent earlier today when it was announced that civilians evacuated from the Golan Heights Saturday have been permitted to return. Three Syrian Sukhoi bombers were reportedly shot down at noon Monday in an air battle over Metullah, Israel’s northernmost settlement near the Syrian-Lebanese border.
Defense Minister Moshe Dayan said Sunday that the Egyptians had a quarter of a million soldiers on the Suez front, 2000 tanks, 700 planes and 1500 artillery pieces. He said there was no sign of Jordanian intervention. Dayan said that Israel has suffered casualties but far greater casualties in personnel and equipment have been inflicted on the enemy.
While neither Jordan nor Lebanon have entered the war, Israeli forces are maintaining a close watch on the borders with those countries. The Jordanian sector has been quiet since the Egyptian-Syrian attack began on Yom Kippur. Terrorists have been active in southern Lebanon. Targets of attacks last night included Kiryat Shemona which was bombed by the Syrian Air Force on Saturday; Hanita; Betzet; Akhziv; Manara; Baram; Miron; Gesher Aziv; and Idmit. Most terrorist rockets and mortar shells exploded harmlessly in fields.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Cabinet was scheduled to meet late this evening to assess developments in the Security Council. Israel is hoping that the Council will take no clear cut action and that the U.S. will support Israel’s demand that there be no cease-fire until the Egyptians and Syrians are pushed behind the 1967 cease-fire lines.
(At the United Nations headquarters in New York, the Security Council meeting, scheduled to start at 4 p.m. local time, was postponed for several hours. Observers said the delay was due to consultations between the non-aligned nations and Australian Ambassador Laurence McIntyre, this month’s president of the Council. The non-aligned countries reportedly want a Security Council resolution calling for Israel’s withdrawal to its pre-June, 1967 borders. Observers here noted that the U.S. which has asked for the Security Council meeting, has talked about ending current hostilities but not about a cease-fire.)