In what was conceded here to be the fiercest and most costly fighting in Israel’s history, the nation’s armed forces were heavily engaged on land, sea and in the air on the fourth day of the new Middle East war. Gen. (Res.) Chaim V. Herzog, a leading Israeli military commentator, said today that Israeli was waging a “war of attrition” against the Egyptians and Syrians. Israeli troops and armor battled to stem a Syrian counter-attack on the Golan Heights and to contain Egyptian bridgeheads established on the east bank of the Suez Canal.
Israeli warplanes bombed Damascus today and Israeli fighter pilots shot down three Soviet-made Syrian Sukhoi-20 bombers attempting to bomb Kiryat Shemona on the Lebanese border. Israeli bombers also smashed a Syrian radar station on Djabel Bruk in Lebanon. The Israeli Navy claimed to have sunk three Egyptian gunboats of the Ossa type in a battle off the Nile delta and to have set afire an Egyptian minesweeper in the Gulf of Suez.
A military communique said Israeli planes attacked Syrian Army and Air Force headquarters in Damascus and also bombed oil refineries north of the Syrian capital. (Reports from Damascus claimed heavy civilian casualties from the Israeli air raid. The United Nations announced today that a UN observer, his wife, and daughter were killed in their home in the Ismac quarter of Damascus during this morning’s Israeli air raid. The observer was identified as Didrik Birger Tjorswaag, 40, of Norway, Israeli planes reportedly bombed Egyptian military targets at Port Said on the northern entrance to the Suez Canal. Unconfirmed reports said Israel bombed Cairo today.)
NO CASUALTY FIGURES, EQUIPMENT LOSSES GIVEN
Details of the fighting on the various fronts continued to be sketchy today. Casualties and loss of equipment was said to be very high on both sides. In keeping with past policy, the Israeli High Command has not announced casualty figures or materiel losses up to now.
(The UN Security Council resumed its session late this afternoon but there was no expectation that any concrete proposal would emerge from today’s meeting. Prior to the session, in tensive diplomatic activity and consultations among the various nations were reported. Differences have emerged between the U.S. on one hand and Britain and France on the other. The U.S. asked yesterday for an end to hostilities and a restoration of the cease-fire lines as they existed before war broke out last Saturday. Britain, reportedly backed by France, appeared to be seeking an in-place cease-fire. The consensus at the UN is that outcome of the current fighting will largely determine the nature of any resolution by the Security Council.)
(At the UN it was announced today that the UN military observers were evacuated yesterday to Cairo from seven observation points on the West Bank of the Suez Canal. Major Gen. Ensio Siilasvuo, chief of staff of the UN Truce Supervision Organization said five observation points on the east bank were closed and three were still operating although contact had been lost with one of them. He said Egypt sent the truce observers a message on Sunday “requesting immediate evacuation of UN military observers to Cairo.” Siilasvuo also reported that all observation posts on the Israel-Syrian border, except for three, were still operating.)
DEVELOPMENTS ON GOLAN HEIGHTS FRONT
Syrian forces stiffened their resistance and launched a counter-attack last night after what appeared to have been a rout by Israeli armor. The Syrians were driven back yesterday from all positions they had won in the initial surprise attack. The Syrians hit back, however, north of Kuneitra. Israeli forces were reportedly blocking their advance. A Syrian attempt to land airborne troops near El Rom on the Golan Heights was defeated. Four Syrian troop carrying helicopters were shot down, killing all aboard.
Syria continued to launch missile attacks on Israeli settlements employing the Soviet-made “Frog” missile, a deadly two-ton projectile with a 50-mile range and a half ton of explosives in its warhead. Last night one of them struck Kibbutz Gvat in the Jezreel Valley. No casualties were reported but 42 houses were destroyed and other buildings were damaged. Altogether, the Syrians have fired 20 of the missiles against civilian centers, the Israeli High Command announced. Targets included Migdal Haemek near Nazareth and points in the vicinity of Kfar Baruch and Nahlal. The High Command said the air raid on Damascus was in retaliation for these attacks.
DEVELOPMENTS ON THE SUEZ CANAL FRONT
Israel Air Force planes staged a concentrated attack last night on Port Said. Missile sites around the city were hit and put out of action, according to an Israeli communique. Port Said was described as the center for Egyptian Army supplies and munitions depots.
Israeli and Egyptian ground forces clashed throughout the day on the east bank of the Suez Canal. Fighting was taking place at a distance of 5-7 kilometers from the canal’s banks. Israel, with apparently complete mastery of the air, was aiming at Egyptian missile sites and at bridges across the canal over which Egyptian troops and armor continue to pour.
An Israeli military correspondent reported today seeing “piles upon piles” of Egyptian dead on the battle field. There was no Israeli confirmation of an Egyptian claim last night to have captured Kantara, provincial capital of western Sinai. There was no confirmation of persistent reports that Israeli forces had crossed the Suez Canal and were racing toward Cairo.
FULL ISRAELI STRENGTH NOT YET EXERTED
Israel’s goal seems not to be just the return to the cease-fire lines but to ensure that Israel shall not face in the future a similar situation as on Yom Kippur, according to military commentators. It is for this reason, they note, that Israel is now staging what may be described as a war of attrition against the Egyptians and Syrians. The Egyptians, especially, are still enjoying the fruits of their initial success and preliminary
Israel has not yet exerted her full strength, according to Herzog. He stressed that the Egyptian command now has quite a number of problems facing it following the Israeli initiative. It has to look into its West Bank positions and the Port Said area following the “visit” there by the Israeli Air Force. Syrians seem to have put their last reserve armor into battle and they have to concentrate on the area of Damascus.