TEL AVIV (Oct. 17)
Israel indicated today that it has scored a major success in a fierce tank and artillery battle raging in the Sinai desert and said its task force which crossed the Suez Canal yesterday was still battling on the west bank behind Egyptian lines. According to the latest communique which came after a day of ominous silence from the battlefield, nearly 100 Egyptian tanks were destroyed in a major battle waged in the central section of the Suez Canal area.
Gen. Uzi Narkiss told reporters tonight that Egyptian forces were now holding a “decreased area” on the canal’s east bank. He said Israeli forces were “superior in potential, and after today’s battle much more so.” He said the Israeli task force on the west bank of the waterway continued attacking missile sites and artillery batteries “and whatever it meets up with on its way.”
Israel claimed that its Air Force shot down five Egyptian planes today and continued to attack military targets in the Port Said area, the Katamiyeh air base and anti-aircraft missile sites on the west bank while flying close support missions for Israeli troops and armor locked in battle with the Egyptians on the ground.
Israel’s Chief of Staff, Gen. David Elazar, told Israeli reporters today that the initiative in Sinai has been completely in Israel’s hands for the past 24 hours. “We are managing to wage the battle the way we want on this (eastern) side of the Suez Canal as well as on the other (western) side. This gives us a good chance of making changes on this front,” he said. Gen. Elazar said that the battle picture was favorable on the Syrian front as well. He said there had been some counter-attacks but all were re pulsed with heavy losses to the enemy.
Israel reported today that 38 Egyptians were captured during the last 24 hours in the area of southern Sinai known as Merhav Shlomo. The report said that 18 of the POWs were taken yesterday and 20 more during the night. They were described as commandos air-dropped in the Sharm el-Sheikh area with the apparent mission of attacking Israeli targets. The Israeli Air Force today attacked bridges in the vicinity of Latakia and Tartous, Syria’s two main ports, with the objective of disrupting the flow of supplies from the ports to the interior, a military communique said. Seven Syrian planes were shot down. Otherwise the Syrian front was reported relatively quiet.
King Hussein of Jordan today held in Amman his first press conference since the war started. He said that Jordanian troops were fighting in Syria and had suffered their first casualties. Hussein took a hard line against Israel. He claimed that the present war was the result of Israel’s “arrogant, intransigent and vain policies,” and affirmed that Jordan will never give up its claim to the territories lost in the 1967 war. He said that apart from Jordanian units sent to Syria, his army was guarding Jordan’s long frontier with Israel. He made no mention of outside Arab demands that Jordan open a third front against Israel.
USSR INVOLVED BEFORE WAR ERUPTED
Gen. Chaim V. Herzog, a leading Israeli military commentator, charged tonight that the Soviet Union was involved in plans for the new Middle East war well before the Egyptian and Syrian forces attacked Israel on Oct. 6. “The U.S. and the Western world had better take a second look at detente” in this light, Herzog said. He claimed that while Russia was talking to the West about global peace, it was incubating plans for war in the Middle East.
Herzog said that contention was supported by the fact that the Soviet airlift to Egypt and Syria was in full progress as soon as the war started, demonstrating that it was planned beforehand. He said that even stronger evidence of Soviet connivance with the Arabs was its sea lift which was at the Syrian port of Latakia when the war started. To load ships and sail them to Syria takes time. They were loaded and sailed for Syria before the war started with full knowledge by Russia of what was going to happen, Herzog claimed.