TEL AVIV (Dec. 6)
Israeli fighter planes shot down an Egyptian MIG-21 over the Gulf of Suez this afternoon in the first air battle since hostilities ended on the Egyptian front Oct. 25. A military spokesman said the battle, which lasted only a few minutes, began at 2 p.m. local time when Egyptian planes tried to intercept Israeli fighters patrolling the northern section of the Gulf of Suez. He said that all Israeli planes returned safely to their bases.
The aerial dogfight and the rising number of shooting incidents on the ground have contributed to increased tension along the cease-fire lines with both Egypt and Syria. One Israeli source likened the situation to “a finger on the trigger–one squeeze and the war starts again.”
But Israeli security circles attribute most of the incidents to local Egyptian commanders acting on their own initiative rather than under orders from their from their superiors. These circles admit that the high state of alert and tension on the cease-fire lines stems from the massive movements and deployment of forces and equipment by the Egyptian and Syrian armies facing Israeli forces which tends to make a resumption of hostilities probable.
The Israeli army is also maintaining a high state of alert on the eastern frontier with Jordan. Although that front was quiet throughout the Yom Kippur War, Israeli circles are more inclined than before to believe that if Egypt and Syria resume hostilities, Jordan this time would intervene by opening a third front. The Egyptian front, nevertheless, is considered the most important. Outwardly there is no sign of tension. Israeli soldiers on the west bank of the Suez Canal went about their routine duties today, cleaning up and distributing the mail within view of the Egyptian lines. As one soldier put it, “It’s a cat and mouse game.”