TEL AVIV (May. 17)
Aerial warfare between Israel and Egypt escalated sharply over the weekend and the two countries also exchanged blows at sea. According to a military spokesman, Israeli jets downed five Egyptian MIGs over the Suez Canal zone between Friday morning and noon Saturday and sank an Egyptian destroyer and a Soviet-built Komar missile boat in the Red Sea late Saturday afternoon. Israeli warplanes pounded Egyptian targets in the northern, central and southern sections of the canal zone today. A military spokesman said an hour long attack was carried out in the morning and a second attack lasting 35 minutes was launched this afternoon. All planes returned safely to their bases. Two Israeli soldiers were wounded in a fire exchange with the Egyptians across the Suez Canal today. A military spokesman disclosed that two Israeli soldiers were killed and ten were injured in earlier shellings. The dead were identified as Sgts. Abraham Bonen, 20, of Nathanya and Abraham David Gerassi. 22, of Haifa.
An Israeli soldier was injured and several houses were damaged in a mortar attack on Kfar Ruppin from Jordan last night. Jordanian and Iraqi forces shelled Ashdod Yaacob and Menahemia. There were no casualties. Fifteen cows were wounded by shell fragments. A military spokesman said the air assaults on Egyptian positions in the canal zone Friday and Saturday were among the heaviest ever mounted by the Israel Air Force. Their intention was to prevent the deployment of Egyptian anti-aircraft defenses in the so-called “middle zone” between the canal and central Egypt which is defended by Soviet SAM-3 anti-aircraft missiles and, reportedly by Soviet pilots manning Egyptian jets. A military spokesman said hundreds of bombs were dropped on artillery batteries, camps and roads. An Egyptian MIG-21 and two MIG-17s were downed Friday when they challenged the Israeli attackers. Two more MIG-17s were shot down Saturday. All Israeli aircraft returned safely to their bases. The five planes shot down brought to 103 the number of Egyptian warplanes destroyed since the Six-Day War.
EGYPTIAN DESTROYER AND MISSILE BOAT SUNK IN RETALIATION FOR SINKING OF FISHING BOAT
Israel claimed that its planes sank an Egyptian “Z” class destroyer and an 80-foot Komar class missile boat in a strike on the Egyptian naval base at Ras Banas, 500 miles south of the southern end of the Suez Canal near the Sudanese border. The strike was in retaliation for the sinking Wednesday of the 70-ton Israeli fishing trawler Orith by an Egyptian missile boat off northern Sinai in which two crew members were killed and two survived. Israel announced the loss on Friday. At the same time Israel disclosed the death of a civilian frogman and injuries to three others who were removing underwater wreckage at the port of Eilat. They were reportedly the victims of underwater explosives planted by Egyptian frogmen. Israeli sources did not disclose how the two Egyptian naval craft were sunk, what weapons were used or how long the engagement lasted. A spokesman here said the destroyer was one of two World War Il built vessels purchased from Britain in 1955. Their normal complement was 250 officers and ratings but it was not known how many were aboard at the time of the sinking. (Cairo denied that the destroyer was sunk but admitted it was hit and that there were casualties among its crew.) The Komar missile craft, which carries two Soviet-made surface-to-surface missiles and two anti-aircraft guns has a crew of 15-20 men. According to the Israeli report, the destroyer sank slowly and the missile boat went down almost immediately after it was hit. The Israelis said their planes encountered anti-aircraft fire from the destroyer and from Egyptian shore positions but returned safely to base.
The Israeli fishing boat Orith was reportedly trawling off the Bardawill lagoon on the northern Sinai coast when It was hit by an Egyptian missile. Her Captain, Adam Yashar, was killed instantly and her engineer, Segal Ackermann was wounded but managed to abandon ship with two other crewmen, Oded Kopelnik and Boaz Itzhak. They clung to wreckage but Ackermann died during the night. The two others managed to swim to the sand spit that encloses the lagoon. They were picked up in the morning by Arab fishermen who landed then at Nahal Yam, an Israeli settlement in northern Sinai. They were flown to a hospital in Beersheba where they were reported in excellent condition. According to the Israeli report of events at Eilat Wednesday, four frogmen were at work clearing the wreckage of the Bat Galim, an Israeli naval auxiliary vessel that was sunk by Egyptian frogmen last February. The underwater explosion killed Avi Shackak, of Nabariya and wounded his three companions. The sinking of an Egyptian destroyer claimed by Israel evened the score between the two country’s navies. In October, 1967, Egyptian missile boats sank the Israeli destroyer Eilat off Sinai killing 51 of her crew. The Eilat, also British-built, was a sister ship of the Egyptian destroyer claimed sunk yesterday. Egypt’s navy now has only one destroyer of the “Z” class left but it has five other destroyers of the Soviet Skory class.