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Israeli Forces Repulse Egyptian Commando Raid; Two Israeli Soldiers Killed, One Wounded

May 20, 1970
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Israel reported that its forces repulsed an Egyptian commando raid across the southern section of the Suez Canal at dawn today killing at least seven of the estimated 15 Egyptian raiders. Two Israeli soldiers were killed and one was injured in fire exchanges across the Suez Canal during the past 24 hours. One of the dead soldiers was identified as Yonatan Shabtai. 20, of Tel Aviv. Cairo claimed today that a force of 90 Egyptian commandos attacked an Israeli armored column destroying two Israeli tanks and two half-tracks and killing their crews. The Egyptians said six of their men were wounded and seven were missing. An Israeli military spokesman said six Egyptian raiders were killed by Israeli fire almost immediately after they landed on the canal’s east bank and the body of the seventh was seen floating on the waterway.

According to the Israeli account, the raiding party retreated under cover of an Egyptian artillery barrage. Israel replied with artillery and tank gun fire and sent jets to silence the Egyptian gunners. A military spokesman said Egyptians suffered casualties on the west bank of the canal as a result of Israeli return fire. Israeli and Jordanian forces exchanged mortar fire in the northern section of the Beisan Valley this morning. The shooting developed after guerrillas attacked an Israeli patrol near Neve Urr. There were no casualties on the Israeli side. Israel Air Force jets continued their methodical pounding of Egyptian positions in the canal zone last night and this morning to prevent the construction of SAM-3 missile sites. According to a military spokesman, the warplanes ranged some 30 kilometers west of the canal to strike Egypt’s in-depth defenses. They also battered the central and southern sectors of the canal zone for two and a half hours this morning. All planes returned safely to their bases.


A military spokesman said that Israel’s aerial sorties during the past few days have encountered no SAM-3 missile sites or enemy aircraft piloted by Russians. The Israeli jets have confined their operations to the canal zone and a middle corridor lying between the canal and central Egypt. Foreign Ministry officials said yesterday that they had no knowledge of reports in one local newspaper that Israel has warned the Big Powers that it would do everything in its power to prevent Egypt from strengthening its Suez Canal defenses, even if it meant hitting Soviet personnel and equipment in the canal zone. The paper said Israel intended to stop the Russians from moving in strength into Egypt’s second line of defense, about 15-20 miles west of the canal. The paper did not say to which nations the Israeli warning was addressed, by who and when it was made.

Israel admitted today that several hundred guerrillas have returned to so-called “Fatah land” in southeastern Lebanon, the scene of Israel’s 32-hour armed incursion of May 12-13. The guerrillas returned after Israeli forces withdrew. The admission was an acknowledgment that the Israeli expedition was of a punitive nature rather than a decisive clean out of guerrilla bases. Chief of Staff Gen. Haim Bar Lev indicated as much last week when he said the fedayeen could not be cleared out in a single operation. The main purpose of the expedition was apparently to bolster morale in Israeli border settlements and to warn Beirut authorities to curb guerrilla activities from Lebanese soil.

Military sources said today that Israel regards Al Saiqa units in Lebanon as “part and parcel of the Syrian Army.” A1 Saiqa is a smell Fedayeen group based in Syria which has Joined the much larger E1 Fatah in incursions against Israel. It is regarded as more fanatic than E1 Fatah. According to the military sources, Al Saiqa units are commanded by regular officers of the Syrian Army and operated under the overall command of General Headquarters in Damascus. Five Lebanese taken prisoner in the May 12-13 Israeli raid were released today and handed over to Lebanese authorities at Ras el Naquia. They included two policemen and a journalist sent by his Beirut newspaper to cover the fighting. The latter said he was treated well by the Israelis. The other freed prisoners were a farmer and a student who went home with a new pair of shoes given to him by his Israeli jailers to replace his old pair that was torn.

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