Egypt maintained official silence on the situation along its western desert border following clashes there on Thursday (21 July) between Egyptian and Libyan troops, jet fighters and tanks.
Egypt maintained official silence on the situation along its western desert border following clashes there on Thursday (21 July) between Egyptian and Libyan troops, jet fighters and tanks. President Anwar Sadat was due to address the nation on Friday (22 July), to explain the fighting.
The Egyptian and Libyans have been locked in a bitter war of words ever since the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Several times the verbal conflict has threatened to explode into an armed clash. The Libyan leader, Col. Muammar Gaddafi, was angered that President Sadat failed to inform him of his plans to attack Israel in 1973 and was highly critical of Egypt's agreement to a ceasefire.
SYNOPSIS: The President heard news of the fighting when he attended the funeral of Mr. Ezz Elarab Abdel Nasser, brother of the late Egyptian leader Gamel Abdel Nasser, in the Manara district of Alexandria, Egypt, on Thursday (21 July). Mr Nasser was a director of the Egyptian newspaper Al-Gomhouria, and his funeral was attended by a large number of politicians and personalities from the Egyptian media. Also present were sons of the late President Nasser and former Vice-President Ismail Shaafi.
An Egyptian military spokesman said on Thursday (21 July) that Egyptian forces shot down two jets os the Libyan Jamahiriya, formerly known as Libya, and knocked out 70 tanks and other armour. They also captured 42 Libyan soldiers and "saboteurs". He blamed Libya for the clashes and put Egyptian casualties at several wounded soliders and one armoured vehicle destroyed. Libyan authorities accused the Egyptians of "aggression" and of shelling houses, schools and hospitals, and killing women and children. This was denied by Egypt, who maintained that their forces were careful not to harm Libyan civilians . The fighting erupted because of several alleged provocations by Libya along the western desert borders.
News of the clashes was announced by the Government-run Cairo Radio and was immediately passed on to President Sadat by officials. He then hurriedly left the funeral in a car. Many Egyptians went to bars and other public places to watch the news on television. Cairo Radio made no direct references to the clashes on Friday (22 July) and the military spokesman made no comment.