20,000 British Troops Occupy Tel Aviv; Residents Confined to Homes; 143 Arrested
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20,000 British Troops Occupy Tel Aviv; Residents Confined to Homes; 143 Arrested

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More than 20,000 troops of the British Sixth Airborne Division invaded Tel Aviv at 2 a.m. this morning, occupied the city, and made house-to-house searches. A rigid curfew was imposed.

Arriving in trucks supported by tanks, armored cars and Bren gun carriers, the division, at full war strength, took up strategic positions. At dawn the curfew was imposed and troops began fanning out through the city.

The curfew will be in effect for 22 hours a day, with two hours allowed for shopping for food and other necessities. All inhabitants were warned that they are “liable to be shot on sight” if they violate the curfew.

Early this morning High Commissioner Sir Alan G. Cunningham went on the radio to broadcast the announcement of the raids and an explanation of the occupation of the world’s largest all-Jewish city and the virtual imprisonment of its 200,000 residents. He declared that the government had “clear evidence” that at least some of the terrorists participating in the bombing of the King David Hotel were in Tel Aviv. He appealed to the Jews to aid in this operation to “root out this canker, which if it remains, can only recoil on the heads of the Jewish community.”


A military spokesman who said today the operation was unprecedented in the history of Palestine, estimated that some 3,000 Jews, men and women, would be detained during the searches which may last several days. He declared that all men between the ages of 15 and 50 would be questioned and would be subject to detention, while women between 15 and 35 would be treated similarly.

Pregnant women and those with small children would be exempted, he said, unless it were proved that they were implicated in underground activity. Detained men will be sent to the Raffa detention camp on the Egyptian border while women will be imprisoned at Latrun prison.

An official communique issued tonight said that 143 persons including ten women had been detained out of the thousands who were rounded up and questioned throughout the day. It was reported that Mayor Israel Rokach had been taken under “escort” presumably to aid in the operations.

Methodically forcing their way into every home the troops turned all able-bodied men and women into the streets where they were placed in trucks and carried to barbed wire detention centers for questioning. Even persons who were ill in bed were interrogated and stripped of their bed clothes to see whether they were suffering from wounds or faking illness in order to avoid questioning or arrest. A number of men and women were forced from their homes in pajamas and dressing gowns.

At the detention pens some 600 police experts gathered from all sections of the country “screened” the Jews–questioned them and checked identification papers and photographs. The choice of whom was to be arrested was largely determined by the police who checked each individual against lists of possible suspects which apparently had been compiled earlier.

The Jewish police, who recently assumed responsibility for the administration of law and order throughout Tel Aviv, have been ordered to remain in their homes until called for. Police launches patrolled the city’s two miles of waterfront throughout the day in order to cut off possible escapes.

It was revealed that curfew passes issued to newspapermen and others who usually are permitted to continue their business during raids and searches have been revoked. This will effectively close all newspapers in the city, and since the majority of the Hebrew press is published in Tel Aviv most of the Jews of Palestine will be without news during the British occupation of the city.

A JTA correspondent who was brought here in the company of other foreign correspondents toured the city under the guidance of British officers. Lt. Gen. A.J.H. Cassel, commander of the Sixth Airborne, who is in charge of operations here, told reporters that he was determined “by hook or crook” to discover and arrest members of the Irgun Zvai Leumi and the Stern Group.

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