Jerusalem (Sep. 3)
British authorities today refused to permit Jewish Agency officials to board the Four Freedoms, the Jewish refugee ship which arrived in Haifa after being intercepted in Palestine waters last night. At the end of the day the British transferred the 1,000 visaless Jews to the Empire Heywood for deportation to cyprus. The transfer was made on the open sea, outside Haifa harbor.
In an effort to prevent Jewish underground attempts to free the refugees aboard the 400-ton ship, British officials hastily closed the Haifa port area and rushed in strong military reinforcements. Two low-flying airplanes circled the port and searchlights swept the harbor, on the lookout for saboteurs who might damage the Four Freedoms or the two destroyer escorts.
Commenting on the incident, a Jewish Agency spokesman said: “Clearly immigration is continuing even if it means immigration to Cyprus. Our attitude towards immigration has not changed. Our attitude towards the deportation of these people to Cyprus has not changed,” he concluded.
The British destroyer, Childers, first sighted the Four Freedoms about 35 miles off Tel Aviv, but it made no move until the ship entered the coastal waters of Palestine. A fight broke out when the passengers resisted a boarding party. Several of the British sailors were injured.
It is believed that some of the refugees who jumped overboard during the brief fight between the immigrants and British sailors reached the shore safely and escaped near Tel Aviv. At least a dozen passengers were seen to leap over the side.
An official British announcement did not say whether any of the immigrants had been injured in the melee. After the fight, the British boarding party was reported to have removed the leaders of the visaless Jews from the Four Freedoms and imprisoned them in the brig of one of the destroyers.
The Four Freedoms is now tied up at Haifa between the two destroyers while British navy engineers are putting up barbed wire runways on the deck for processing the immigrants. A series of depth charges exploded today in the waters of the bay. It is believed the bombs were dropped to discourage any other passengers from jumping overboard and swimming to shore.