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British Capture Refugee Ship Carrying 800 Jews; Haifa Port Area Surrounded by Troops

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Jittery British military authorities sent heavy concentrations of troops into Haifa’s port area tonight as the government announced that a refugee vessel bearing 800 visaless Jews was heading for Haifa under the escort of the minesweeper Moon.

Two of the liners which have been used in the Cyprus shuttle run were anchored in the roadstead. here, apparently awaiting transfer of the refugees as soon as the immigrant ship, referred to in the communique as the Alma, arrives in Haifa harbor.

On the basis of the official announcement, information available to the Jewish Agency and the rumors that have been circulated since last night, the Alma has been playing cat and mouse with the Moon since yesterday evening, when it was first sighted. The communique said that the vessel had taken “strong evasive action,” but was finally boarded at 5 p.m. today by four sailors from the Moon, who attached towing lines.

VESSEL MENACED BY STORM OFF LEBANESE COAST

Although the communique said that no resistance had been offered, an earlier unofficial report said that at least 20 of the passengers had jumped overboard when the Alma was off the Lebanese-Palestine border. The vessel was seven days out of Genoa when it was sighted near Beirut. It had been buffeted by rough seas for almost the entire voyage and a storm last night threatened to wreck it.

The Alma, which was originally called the Fenice, is a veteran of the Italy-Palestine run, having made two previous voyages. It carried part of the 1,200 refugees who arrived here from La Spezia last Spring, after a hunger strike which won them permission to enter, and later, renamed the Four Freedoms, it carried a transport of visaless refugees.

Late last night rumors began reaching Haifa that naval and coast guard installations were making feverish preparations to intercept an immigrant vessel. Police cordoned off the shore area and police launches sped out to sea. Their objective, however, turned out to be a small cargo vessel from Tel Aviv. The tension in Haifa then subsided, until reports of the Alma’s capture were received.

PALESTINE AUTHORITIES APPREHENSIVE; FEAR INCREASED TENSION

The authorities are more apprehensive than usual, since in view of the elections for the Zionist Congress, which are scheduled for next Monday, even the more moderate parties are expected to take some action, in order that their militancy cannot be questioned.

Even before the capture of the Alma had been confirmed, the Jewish Agency issued a statement in Jerusalem saying that as long as Jews who seek Palestine’s shores are not allowed to enter, no talks between Jewish and British representatives will ease tension here. The arrival of every new vessel only serves to further unite the Jewish community, it said.

The meeting of the Small Zionist Actions Committee to decide whether Jews should continue their talks with Britain, which was scheduled to be held on Wednesday, has been postponed because Rabbi Judah L. Fishman and Eliezer Kaplan have run into a delay in arranging air transportation from London. The two Jewish Agency members are to report to the Committee on the negotiations with the British Government.

Two British soldiers are reported “missing” following the wrecking of a jeep by a land mine on the Tel Aviv-Rishon Le Zion road last night. Two other occupants of the vehicle were seriously wounded. Heavily armed patrols and armored cars were immediately sent into Tel Aviv.

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