Haifa (Oct. 22)
The 800 visaless Jews who were intercepted off Lebanon by a British minesweeper on the immigrant vessel S.S. Alma, and escorted into the harbor here yesterday were transferred before dawn today to two British transports, the Empire Heywood and the Ocean Vigour, and promptly transshipped to Cyprus.
As the transports moved out of the harbor toward Cyprus, the faint cries of the hungry, thirsty and exhausted refugees still rang in the air.
British military and naval authorities took elaborate precautions during the transfer, including dropping depth charges to discourage attempts to leave the ship and to keep swimming saboteurs away. However, one man, David Wasserman, jumped over-board and was found to be severely injured after he was rescued.
Resistance was reported only from one Jew, Joseph Rafael, who was beaten on the head when he tried to oppose efforts to push him aboard the transport. The rest of the refugees were too exhausted to offer resistance.
During the transfer, women clutched in their arms everything on which they could lay their hands. Mothers were forcibly detached from their children, who were the last to be put on board. The party included 516 men, 202 women and 41 children. On the pier, Army medical personnel attended to the sick refugees, a number of whom were sent to hospitals here.
SPENT 14 DAYS ON HIGH SEAS; RAN OUT OF FOOD AND WATER
Details on the voyage of the Alma, just learned here, disclose that it had spent 14 days and had run out of food and water last Friday, when it was spotted off the Lebanese coast by naval planes. It was intercepted by two minesweepers while still in Lebanese waters.
When the Alma approached Palestine waters, one of the airplanes radioed: “You are entering Palestine territorial waters. You must comply with British orders.”
In the meantime, the minesweeper Moon approached the Alma and ordered it to halt. But the Alma increased its speed and tried to evade the British ship. Then the dramatic chase began. Finally, the Moon closed in on the Alma, which took a sharp turn to evade the towing lines which were being thrown at her. Then a second minesweeper appeared, barring the way.
When a boarding party came on the Alma’s deck, it announced in Italian and German that the Alma was to proceed to Haifa where the passengers would be transshipped. The refugees defiantly replied by singing “Hatikfah,” and shouting: “We want to go to Palestine.”