Jews Retreat from Castel; Forced to Give Up Control of Tel Aviv-jerusalem Road
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Jews Retreat from Castel; Forced to Give Up Control of Tel Aviv-jerusalem Road

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After six days of savage battle Haganah forces withdrew this afternoon from the Arab village of Castel, five miles west of Jerusalem, which dominates the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv road. Possession of Castel, which was captured by the Haganah last week, enabled the Jewish forces to fan out into the surrounding area and break the Arab hold on the highway and run through two 50-truck food convoys.

Today’s battle was Joined by an estimated 5,000 Arabs, at least half of whom were-collected from the Arab forces in the Old City of Jerusalem. When the Jews evacuated the Arab village they left the bodies of five men behind them, while eyewitnesses state that the hillside around Castel is dotted with Arab corpses. The ###al assault began at 1 P.M. this afternoon and at 3 P.M. the heavily outnumbered Haganah defenders withdrew to the Jewish village of Motza, one-and-a-half miles away.

Reports from the battlefields say that the Arabs are pressing forward from Castel and are attacking Motza, which is a heavily-manned Jewish stronghold. However, observers here insist they have seen hundreds of Arabs who have returned from the Castel battle to their positions in the Old City.

Earlier, in an attempt to break the Arab siege lines, Jewish planes strafed and bombed the Arab positions, but did not succeed in disrupting them. British sources report that British Army vehicles have brought out several truckloads of Jewish dead and wounded from Castel, but this was corroborated by Jewish sources only to the extent of the evacuation of four seriously wounded men by an engineer unit.


Meanwhile, Arab sources admitted that Abdul Kader Husseini, kinsman of the ex-Mufti of Jerusalem, and commander of the guerrilla forces in the Jerusalem area, was killed today while personally leading a charge against Castel. He flew back from Damascus yesterday, where he was consulting with high Arab political leaders, to resume command of the Arab forces.

In Jerusalem, where the food situation is still desperate despite the arrival of a second convoy in three days, the British municipal administration today suggested that the Jews ration water severely because one of two major water lines for the city has been interrupted by the Arabs. The second, which emanates from a nearby spring, is operating below capacity because there is a shortage of fuel oil to drive its pumps.

Jewish circles, commenting on the water shortage, pointed bitterly to the fact that the springs feeding the Jewish section of the city are placed on a reduced operating schedule while the Arabs are supplied with as much as they normally have. Among the various institutions cut off from water most of the time is the Hadassah Hospital atop Mt. Scopus.

A government communique reported that truce talks took place between Arab leaders and Jewish representatives of the colony of Mishmar Haemek, east of Haifa, where a tattle has teen in progress for three days. The Jews disclaim participating in such parleys and it is believed that the official report is based on Arab sources. British military forces yesterday evacuated women and children from the Mishmar Haemek area.

Late reports from Lahavoth, in northeastern Palestine, where a furious attack on the settlement has been in progress for the past 48 hours, said that a new contingent of armed foreign Arabs crossed the Syrian border last night and have Joined the besieging forces in the hills surrounding the colony.

The colonists reported to Haganah headquarters that they are holding firm and have inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy. Meanwhile, Jewish reinforcements from neighboring settlements have managed to cut the Arab supply lines and to force the Arabs to withdraw their artillery by launching a cavalry attack on the gun positions.

A total of 866 Jews, 986 Arabs and 122 Britons and 37 unidentified civilians were killed since November 29, 1947. There were 1,837 Jews, 2,042 Arabs, 318 Britons and 30 civilians injured, according to the official figures published by the government today. The figures include casualties up to April 6.

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