JERUSALEM (May. 12)
Two major battles involving huge Arab concentrations were continuing today in Palestine, while a third appeared imminent, as the official expiration of the Mandate loomed less than 72 hours away.
King Abdullah’s Arab Legion, numbering more than 2,000 strong and aided by 3,000 local Arab villagers, opened one of the heaviest battles in the Palestine fighting this morning when it launched a fierce attack on Kfar Etzion, five miles south of Jerusalem.
The Legionnaires were reported to be using tanks, armored cars and Bren gun carriers. Simultaneously, a large Arab force raided the isolated Negev settlement, Kfar Darom, near the Egyptian frontier. Disrupted communication facilities prevented correspondents here from learning immediately the results of these two attacks.
The Kfar Darom battle has been continuing for the past 24 hours, with Jewish unite alternating between defensive and counter-offensive strategy. One unconfirmed report from Jewish sources said 60 Arabs and five Jews had been billed in the Kfar Darom engagement.
At the same time, the strategic battle for Bab el Wad, Arab village controlling the vital Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, appeared ready to flare up again today when reinforcements from Ramallah, made up chiefly of Kawaukji’s broken “Arab Liberation Army,” approached the battle area. Earlier, Jerusalem’s residents were wakened at dawn by heavy rifle and mortar fire in the Mekor Haim section of the city. The Jews claimed that Arab units had launched an attack on the Jewish sector, but there was no clarification.
HAGANAH REPORTS FIGHTING IN KFAR ETZION AREA IS “HEAVY”
Terse dispatches from Haganah headquarters in Kfar Etzion said the fighting there was “heavy.” One Haganah communique released here said merely: “Hard fighting continues Etzion area.” The settlement is situated on the Bethlehem-Hebron road.
Meanwhile, Haganah reported that it had captured Palestine’s largest police station, stop Mt. Canaan, overlooking Safad. The Jews said that they seized large quantities of arms. Wounded and captured Arabs, Haganah said, will he handed over to the International Red Cross.
A Haganah communique said today that large-scale operations designed to clean out Arab bands in southern Palestine were progressing satisfactorily. The Arab village of Kafte Pashit, the announcement said, was overrun after offering heavy resistance, with 10 Arabs and two Jews killed. In another engagement in the operation, Haganah said, 50 Arabs were killed in the Bet Daras are, while many houses were blown up. The village of Sauflr-Ilismailia was seized without any Jewish losses, the communique said.
Pablo Azcarate, head of the U.N. Palestine Commission’s advance party here, told a press conference today that he had returned to Palestine on behalf of the U.N. Security Council’s truce commission. He said he does not at present have any instructions to take over the Palestine Government’s assets or to continue the public services, but said that his staff is “standing by” awaiting word from Lake Success. He expressed confidence that a country-wide truce would be achieved.
It was reported here today from Cyprus that the two Jewish vessels, Pan York and Pan Crescent, apprehended last year by the British with more than 10,000 visa less immigrants aboard, and now held at Cyprus, will be released shortly. British authorities on the island confirmed London reports that the 25,000 Jews detained there will be freed the termination of the Palestine Mandate on Friday midnight.