TEL, AVIV (Jun. 23)
The capital of Israel was under curfew today for the first time since the formation of the Israeli Government as a result of yesterday’s bloody clashes between the Israeli Army and Irgun units which led to the killing and wounding of scores of Irgunist and Israeli troops. The curfew was imposed by Israeli authorities “until further notice.”
The arrival of U.N. mediator Count Folke Bernadotte to probe into the causes of the battle between the government forces and the Irgunists was expected today. In the meantime, United Nations observers who watched the clash indicated that they are deeply impressed with the government’s determination to deal firmly with the Irgunist attempt to “break the truce by trying to land arms from the ship, “Vladimir Jabotinsky,” on the shores of Tel Aviv, after being prevented from doing so earlier at Kfar Vitkin, near Nathanya.
The Israeli Cabinet was in continuous session today under the chairmanship of Premier David Ben Gurion. The Israeli high command considers the Irgun’s action as mutiny. Irgunist forces were still in control today of a part of the northern section of the Tel Aviv beach. Unconditional surrender of the Irgunists was demanded by the majority of the Cabinet members.
STERNISTS ANNOUNCE SEVERANCE OF CONNECTIONS WITH ISRAELI ARMY
Meanwhile, the Stern Group announced over its radio today that it severed all its connections with the Israeli Army and would not enter into further negotiations with Foreign Minister Moshe Shertok. At a press conference last night, Shertok said that the government was determined not to compromise with the insurgent Irgunists. “The Jewish people are badly in need of arms,” he said, “but it is better to see them go up in flames than into the hands of those who are ready to turn them against the state.” He insisted that the U.N. truce provisions be honored.
The Irgun rebellion against the Israeli Government followed the surrender a day earlier by the Irgunists to the Israeli Army at Kfar Vitkin where their attempt to land the cargo of war materiel from the “Vladimir Jabotinsky” near Nathanya was checked. Under the surrender terms, the vessel was to be kept in Tel Aviv and placed under control of the army which would decide its disposition without infringing on the terms of the truce.
When the ship reached the Tel Aviv waterfront yesterday afternoon, the Irgun refused to surrender her to government custody and began to land armed men ashore. Other Irgun supporters joined the landed force and shortly afterwards fighting broke cut with machineguns and mortars, with the Irgunists entrenched on one side of the Kati Dan hotel, the U.N. headquarters located on the Tel Aviv seashore, and the government military forces on the other. Fighting lasted for several hours during which the ship was set afire by mortar shells directed from the shore by the Israeli Army.
Menachem Beigin, Irgun commander who apparently boarded the vessel at Nathanya, broadcast today that the vessel and its cargo had been purchased at a cost of several million dollars. He said the arms aboard the ship were enough to equip a brigade of 6,000 men, adding that the vessel carried 5,500 English rifles, 300 Bren guns, 4,000,000 rounds of ammunition, anti-tank guns, grenades, serial bombs, plus to her equipment. He declared that he would not push the fight because the Jewish state could not afford a civil war, but demanded Israeli the immediate release of all Irgun prisoners.