Israel Expected to Reject Mediator’s Request That Jews Evacuate Three Arab Villages

The Provisional Government of Israel is expected to turn down a demand by U.N. Palestine mediator Count Folke Bernadotte that Israeli forces holding three villages overlooking the Latrun-Ramallah road be evacuated by the Jews. The mediator made this demand after visiting the disputed area today.

An Israeli Government spokesman said today that prior to the beginning of the second U.N. truce, the Israeli Army occupied several hills overlooking the Latrun-Ramallah road, near Elqubab, which led the Arabs in the villages of Ajanjul, Hirbat and Buweira to withdraw from the sector.

Recently, the spokesman said, the U.N. observers ordered the Jews to permit the villagers to return to their homes. The Jews said at first that such a step could not be ordered, but later — the spokesman said — acting on humanitarian grounds, the Israelis agreed to permit the Arabs to return. The U.N. truce officials lauded the Jews for this action, the spokesman added.

This morning, Count Bernadotte, while making an on-the-spot investigation, demanded that the Jews evacuate the villages. He warned that he would report the matter to the Security Council if they did not comply with his request. Bernadotte’s formal letter regarding the matter is expected to be in Foreign Minister Moshe Shertok’s hands later in the day.

Although the government has not formally refused to agree to the mediator’s request, it is expected that it will be flatly rejected for three reasons: first, because all positions occupied before the truce became effective were conceded to be in the victor’s hands by the U.N.; second, such a move would place the Israelis at a disadvantage in the strategic sense; thirdly, if the United Nations intends to take a “get-tough” policy, the Israelis feel that the Egyptians — who are continuously violating the truce — should be the first to be dealt with.

According to a government informant, it is understood that the Arab Legion is not permitting the residents of the three disputed villages to return to their homes until the hills themselves are evacuated by the Jews. The entire question is not expected to affect the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem convoys proceeding along the main highway, the first of which is scheduled to go to Jerusalem tomorrow.

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