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Battle Develops in Negev; Jewish Convoys Attacked; Israeli Planes Go into Action

The Israeli Air Force went into action today against Egyptian bases in the Negev following assaults this morning on Israeli convoys carrying supplies to isolated settlements. An official Israeli spokesman revealed that ground fighting also broke out throughout the disputed region.

The Israeli planes reportedly bombed Egyptian air bases, including the vital enemy airfield at Gaza. A country-wide blackout was imposed throughout Israel tonight until further notice, following the receipt of news of the Egyptian attacks in the Negev.

The main convoy, using the route laid down by the United Nations and carrying relief supplies for the blockaded Jewish settlements in the desert, came under heavy Egyptian fire about four miles south of Katarieh. It was forced to turn back after the first two trucks were destroyed by enemy artillery. Other vehicles were severely damaged.

The convoy consisted of 16 trucks laden with food and medical supplies and had only a light military escort. The U.N. was notified of its movement in advance. The convoy route was established by the truce supervisory board and was personally approved by the late Count Folke Bernadotte.

EGYPTIANS USE SPITFIRES IN BLASTING ISRAELI VEHICLES, SITUATION “VERY TENSE”

The decision to send the convoy through without waiting further for long and delayed Egyptian agreements to truce. conditions was taken yesterday in view of the difficult situation of the isolated Negev settlements holding out behind the Egyptian lines. These colonies have been relying chiefly on the “Israeli air lift” for vitally-needed supplies.

The fact that the first two trucks in the convoy were knocked out resulted in the blocking of the road, making it impossible for the convoy to proceed. Some casualties were suffered almost at the same time that the Egyptians wore attacking several inter-settlement supply convoys in the Dorot-Ruhama area. Enemy planes wore reported strafing these supply routes. One squadron of six Spitfires — the largest concentration of enemy aircraft used in any one engagement — blasted these convoys, inflicting several casualties.

The situation on the Negev front tonight was officially described as “very tense.” Israeli spokesmen here charge that the Egyptians are deliberately trying to destroy the truce order. The spokesmen also confirmed reports that there are strong Egyptian concentrations at several points along the southern front.

The Israeli Government tonight released the text of a letter sent yesterday by the chief Israeli liaison officer to Gen. William Riley, U.N. chief of staff, stressing that Israel repeatedly urged that the Egyptians must finally he made to signify their acceptance or rejection of the decision to send through a supply convoy to the Negev.

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