TEL AVIV (Oct. 17)
Israel today warned Egypt against the use of poison gas or “secret weapons” in the Negev fighting. An Israeli spokesman, commenting on a Cairo broadcast threatening the use of gas and other “secret weapons, said that if the Egyptians force the Jews to retaliate to such means of warfare, he would not “envy the Egyptian troops.”
Meanwhile, the offensive on land and in the air continued today with the Israelis reporting an important victory in the Faluja area and the bombing of military objectives at the Gaza and El. Arish airfields and other installations at Majdal and Faluja. The Jews, declining to specify the area in which the land battle occurred, disclosed that an important height from which the Egyptians had originally launched their attacks on Israeli convoys to Negev settlements was captured this morning after a bloody hand-to-hand battle. The area in which the height is located was established when the Egyptians, complaining to the U.N. of a Jewish “violation,” placed the position east of Faluja.
The Israeli Army communique stated that the position was captured by bayonet-wielding Jewish infantry which inflicted heavy casualties on the 270 Egyptians holding the height and captured many of them. On the position were also found medium artillery and anti-tank guns. Repeated Arab counterattacked were flung back. In one instance an entire Egyptian platoon was wiped out, with only three riflemen escaping. The Israelis also reported the shelling of the Jewish settlements of Niram, Guaram and Mekoroth, in the desert, by the Arabs.
NEGEV FIGHTING DOES NOT MEAN END OF TRUCE, ISRAELIS SAY
An Israeli military spokesman emphasized the government’s viewpoints again today that activities in the Negev, which are on a wide basis, do not mean an end of the truce and resumption of war. He stressed the limited objectives of the Israeli forces which he said were not to capture Egyptian positions but to compel the Egyptians to cease attacking the Jewish settlements and convoys. Israeli forces had occupied new positions within the first 48 hours of the drive, he said, but these were in Israeli territory.
The campaign, which began Friday after an Egyptian attack on a Jewish supply convoy proceeding south, has had marked success for the present but has not yet created conditions under which the Israeli authorities are prepared to send another convoy through. There is every indication that the campaign will continue until the Israelis assure the safety of a score or more of isolated settlements endangered by the Egyptian invasion, unless the U.N. Security Council at Paris takes drastic action to halt further fighting in the Negev. This would require Egyptian compliance with the U.N. truce board’s decision providing for daylight, six-hour passage of Jewish convoys.
On the basis of reports released from the front, it appears that the Israeli commend is effectively using the air striking force in close liaison with fast armored unite for specific “punitive” operations aimed at destroying Egyptian ability to harass the Jewish settlements and interfere with Israeli communications. The objectives of these raids were the Egyptian air and ground bases and gun emplacements by which the settlements and roads were bombarded. For the present the young Israeli air force seems to have the mastery of the skies, flying round the clock patrols.
One by-product of the Israeli campaign, according to a report broadcast in an Arabic broadcast by the Voice of Israel radio, was the hasty departure from Gaza of the puppet Palestine Arab Government established by the Egyptians under the leadership of the ex-Mufti of Jerusalem.
(Reuters reported from Tel Aviv this evening that a U.N. truce representative informed the Israeli Government that the Egyptians have refused to accede to the latest U.N. demand for a cease-fire in the Negev until the Jews hold their fire and return to positions they held last Thursday.)
Israel yesterday refused to agree to the U.N. cease-fire until an adequate guarantee could be given that the Egyptians will honor U.N. orders to permit access to the Jewish settlements in the southern desert. Meanwhile, the U.N. truce staff has announced that its observers in Gaza have left that city, but are remaining in Egyptian territory.