Beersheba Taken by Israeli Army; Cease-fire Order Issued, Conditional on Egypt’s Action

The major Arab Negev city of Beersheba fell to Israeli forces early this morning, it was officially announced here. Simultaneously, the government informed U.N. headquarters in Palestine that it had issued orders that an effective cease-fire shall go into effect within twelve house after it is informed by acting mediator Ralph Bunche that the Egyptians have ordered a cease-fire.

Israeli troops in the field, meanwhile, have been instructed to expect a cease-fire order. The government’s decision followed an hours-long Cabinet session which began yesterday at 4 P.M., was recessed at 3 A.M. this morning, resumed at 10 A.M. and recessed again at noon to permit Premier David Ken Gurion to meet Henry Morgenthau, Jr., general chairman of the United Jewish Appeal, who arrived here yesterday. Shortly after noon the communique was issued. The Israeli communication to the U.N. pointed out that Egypt must bind itself to maintaining a cease-fire among all its forces in the Negev, including irregulars.

Beersheba, southernmost city of ancient Palestine and of the Palestine Arab state envisaged in the U.N. partition decision, was occupied after severe fighting throughout the night. An Israeli communique announcing that the “entire town is in our hands” said that Beersheba was take “in the course of operations to open the road to the Negev.” It also revealed that the nearby Jewish settlements of Beth Eshel and Nevatin, which were blockaded by the Arabs in an attempt to starve out the colonists, were freed during the operation.

An official spokesman revealed that the Beersheba attack came after several days of softening-up operations and after the majority of the 3,000 inhabitants had fled. The city was carried after a five-and-one-hour frontal attack during which the majority of the battalion-and-a half of Egyptian troops defending it became casualties or prisoners. The spokesman revealed that the flight of civilians continues from Geza, and also from Bethlehem and Hebron.

ARABS CONTINUE TO EVACUATE VILLAGES IN BEERSHEBA REGION

Another official announcement revealed that the Israeli air force bombed installations at Gaza, El Arish, Beersheba, Majdal and Beit Jibrin again last night in support of Jewish ground forces and in harassment of the Egyptians. Several Villages northeast of Beit Jibrin have been evacuated by the Arabs, following fighting in that region. The Jews believe that the evacuation of Beit Nattif, one of the Villages, was prompted by Arab fear of reprisals at the hands of the Jews. It was Helf Nattif villagers who were responsible for the ambush and slaughter of a group of 35 Haganah men dispatched from Jerusalem to relieve the Kfar Etzion settlement early in the war.

(Meanwhile, United Nations headquarters at Lake Success reported that hostilities were continuing in the Negev today with Jewish planes bombing all fronts. Gaza and Majdal had five air raids during the night and U.N. observers counted 58 bombs dropped by Israeli planes on Gaza. The Egyptians, according to U.N. observers’ reports, directed heavy artillery fire on many Jewish positions on the Negev front.)

An air alert was sounded during the night when unidentified aircraft appeared over several places in Israel and dropped some bombs. Damage was slight and there were some injuries, but no deaths as a result of the bombings, it was announced. (The Associated Press reported that Egyptian planes had bombed Tel Aviv and Haife.) Early today three Egyptian Spitfires were intercepted over El Arish by Jewish planes and one was shot down.

Political observers here today said that the results of the series of Jewish victories were tremendous. First, effective control of the Negev has now been won by the Jews, and the Bernadette project to strip that huge and potentially fertile area from Israel–which was based on the fact of the Arabs’ blockade of Jewish settlements there–is now completely outdated.

Second, the military power of Egypt as the strongest among Israel’s enemies now appears to have been broken; third, the bid for power by the Egyptian-sponsored Gaza government is now rendered ridiculous; fourth, the prestige of Trans Jordan, the sole important Arab state willing to deal with the Jews, will be enhanced by the defeat of its chief political rival in the Arab world; fifth, the prospects of peace have been greatly increased by the fact that the Jewish state is even more firmly established than ever.

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