TEL AVIV (Dec. 27)
A major battle is still in progress in two sectors of the Negev front, it was indicated here today by unofficial Israeli and Arab sources. Official news has virtually been cut off by the imposition of a rigid security blackout on news emanating from Tel Aviv.
It is understood that more heavy guns, tanks and aircraft have been committed by both sides in this battle than in any previous fighting in Palestine. An Israeli spokesman did not deny that considerable forces are engaged over two fairly large areas–reportedly southeast of Gaza and somewhat further south, in the direction of the Egyptian border. Arab radio reports, monitored here, indicate a growing fear among the Arabs of an impending complete victory for the Jews in the Negev.
An Israeli spokesman today confirmed that the Israelis’ offer of peace to the Egyptians still stands. However, he refused to state if a time limit were attached to the offer. He said that the Egyptians could indicate acceptance by nominating representative to participate in armistice talks. Although Israel prefers direct negotiations, he said, mediation is also acceptable.
“The Egyptian troops in the field, their commanders and even the Egyptian politicians back home would like to quit fighting, but do not know how,” the spokesman declared. He revealed that the Egyptians are still deep in Israeli territory at Faluja and other points. He denied that the Israelis were looked in combat with Egyptian and Arab Legion soldiers in the Hebron area.
This afternoon Tel Aviv was under an air alert for the third time in two days. Yesterday Arab planes dropped a considerable load of bombs east of the Israeli capital. U.N. headquarters reported that observers had counted 90 bombs dropped by Jewish warplanes in the Gaza-el Arish-Khan Yunis area yesterday, but that it was impossible to estimate the damage.
There was a brief flare-up on the central front yesterday with Iraqis shelling the Jewish settlement of Ramath Havekesh, east of Herzlia, for 90 minutes without any Israeli counteraction. An official communique said that for the first time in a month “Jerusalem was absolutely quiet throughout yesterday and last night.”