JERUSALEM (Dec. 28)
Egyptian resistance in the Negev was seen to be rapidly crumbling today after Israeli troops had encircled Gaza, the capital of the Bo-called Palestine Arab Provisional Government.
Jewish forces also cut the railroad lines and a paved road near Rafa and, it was learned today, also captured yesterday the important desert road juncture of Auja el Hafir, five kilometers inside Israeli territory, a point dominating all roads to the Egyptian frontier by way of Sinai.
In Tel Aviv, meanwhile, U.N. truce headquarters announced that Gaza had been bombed and machine gunned by three Israeli planes on three separate raids. However, the U.N. announced that one of its planes reached Gaza this afternoon “as usual.” Palestine U.N. headquarters in Haifa announced receipt of Egyptian complaints that the Jews have attacked Faluja, Iraq Manshieh and Birasluj, deep in the Negev, and captured Auja el Hafir.
The ensuing hasty retreat of beaten and disorganized Egyptian troops has resulted in the capture by Israeli troops of several Egyptian commanders, it was reported here. According to Israeli Army sources, the captured Egyptian officers disclosed that the Egyptian Army in the Negev, totaling nearly 15,000 troops, has now been cut into three separate and unequal groups. These groups, the captured officers admitted, were fighting separately and without contact with one another. The prisoners also stated that under present conditions it was impossible to send reinforcements to these separated pockets and that the Egyptian situation was, consequently, untenable.
COMPLETE EVACUATION OF THE EGYPTIAN TROOPS FROM NEGEV IS EXPECTED
There would appear to be no alternative but an Egyptian evacuation from the entire Negev, Israeli sources assert. They add, however, that such a move may almost be impossible since the Israeli forces are pressing hard and delivering swift blows to each isolated enemy pocket. Any organized retreat, it was further pointed out, is also hampered by the fact that many thousands of Arab refugees are fleeing by way of muddy and sandy tracks on the very edge of the Mediterranean toward Egypt.
An official Israeli announcement today reported that Israeli fighter planes today intercepted six Egyptian-piloted Fiat planes which were apparently heading for Faluja to drop supplies to the beleaguered Arab force there. One Egyptian plane was shot down in flames, while the others were sent scurrying for their home base. Three of the surviving planes were damaged. The Israeli aircraft suffered no injuries.
An official spokesman confirmed that additional territory in the Negev has been freed from Egyptian control in the five-day engagement. He added that the operation was “slackening off.” He also emphasized that if the Security Council orders a cease-fire in the Negev, Israel will comply, and reiterated that the question of war or peace in the Negev is entirely in the hands of the Egyptians.