TEL AVIV (Dec. 29)
“The Israeli Government will consider its reply to the Security Council’s cease-fire order when it is officially received in Tel Aviv,” it was officially announced here tonight.
The announcement also stated that the only fighting now going on in Palestine is against the Egyptians and denied reports of fighting with Iraqi troops. It added, however, that if the Iraqis followed their Premier’s order to attack the Jews, “they will get their reply on the field.” The announcement warned that “several Israeli Army commanders would greatly welcome an Iraqi attack.”
The remarks about the Iraqi situation came on the heels of a report from Baghdad that Iraqi Premier Nuzahim Amin Pachachi had announced that his forces in Palestine had resumed fighting. He also said that he had refused a request from Brig. Gen. William Riley, U.N. chief of staff in Palestine, for a permanent truce.
The Israeli authorities also denied allegations that Jewish troops were in the area of El Arish, and reiterated that all fighting was taking place on Israeli soil. Some air action, however, was against targets in Egyptian territory, it was stated. Authoritative sources also denied reports published abroad that the Israeli Army has captured the Arab cities of Gaza, Refa, and Faluja, in the Negev. No attempt has been made to capture these cities, it was revealed here today by eyewitnesses who have just arrived from the Negev battlefront.
OBJECTIVES IN NEGEV BATTLE ATTAINED; ISRAELIS MOP UP
The objectives of the present battle in the Negev have apparently been achieved. The Egyptian forces have been out up into several pockets. At present military operations are in the mopping-up stage. Israeli military authorities are not inclined to prevent the Egyptians from evacuating the Negev, although militarily they are able to do so.
Several high ranking Egyptian officers have been captured. En route to a prisoner of war camp, one of the captured Egyptian commanders was interviewed by a Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent. “I was captured in a surprise operation deep in the Negev,” he said. He was accompanied by 11 high-ranking Egyptian officers, who formed the headquarters staff of a complete field unit. He said he was well treated by the Israeli military authorities and expressed amazement at the success of the Israeli military operations.
The Israeli government has not established contact with Egypt regarding its offer of armistice negotiations to the Egyptian authorities, a Jewish spokesman told newsmen here today. “We are still waiting, and our offer still stands,” he said. He added that the position of Gaza and Rafa, in the Negev, “is not very safe.”
(In London, a spokesman for the British Foreign Office today disclosed that the British Government received a note from the Government of Egypt stating that Egypt is ready to abide by the armistice resolution of the United Nations Security Council and will take steps to carry out the resolution there days after the Israeli Government complies with the U.N. order of November 4 and withdraws its troops in the Negev to the positions which it held on October 14.)