TEL AVIV (Jan. 7)
The cease-fire in the Negev went into effect at P.M. local time today, it was announced by U.N. truce headquarters in Haifa. Two hours later, the announcement said, officers from both aides met on what was formerly ?he battlefield.
However, an official Israeli communique issued here late tonight disclosed that lighting was continuing in the Rafah area, in the southern Negev, as late as 5 P.M. early this morning the Arabs launched a heavy attack which was repulsed. As the day ?aned the intensity of the fighting diminished, the communique said. It also reported that two enemy aircraft of about a dozen which flew over the Jewish lines near Rafah it 3 P.M. were shot down and one plane damaged earlier in the day was seen to crash.
It is hoped that armistice talks will follow immediately, the U.N. statement said. It also disclosed that U.N. observers are now stationed in the Negev and are in radio communication with headquarters.
Orders from the Israeli high command to its troops in the field were to hold their fire unless fired upon and to stay in their present positions. At noon, Henry Vigiers, the acting mediator’s deputy who yesterday transmitted Egypt’s request for an immediate cease-fire followed by armistice negotiations, called at the Israeli Foreign office to discuss the dispatching of observers to the southern front to check the effectiveness of the cease-fire. The Israeli authorities offered him every assistance and also touched on the question of preliminary arrangements for armistice negotiations.
EGYPTIANS LOST 2,500 MEN IN KILLED T WOUNDED AND PRISONERS IN NEGEV
In a statement to the press, Col. Yigal Yadin, Israeli Army chief of operations, reported that the Egyptians lost 2,500 men in killed, wounded and prisoners during the latest phase of the war in the Negev. He added that included in the booty, the largest seized by the Jews in the war, were 150 vehicles. Ten Egyptian aircraft were shot down, he said.
He pointed out that the aim of the Jews was to drive the Egyptians out of the eastern and southern parts of the Negev. At present, he said, Egyptians remain in Gaza, Faluja and Rafah. In all cases these troop concentrations are almost completely cut off from one another and from Egypt proper. The cease-fire finds no Israeli troops in Egypt, he declared, except perhaps in the Rafah area where the border is not clearly defined, “We did not intend to return to Egypt after 3,400 years,” he remarked.
Col. Yadin attributed the overwhelming success of the Israeli forces to the element of surprise and the complete security blackout clamped down throughout Israel. He pointed out that the Jews were aware that the Egyptian commanders were preparing feverishly to resume the battle. Jewish engineers, he said, repaired the Old Roman road from beersheba to Auja in record time, “whereupon we isolated and captured Bir Asluj, pursing the fleeing end beaten Egyptians.” It was during this phase of the campaign that the Jews penetrated Egyptian territory, in some ceased to a depth of nearly 40 miles.
“While in Egypt, we destroyed several airfields, cut Egyptian rail communications with Palestine severely and now the Egyptians cannot evacuate Gaza by road, but can use the rails, when they are repaired,” Col. Yadin stated. Egypt fought alone, he stressed, adding that “not a single shot was fired by other Arab league members in Egypt’s support.”
On the central front there was some fighting during most of the day. In the morning the Jews repulsed attempts by Iraqi forces to infiltrate their lines in the Ramath Hakovesh-Tireh sector. Later, the Arabs captured a height in the area.