Israel-arab Situation Reported “critical” by U.N. Truce Chief

Maj. Gen. Vagn Bennike, head of the United Nations truce supervision organization in Palestine, arrived here today in response to a summons from the UN Security Council to report on the current Israel-Arab situation. Queried by newsmen at the airport, Gen, Bennike declared that the Middle East situation was “critical. “

Before he left Israel Tuesday evening to fly to the United Nations, Gen. Bennike handed Israel Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett a 15-page reply to Mr. Sharett’s statement of Israel’s position on the Jordan River hydroelectric project. It was learned that the Bennike reply is the third portion of the report the General intends to give the Security Council. The other two sections consist of his original cease work order to Israel and Mr. Sharett’s reply to the order.

Among the technical arguments mustered by the UN truce chief is the claim that diversion by Israel of water through the project would lower the Jordan to one-third of its present level, and that more people would be affected by such a development than the Israel Government had estimated. Gen. Bennike also asserted that he was not influenced in his original decision by any threats.

He charged that the Israelis had violated some five acres of Arab land in their working on the project. Referring to assurances by Mr. Sharett that the Arabs would be given the same quantity of water removed through the canal, Gen. Bennike said this is one of the points that should have been settled with Syria before starting the project. He also said that regarding Israel’s assurances that it will not use the project to its military advantage, from a military point of view whoever holds the canal can cut down on its military forces in the area and use the troops elsewhere.

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