UNITED NATIONS N. Y. (Jan. 14)
“The Israel authorities have methodically established a program to stabilize life” in the Gaza Strip, have restored municipal government and civilian economic activities like banking, merchandising and fishing and are allowing the United Nations relief staff “complete freedom throughout the area” to feed and care for approximately 213,000 Arab refugees in the area.
These are among facts submitted to the General Assembly here today by Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold through a detailed report he had received from his personal observer in the Gaza Strip, Lt. Col. K.R. Nelson, an American member of the headquarters staff of the United Nations Emergency Force. The report, submitted Dec. 5, was withheld by the Secretary General until today, so that it could be issued simultaneously with a second document, by Henry R. Labouisse, director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Arab Refugees from Palestine.
In his report, based on observations during the heat of the fighting between Israel’s army and the Egyptians, Mr. Labouisse tells of heavy looting of UNRWA supplies by Arab refugees, of riots and other disturbances, and of disciplinary measures taken by the Israel Army. The Labouisse report, like the one by Col. Nelson, was also placed before the General Assembly.
Egyptian reports that the Israelis in any way persecuted the Arab population in the Gaza area are totally discredited by the Nelson report. Col. Nelson reports that there have been migrations of Arabs from Gaza to Jordan, despite Israeli orders forbidding such migration. The Arabs going to Jordan were taken “by paid guides.” On the other hand, states Col. Nelson, “there was no evidence of mass deportation of the inhabitants.”
U.N. OFFICERS UNHAMPERED BY ISRAEL IN THEIR STUDY IN GAZA AREA
Col. Nelson and another UNEF officer, Capt. G.G. Svedlund, who speaks Arabic, were given by the Israeli Army “full freedom to go wherever we chose” They spoke to mayors, mukhtars, and to anyone else they wanted to interview. They did not tell the Israelis in advance where they were going, reported Col. Nelson, “and frequently deviated from our immediate advised route to observe conditions or to speak to individuals.” This method in itself, according to Col. Nelson, “gave the Israel authorities no opportunity to stage conditions or ‘orient’ individuals.”
The Israel authorities “are progressively executing” their program to stabilize the Gaza area, declared Col. Nelson, and “have established law and order and have dealt with any uprisings or lootings in a strong manner.” The officer expressed his belief that Israel’s very firmness has been recognized by the Arab population as salutary and that the population has “therefore remained calm.”
The Nelson report shows that Israel is allowing Arabs to fish again, has made available basic foods at subsidized prices, is buying the citrus output of Arab growers, Israeli civil police and local police work in mixed patrols together. There were still security problems for Israel and the Israelis were searching for hidden weapons and munitions, Egyptian soldiers disguised in civilian clothing, fedayeen-commandos, and civilian criminal prisoners whom the Egyptians released while the military fighting was under way. All public services, utilities, schools and hospitalization have been resumed.
On the other hand, Mr. Labouisse, who has been notoriously critical of all Israel activities, emphasizes the negative aspects of the Gaza situation. Mr. Labouisse and his staff visited the area during the tense days of fighting. But even then, the report shows, the Israel authorities extended him fullest cooperation. Col. Nelson came a little later, when the military action had resulted in victory for Israel.
Mr. Labouise tells of lootings, riotings, robberies and other outrages by the refugees. But he contends that 275 were killed during resistance by Arabs at Khan Yunis, and 111 in the largest refugee camp, at Rafah. He also voices severe criticism against both Egypt and Syria. Careful reading of his report shows that Egypt has been responsible for cutting down the UNRWA relief forces even before the Israel military action. He reports also that Syria arrested two ranking UNRWA relief workers, released them after a protest, but ordered them out of the country. He threatens to cut off all refugee relief in Syria unless the government mends its attitude.