ORAN, Algeria (Sep. 13)
A tension-loaded calm prevailed today between the Jewish Mellah here and the nearby Moslem quarter after two days of wild fighting marked by a well-organized defense of the Mellah by trained Jewish commando units who repeatedly beat off attacks by numerically superior Arab assailants.
The area between the two sectors was patrolled by steelhelmeted French troops who had pushed through a no-man’s land. Despite radio appeals by the FLN, the Algerian revolutionary movement, Oran Arabs apparently were ready to renew hostilities at the earliest possible moment. Jews who had been residents and shop owners in the Arab quarter moved into the crowded Mellah. Arabs who had shops and homes in the Mellah pulled out and went to the Arab quarter.
During the two days of bitter fighting–which coincided with the two days of Rosh Hasha-nah–three persons, all Arabs, were killed and 26 were wounded, including nine Jews, according to unofficial reports. Police detained 76 persons.
No further clashes occurred between last night and today but the atmosphere was loaded with suspicion and anxiety. Most shops in the Jewish quarter remained closed today although Rosh Hashanah is ended. Shops and cafes in the Arab quarter also were closed. Jewish leaders in Algeria appealed to the Jewish residents of Oran to try to avoid friction with the Moslem inhabitants.
The fighting began on Monday morning in the heart of the Mellah. Jewish artisans and small tradesmen were either sitting in front of their homes or walking along the street as is the custom in eastern countries on holidays. A Jewish hairdresser, Menahem Schroun, was walking to the synagogue with his children, carrying his youngest child in his arms. Suddenly an Arab terrorist approached the family near the Rue de Leoben synagogue and knifed Schroun several times from behind.
Within minutes, Jewish youths sprang into action, sealing off the Mellah and pursuing the knife-wielder. At the same time an exasperated Jewish crowd attacked Arab passersby and broke into Moslem shops on the Central Rue de la Revolution, the street separating the two quarters. More and more Jews rushed into the streets.
ARABS STORM MELLAH; JEWISH DEFENSE UNITS FORCE THEM TO RETREAT
Meanwhile the terrorist was found hiding in an Arab shop and the crowd lynched him and the shopkeeper. Shortly afternoon, an FLN reprisal unit, armed with broken bottles, knives and iron bars, tried to storm the Jewish quarter, screaming “death to the Jews” and “Moslem Algeria.” For the first time in North African history, they were met by well organized Jewish defense units. After a short but bloody clash, the FLN attackers broke into a retreat, pursued by the Jewish commandos. Only the arrival of police units saved the FLN attackers from a severe beating.
In the afternoon, Rosh Hashanah services were resumed under protection of a strong Jewish guard around the synagogue. Despite the guard, Arabs tried to infiltrate the Mellah and renewed fighting broke out which soon became general. In the evening, the Arabs were chased from the Mellah by the Jewish commandos and French security police. The largest number of casualties occurred when police had to open fire on the Arabs when the latter began throwing grenades to cover their retreat.
After a quiet night, Oran residents awoke to find firemen still fighting the blazes burning from the previous day and steelhelmeted soldiers patrolling the streets. Early in the morning, the Arabs showed they were determined to open new hostilities. At 7 a. m. a European was murdered in cold blood and two hours later a group of 50 Arabs broke into a Jewish pharmacy which they ransacked. They then tried to storm the Mellah again and once again the Jewish commandos moved into defense positions.
JEWISH COMMUNITY ORGANIZES TEMPORARY RELIEF FOR FLEEING JEWS
Younger Jewish children, their nerves on edge, meanwhile stormed Arab shops in the Jewish quarter, breaking into a number of them. Meanwhile, Arabs massed again in alleys leading to the Mellah, again shouting “death to the Jews” and “Algeria for Moslems.” Arab women hurled bottles and stones at the Mellah as Arab attackers tried to enter the Jewish section. In one such attack, an Arab was captured and killed by the Jewish defenders.
Many Jewish families left their homes in the Arab sector for the Mellah. Jewish community workers organized temporary relief facilities for the refugees near the Central Synagogue. Other Jews were making preparations to leave Oran for emigration to France, or Israel. Those fleeing were not to be driven by fear of any immediate danger since the Jewish self-defense units has demonstrated they could defend the Mellah against numerically superior Arab attackers but because they had decided their longterm prospects were dim if they remained.
The FLN issued an appeal last night over Radio Tunis preaching “friendship and cooperation” and calling on Algerian Jews “not to follow imperialist directions” and to remember that the FLN “has always proclaimed” that Algerian Jews “are an integral part of the Algerian nation.” Despite these reassurances, some Arabs said they were determined to seek “vengeance.”