TEL AVIV (Feb. 18)
Calm prevailed all along the Israeli-Jordanian demarcation line today after Israeli agreement to Jordanian King Hussein’s request for a cease-fire Thursday night and his subsequent pledge to halt all terrorist incursions into Israel from Jordanian territory. Israelis, their optimism tempered by caution, looked forward to continued quiet after the heaviest fighting since the June Six-Day war.
Israel’s Cabinet met for its regular meeting today in Jerusalem for a session, which lasted into the night, to hear reports from Defense Minister Moshe Dayan on the savage 12-hour artillery and tank duels last Thursday, in which Israel used jet planes to knock out Jordanian artillery positions. The Defense Minister also presented an evaluation of the fighting. Foreign Minister Abba Eban reported to the Cabinet on the warnings that preceded the clash and the world’s reaction to it. The Cabinet also was scheduled to act on Gen. Dayan’s decision to postpone indefinitely a scheduled visit to the United States until the security situation was cleared up.
King Hussein followed his appeal for a cease-fire with an address Friday over the Amman Radio. He promised to halt terrorist raids into Israel and Israeli-held territory, the principal cause of the Thursday clash, and to punish intruders who ignored his orders. “As of today, I shall not allow anyone to supply the enemy with pretexts and justifications for aggression,” the King told his people. He was strongly backed by Jordanian Prime Minister Bahjat Altahuni, who declared in a speech yesterday that the Jordanian Army would end all cooperation with terrorist gangs.
JORDAN ALSO ISSUES WARNING TO SYRIA ON TERRORIST TRANSIT
Jordan also reportedly warned Syria, which provides training bases for the El Fatah terrorists, not to send through Jordanian territory guerrillas bound for Israel. That warning was issued by the Jordanian Interior Minister, Hassan al-Kayed, in an address at the Jordanian town of Irbid during a visit to towns hit in the Thursday fighting. The Jordanian Minister did not mention Syria by name, according to reports here, but his allusion was clear. According to Amman Radio, he said that the Jordanian Government “will not permit Jordan to be used as a passage for the implementation of designs by those who, like us, have borders” with Israel “but who do not have enough courage to bear the responsibility of the consequences of their action.”
The cease-fire was arranged through the United States Embassy in Tel Aviv since there are no United Nations observers on the Jordan River demarcation line. Contact with Jordan apparently was established through a neutral third country, reportedly with U.S. State Department approval. Israel agreed only after Jordan undertook to observe a total cessation of shooting all along the demarcation line, authoritative military sources here reported.
Israel’s heavy counter-fire Thursday followed pointed warnings from Jerusalem to Jordan to desist from its support of terrorist raids. It was reported here today that warnings were passed on to Jordan not only through Lt. Gen. Odd Bull, chief of staff of the UN cease-fire observers, but also through a direct emissary of Premier Levi Eshkol. The emissary was reported to be a former Jordanian Cabinet member named Mussa Nasser. However, the former Cabinet Minister declined to comment when he was asked by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency about his reported role.
ISRAEL KEEPS UNITED NATIONS INFORMED ON DEVELOPMENTS
Israel also kept the United Nations informed, on an almost hour-by-hour basis, of Jordanian attacks and its responses. On Thursday alone, Israel sent three notes in succession to the president of the Security Council, one note advising that “it became necessary in self-defense to employ aircraft” against Jordanian artillery.
Political observers here speculated today on whether Hussein was strong enough internally to hold the terrorists in check. They noted that official Egyptian policy since the June war has been to abjure terrorist activities but Syria nevertheless has been training and supporting terrorists in Jordanian territory. Syria appeared unlikely to accept any suppression of guerrilla activities by Hussein.
Prior to the cease-fire, Hussein was sent personal assurances by Presidents Nasser of Egypt and Aref of Iraq of “full military support.” Iraqi units in Jordan were reported to have been moved up to the cease-fire line. Offers were sent to Jordan of fighters and bombers from Egypt and Syria. Jordan has had no operational air force since the June war.
Israel acted today to restore normal conditions on the border. The Government said it wanted to resume the family re-union program for Arabs which was halted last month when Jordanian troops fired on Israeli soldiers at the Allenby Bridge over the Jordan River and wounded two representatives of the International Red Cross, which had supervised the crossover of the Arabs. Israel notified Jordan that, starting tomorrow, it was willing to accept relatives of West Bank residents from Jordan whose questionnaires had been approved, without the presence of the Red Cross, which has refused to continue to oversee the crossovers without guarantees of safety from Jordan.
In the Belsan Valley, the main target of Jordanian guns and of terrorist raids, Israeli settlers returned to normal routines. Damages had to be repaired and terrorist mines found and destroyed. Two “old mines” were found today near Ashdod Yaacov and dismantled. On the other side, peasants were seen returning to abandoned fields but many villagers have not returned to their homes. Many Arab buildings are a mass of debris and no attempts have yet been made to clear the wreckage. Jordanian gun positions hit by Israeli fire have not been re-manned.