JERUSALEM (Jul. 18)
Heavily armed Palestinian terrorists, fleeing the troops of Jordan’s King Hussein, are surrendering en-masse to Israeli forces, it was disclosed today. At least 55 terrorists have laid down their arms during the past 24 hours, apparently preferring to become prisoners of the Israelis than to face death or capture at the hands of the Jordan Arab Legion. Hussein, though he vowed in Zerqa, Jordan, yesterday to support Arab commando activities against Israel, has mounted a new drive aimed at ousting the fedayeen from north Jordan. Israeli observers on the West Bank reported seeing Arab Legionnaires in jeeps and armored cars crisscrossing the Jordan Valley in search of guerrilla bands. Jordanian infantry was rooting terrorists out of hiding places in fields and orange groves, according to Israeli sources.
The mass surrenders–yesterday, last night and this morning–were on the agenda of today’s Cabinet meeting, an extra long session that heard reports from Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and Army Chief of Staff Haim Bar Lev. Details of the reports have been classified and publication of information is forbidden under penalty of law. It is clear to observers here nevertheless that this latest development along the Jordanian frontier has created a headache and potential embarrassment for Israeli authorities. The surrendering terrorists pose problems. They must be quartered, fed and heavily guarded since most are highly trained in terrorist and sabotage techniques. Yet denying them entry to Israel would mean delivering them to almost certain death at the hands of Hussein’s troops. Reports from Amman reaching here today told of mass executions of guerrillas, many of whom were reportedly flushed out of hiding places with gas bombs. The Israeli Government wants to avoid any act that might be interpreted as interfering in Jordan’s internecine fighting. On the other hand, it does not want to inhibit Hussein’s drive against the terrorists. This has been going on since the Jordanian civil war last September and it has taken considerable pressure off Israel’s long frontier with Jordan. Once daily rocket, artillery and mortar bombardments of Israeli settlements in the Beisan and Jordan valleys have become a rare occurrence.
Yesterday, an Israeli patrol encircled a band of 16 terrorists crossing the Jordan River and ordered them to surrender. The terrorists laid down their arms which included automatic rifles, hand grenades and a machine gun and became willing captives. The fact that they carried no food or explosives satisfied the Israeli commander that they were not on a sabotage mission but were fleeing Hussein’s troops. Two more groups of similar size surrendered to Israeli forces during the night and eight more laid down their arms this morning.
Nine pupils, two teachers and a janitor were injured today when a hand grenade exploded in the Falastin School yard in Gaza. The grenade was aimed at an Israeli patrol guarding the school during matriculation examinations. There were no Israeli casualties. An Arab terrorist dressed in women’s clothes was killed in the Gaza Strip Friday as he threw a grenade at an Israeli patrol. The Petach Tikvah Municipality sent a telegram of congratulations to Israeli defense forces Friday for intercepting and destroying the terrorist gang responsible for the fatal rocket attack on that city July 7.