Tel Aviv (Jul. 19)
Seventeen more armed Arab terrorists fleeing Jordan surrendered to Israeli forces today bringing to 72 the number that have laid down their arms and begged asylum in Israel since Saturday. The terrorists have been surrendering in small groups or individually, carrying white flags, Most were carrying fire-arms and grenades although some dumped their weapons to make flight easier. Reports from Amman today said King Hussein’s forces were “mopping up” in northern Jordan. Guerrilla hands have been encircled near Kureima and Karameh, the latter once the terrorist stronghold in Jordan. Baghdad radio announced yesterday that in support of the Palestinian commandos, Iraq was severing diplomatic relations with Jordan and closing its border with that country. The Jordanian Government charged yesterday that some of the guerrillas surrendering to Israeli forces were “Israeli agents.” In Beirut, a guerrilla spokesman said that “criminal and trench cross acts” by the Jordanian Army had “forced a number of commandos to cross into occupied territory to face the Zionist enemy rather than such treacherous actions.”
Israeli sources said today that most of the surrendered terrorists were members of El Fatah. the largest of the Palestinian guerrilla groups and that some belonged to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a more extreme group headed by Dr. George Habash. The sources said all were being interrogated to determine their background. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan asked several of the captives yesterday why they fled to Israel and not to Syria. The reply was that the Syrian border was blocked and, anyway it was “safer in Israel.” The commandos reportedly pleaded with Dayan to let them stay, promising to “do everything we are told, even join the Israel Army.” Sources here said that “competent authorities” would decide the fate of the surrendered terrorists whom Israel regards as civilians, not prisoners of war. An Arab terrorist was wounded and captured today in an encounter with an Israeli Army patrol in the Jebaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. He was shot after ignoring warnings to identify himself and attempting to escape. Saboteurs demolished a high tension pylon in the Arava region of the Negev north of Groffit settlement Sunday night. No casualties were reported. The saboteurs were believed to be infiltrators from Jordan.