Negev Withdrawal Deadline Set for Friday; Would Place Most of Desert Under U.N. Control
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Negev Withdrawal Deadline Set for Friday; Would Place Most of Desert Under U.N. Control

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The withdrawal of Israeli troops to their positions of October 14 and the establishment of new Egyptian lines in the desert must be completed by next Friday, November 19, under the terms of an order communicated last night to both governments by acting mediator Dr. Ralph Bunche, The order establishes a “neutral” U.N. zone consisting of most of the Negev.

Meanwhile, the Security Council will meet tomorrow to discuss a British draft resolution extending the threat of sanctions to Galilee and other fronts unless the Israelis withdraw to the earlier truce lines. The Council will also consider a proposal by Dr. Bunche to replace the present truce with an armistice.

Dr. Bunche’s communication to the two governments last night also offered his good offices and that of the entire U.N. staff in Palestine to assist the belligerents in undertaking the negotiations envisaged in the Security Council resolution of November 4. He also requested that the governments supply his chief of staff, Brig. Gen. William Riley, with the names of the officers on both sides who will be responsible for the withdrawals, as well as the schedules and the routes to be followed by the troops.


The position assigned to the Israeli troops by the acting mediator follows: “Beginning at the point where the 14 October truce line crosses the Khaffa-Julis road then southeast to Julis then east to Ibdis, Juseir, Zeita to the 14 October truce lines at Huseinayi; elsewhere, following 14 October truce line. Complete withdrawal of all military forces other than those maintained in the Israeli settlements in the Negev for safety purposes prior to 14 October shall be made to points north of that line.”

The Arab forces are left a narrow corridor starting about eight miles north of Gaza and extending one-and-one-half miles east of the main Gaza-Majdal road and running parallel with the road from this point south to the Egyptian frontier. That is the western demarcation line. The eastern–Jerusalem-Hebron–line runs about two three miles west of the Bethlehem-Hebron road from northeast to southwest through a point about nine miles northeast of Beersheba and Dhahiriya. From there the line turns due east through Sauna to the Dead Sea.

The remainder of the Negev between these demarcation lines comes under the control of the acting mediator and within this area no troop movements of any kind will be allowed. Patrol activities by either side is prohibited and no armed forces or military supplies will be moved except as authorized and supervised by the truce supervision organization. Non-military supplies for the normal needs of the Arab and Jewish populations of the area shall not be subject to quantitative limitation.

Beersheba shall be demilitarized, the order says. Israeli forces shall evacuate the town and an Egyptian civil administrator shall administer it as an Arab town. South of Beersheba, the Egyptian forces which were in Beir Aeluj prior to October 14 may remain there and Egyptian control of the Beir Asluj-Rafa road shall be recognized as maintained.


The first reaction of both the Jews and the Egyptians was known to be unfavorable to the plan. Jewish circles here condemned it lock, stock and barrel, while the Egyptians, contrary to what had been expected, were equally opposed to it.

Prior to issuance of the withdrawal orders, Dr. Bunche’s plan was approved by the seven-member Security Council sub-committee set up by the Council’s sanctions resolution. The vote at the sub-committee session yesterday was six for and one–the U.S.S.R.–abstaining.

The Soviet Union’s Jacob Malik, practically the only delegate to speak at length on the proposal, charged that the entire withdrawal order was political in nature and that it was highly unrealistic to expect the U.N.’s small staff to be able to administer the vast Negev “neutral” zone. In addition, he questioned the necessity for demilitarizing virtually the whole of the Negev when the battle in the south was restricted to a small past of the desert region. He also reiterated his call for direct negotiations between Israel and Egypt.

A proposal to establish an Ad Hoc Committee on Palestine to handle the question at this meeting of the General Assembly was made yesterday by Dr. Herbert Evatt, Australian delegate, to the Assembly’s steering committee, and by Alexander Cordier, executive assistant to Secretary-General Trygve Lie. At the steering committee the suggestion was opposed by the U.S.S.R. and Lebanon, and will be considered again tomorrow.

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