Hammarskjold Says U. N. Forces Will Remain in Gaza Strip Till September
Menu JTA Search

Hammarskjold Says U. N. Forces Will Remain in Gaza Strip Till September

Download PDF for this date

Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold asserted here today that he has “formally transmitted” to Egypt the prime question asked by Israel calling for a “yes” or “no” answer as to whether the Cairo Government considers itself in a state of belligerence. So far, the UN chief said, he has not received a reply to this all-important question.

Mr. Hammarskjold also implied that the United Nations Emergency Force is responsible for internal security in the Gaza Strip; that present plans call for UNEF to remain in action on Egyptian territory and in Gaza until at least next September; and that it is “a wise assumption” that Egypt will not bar Israeli shipping through the Suez Canal.

Mr. Hammarskjold made these points, among the others, at an unusually long press conference, the first he has held here since November. Some of his statements, however, like the one dealing with Israel shipping through the Suez, were seen by observers to be subject to varying interpretation.

His characterization of Egypt’s lifting the Suez blockade as “a wise assumption” came in a request for a comment made yesterday in Washington by President Eisenhower to the effect that the President believes Egypt will not bar the ships of any country when the canal is opened.

But Mr. Hammarskjold also said in another answer that the October 13 resolution of the Security Council–in which one basic requirement for the Suez Canal’s operation is that there must be no discrimination against any nation’s shipping, “overt and covert”–is really tied to the Constantinople Convention of 1888. Under that convention, Egypt has been claiming it is in a “state of war” with Israel and therefore entitled to bar the canal to Israel-bound ships.


Mr. Hammarskjold reported that he has approached both Egypt and Israel regarding implementation of Article One of their 1949 armistice agreement. That article refers to the armistice as a transition to peace. So far, he said, he has no replies on this point from either government.

The United Nations Emergency Force both in the Akaba area and in Gaza, “has, as a predominant function, to safeguard peace between the two countries, ” Mr. Hammarskjold stated. He said he has no reports from the UNEF command that civilians there are armed, but the UN force “should be able to see to it that there is no development behind it which contradicts the purposes it is serving on the armistice demarcation line. “

There have been discussions about erecting a fence along the Israel-Gaza frontier, Mr. Hammarskjold reported, adding that while he believes that “the fence idea has advantages, he also believes that it should “like all such ideas, be applied with common sense.”

“We do not solve the problems of that area by building a fence all along the armistice demarcation line, all around Gaza. But there are sensitive spots which, in our experience, present special difficulties for shepherds, marauders and what-not, and where the policing activities by UNEF would be facilitated by the erection of such a fence,” he stated.

Declaring that both he and the commander of UNEF, Maj. Gen. E. L. M. Burns, “got full cooperation” from the Egyptian Government during his visit to Cairo, Mr. Hammarskjold added: “you can draw your own conclusions from that. ” He expressed the opinion that the claiming of “belligerence” by one United Nations member against another–as in the case of Egypt vs. Israel–is not in itself “against the UN Charter. It is simply, he said, a “state of no peace in the technical and legal sense… something with which we regrettably have to live. “


Mr. Hammarskjold said he had no plans about going–or not going–to the Middle East again in the near future, “but my suitcases are always packed. ” He denied that he thought Israel had “snubbed” him by not specially inviting him to visit Jerusalem while he was in

After his press conference, Mr. Hammarskjold submitted to an interview for television in which he made these points:

1. He is more convinced now than he was even in Cairo that he has cause for “optimism” about the Gaza situation.

2. He hopes that the question of Israel’s passage through the Suez “will develop in such a way that this will not become a new source of major disturbance. “

3. UNEF now has enough authority to feel that fedayeen activities “are not undercutting their efforts along the armistice demarcation line.

4. Nasser has agreed with him to “be guided by what was called good faith in interpreting the functions of UNEF. ” Therefore he felt that if Egypt changed its mind about UNEF, “that would be a matter for discussion.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund