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100 Jews Reportedly Flee from Cyprus Camp to Israel; British Demolish Secret Tunnel

August 10, 1948
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

British engineers today blew up a secret tunnel which was elaborately constructed by Jewish detainees here in an effort to escape from their detention camps and reach Israel, The demolition of the tunnel occurred after the British had previously pumped 340,000 gallons of water into the subterranean passage without wrecking it.

The tunnel–30 yards long and two feet wide–had been completed only two days before it was discovered last week, It ran under the barbed wire surrounding one camp to a point well beyond the guard perimeter. The detainees had wired the tunnel with electric light with current obtained from a searchlight tower, British authorities believe that it took the Jews six months to dig the tunnel. Twenty-nine refugees were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment, ranging up to nine months, when the passage was discovered last week.

It was reliably estimated here today that at least 100 Jewish detainees succeeded in escaping from Cyprus last week. British officials on the island voiced the opinion that Jewish representatives outside the camps, stationed in Cyprus, but who are in radio contact with Israel, are attempting to help “selected male specialists among the refugees” to escape on small boats which are brought near the Cyprus coast at night. Such boats can reach Israel from Cyprus in about 24 hours.

Jewish leaders here say that the British have greatly overestimated the possibilities of escape. Two battalions of British troops maintain a continuous guard over the camps, while the Cyprus police vigilantly examine buses and cars, searching for escapees. The Royal Air Force also maintains patrols looting for such vessels,


The Jews are planning to test the constitutionality of the island’s law passed two years ago covering escaping detainees. The legal basis of the test will be whether the government is competent to detain the Jews since the end of the British Mandate in Palestine on May 15, whether the Jews here are Israeli citizens and, if so, whether the British can legally detain citizens of another state trying to reach that state.

The Jews still protest violently that the British are separating families by sending only women and children to Israel, but Americans working in the camps, representatives of the Joint Distribution Committee, estimate that not more than 200 husbands and wives have been separated. The camps have approximately three males to one female. Many of the wives refuse to go to Israel without their husbands.

Last week the one hundredth Jewish baby was born on Cyprus and many more are due soon. Many expectant mothers refuse to go to the hospital until the last minute, hoping that the baby will be born in Israel. American representatives say that morale among the detainees is at the lowest of any time during the past two years because the Jews have no idea of their ultimate fate. To offset this, Jewish teachers have been sent from Israel to conduct classes and enlarge the recreation facilities.

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