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British Civilians Ordered Evacuated from Palestine; Imposition of Martial Law Feared

February 2, 1947
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Palestine Government today announced that all British women and children in Palestine, as well as non-essential male civilians, will be evacuated from the country within a few days “so that the government and the armed forces shall not be hampered in their tasks of maintaining order.”

The order, combined with other steps taken today by the military authorities, placed the British administration here on a virtual war footing and is believed to herald strong measures by the army. It is rumored that martial law may be proclaimed in Tel Aviv and the vicinity within a few days.

The estimated 2,000 or more persons who will be affected by the evacuation order are expected to begin leaving on Tuesday. Transportation to England will be provided on British merchant and naval vessels. The families of British servicemen and civil servants will form the bulk of the evacuses. Among the civilians who have been advised, but not ordered, to leave are British newspaper correspondents and their families.


Immediately after issuance of the order, the American consulate here is understood to have cabled Washington asking for instructions regarding nationals of the United States residing here.

At a press conference this afternoon the government’s press officer, Richard Stubbs, stressed that those instructed to leave must do so, but that government officials and their families may stay at their own risk. He added, however, that special regulations will be taken to protect them. Stubbs emphasized that the evacuation was not on a “racial” basis, and that Jewish wives and children of British officers would also be sent home.

At meetings here tonight, British businesmen and newspaper correspondents voiced strong protests against being evacuated. The former pointed out that evacuation would disrupt and in many cease ruin their enterprises. The newspapermen, who attended a meeting called by the Middle East Foreign Correspondents Association, said that they would not leave the country, and protested their classification as “non-essential civilians.”


Other measures taken today included issuance of an order instructing all army personal, whether married or single, who are now Living outside to move into barracks. All servicemen were confined to their quarters, and army clubs and conteens were closed.

The tension which had abated somewhat following the release of Judge Windban and Major Collins rose following disclosure of the evacuation order coupled with the revelation that Dov Gruner has not signed an appeal as previously reported and is insisting on being treated as a prisoner of war. The Chief Justice has extended until Sunday the period during which he may sign, but there are indications that Gruner will refuse to do so.

Should the doomed Irgunist remain adamant, the civil and military authorities will have to set a new execution date within the next few days or commute the death sentence. If Gruner is executed, responsible sources here say that no individual or group can guarantee the maintenance of peace.

If martial law should be imposed, it would affect Tel Aviv, Pstach Tikvol and their environs where two-thirds of Palestine’s Jewish population are concentrated, as well as eighty-nine percent of Jewish industry and trade. The costs of the occupation by troops and police would be borne by the inhabitants, which could bankrupt the Jewish community. Chief Secretary Sir Henry L. Gurney is reported to have told Mrs. Goldie Meirson on Wednesday that martial law would “teach Jews a lesson and punish them so severely that they will remember it for years to come.”

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