A British officer was kidnapped in the heart of Jerusalem today by four Jewish youths and a girl, in what was believed to be the first retaliatory move following the confirmation of the death sentence imposed on Dov Gruner, Irgun member convicted of participation in an attack on a police station last April.
It is thought that the officer, Major H.I. Collins, will be held hostage for Gruner, who is scheduled to be hanged on Tuesday unless High Commissioner Sir Alan Cunningham commutes his sentence. Cunningham is reported to be considering taking such action.
Immediately after the kidnapping, which took place on Marilla Road, a quiet street off the main section of the city which houses the American consulate, sirens were sounded and rockets fired as an indication that “terrorist activity” was in progress. Police stations on roads leading out of Jerusalem were warned to be on the look-out for a possible attempt to smuggle Collins out of the city and road blocks were set up. The kidnappers are reported to have chloroformed Collins and placed a sack over his head before carrying him off.
JEWISH LEADERS FEARFUL GRUNER EXECUTION WILL PROVOKE VIOLENCE
Jewish leaders, who fear the effect on the community if Gruner should be executed, made desperate attempts during the week-end to influence the High Commissioner. A Jewish National Council spokesman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that if the death sentence is not commuted, the Council’s recent anti-terrorist resolution will be rendered ineffective, and the position of the extremists strengthened.
Gruner, himself, is reported to be more calm than the persons intervening in his behalf. He received news of the confirmation of his sentence without comment and has so far refused to petition the High Commissioner for clemency, although urged to do so by a delegation of Jewish leaders. Gruner is badly crippled as a result of wounds suffered during the attack on the police station and part of his face is crushed.
The military authorities seem as apprehensive as the Jews concerning the repercussions which may follow Gruner’s execution. Road blocks and police garrisons have been strongthened and Tel Aviv has been declared out of bounds. Soldiers may appear in the streets only in groups of four and heavily armed.
Their fears were heightened by the distribution yesterday of Stern Group leaflets which declared that the organization, like the Irgun, would not agree to a trues and appealed to the country’s Jews to join them in the fight against the British and against partition. The Sternists declared that they abhorred fratricidal strife, “but if attacked, we will fight back.”
A Jewish Agency spokesman said today that the political developmants of the next few days would be influenced by the fate of Gruner. He told a press conference that the Agency was fearful that the relative tranquility that has reigned in recent days, despits bombastic manifestoes by the extremists, would be shattered if the death sentence is carried out. He revealed that before leaving for London this morning, Isaac Ben Zvi, president of the Jewish National Council, wrote to the High Commissioner asking clemency.
JTA LEARNS CUNNINGHAM WAS “HIGH OFFICIAL” WHO WARNED OF STIFFER CURBS
The Palestine censorship did not allow news of the confirmation of Gruner’s sentence to appear in the Palestine press until last night. It also forbade publication altogether of a statement to foreign correspondents on Friday by a “high official” of the government, who criticized the Jewish National Council resolution on terrorism for its failure to offer cooperation to the civil and military authorities and stated that the next outbreak of violence would result in imposition of rigid restrictions.
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, which was not invited to the press conference, has learned that the spokesman was Cunningham, who asked the correspondents not to reveal his identity. No correspondents from Jewish agencies or papers were present.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.