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Raid Seen As First Blow at Britain’s Oil Supply

July 17, 1940
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Italian air raids on Haifa, Palestine’s chief port, were intended as the first blow at Britain’s vital oil supply from Iraq, the National Geographic Society said in a special bulletin tonight.

At the same time, Government officials familiar with Near Eastern problems said they believed this raid would undoubtedly be followed by others.

The strategic importance of Haifa and Palestine in the battle for oil was told by the National Geographic bulletin as follows:

“The indispensable petroleum which oils the machines of war and commerce flows for more than 600 miles from Iraq to Haifa. On its journey across desert and plain it crosses not only the country of origin but also the northern expanse of Transjordan and Palestine. At one point the long pipeline which carries it curves northward within a few miles of now-enemy-controlled Syria, a mandated state under Britain’s former ally, France.

“Haifa, on the Bay of Acre, just across from the ancient biblical settlement of the same name, is itself only about 20 air miles from the Syrian border. It is, however, far from Italian bases of operation. The nearest Italian-held territory is in the Dodecanese Islands, some 485 airline miles away. Italy’s North African colony of Libya is nearly 600 miles to the west, a ride for the bomber of well over two hours. Moreover, Haifa lies within the protective range of two powerful British outposts–the big island of Cyprus on the north-west and the Suez Canal in Egypt to the south-west.

“As a strategic center of commerce and industry Haifa has tremendously increased in value in recent years.

“An active Jewish colony settled there following Britain’s 1917 designation of Palestine as a haven for the Jews. To its population, with each set of anti-Semitic laws passed in Europe, have been added new members until Haifa today has more than 100,000 inhabitants, some three times its population of a decade ago.

“Modern housing programs have been put through, new schools and recreation centers established. Industries have been developed, calling for more factories each year to turn out such assorted products as chemicals, flour and chemicals, flour and cement, beer, metals and cigarettes. With the completion of the oil pipeline in 1933 appeared huge oil tanks such as are found in the Texas oil fields or in Soviet Russia’s rich Baku region.

“With its improved harbor facilities Haifa is the natural doorway for the long discussed motor road that will, it is planned, eventually stretch across the Near East land bridge to British India and the Far East. Already railways link the port, by way of numerous coastal centers, with Egypt to the south and Damascus and Baghdad to the east.

“Sun-baked, whitewashed Haifa is an international town of conflicting races, religions and politics. The mixture includes Arabs and Jews, Greeks and Turks, Moslems and Christians. There is a flourishing German colony, established nearly three-quarters of a century ago. To its British garrison are sent English officers and English ‘Tommies.’ Lately, following the defeat of France in Europe, a number of refugees are reported to have fled into Haifa from next-door Syria.”

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