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U.N. Secretary General Worried over ‘palestine Liberation Army’

September 19, 1966
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

United Nations Secretary General U Thant expressed concern over the activities of the “Palestine Liberation Army” and their possible impact on the peace-keeping program of the United Nations Emergency Force on Israel’s border with Egypt.

In a 21-page report on the operations of UNEF, issued yesterday, he recommended to the General Assembly that it retain UNEF troops in the Gaza Strip and in the Gulf of Eilat area. He warned that withdrawal of UNEF would “quite likely” lead to resumption of serious border clashes. He reported that since 1965, the Palestine Liberation Army had increased and had led to “some differences with UNEF personnel.”

He said available information put the current strength of the Palestine Liberation Army at about 12,000 men. He asserted that the “operational deployment” of PLA elements “just outside the 500-meter zone of the armistice demarcation line” and increased patrolling and training activity of PLA units in the area “are unavoidably of concern to UNEF and its functioning.”

He indicated his intention to continue the reduction of UNEF strength, for economy reasons, which began in 1957 when the UNEF forces totaled 6,615 men. On June 31, 1966, the UNEF strength was down to 3,959. India, with 1,138 men, has the largest contingent. Canada with 904 is second and Yugoslavia with 705 is third. Brazil has 605 men in UNEF, Denmark 417, Norway 289 and Sweden one.

He reported that the goal for the coming strengths was to reduce UNEF to “a basic strength” of 3,400 men and officers. However, he stressed that the principle in the program was that “the reduction must not cause any impairment of the effectiveness of UNEF as a peace force.” He conceded an element of risk in the planned further reduction but said the risk would materialize “only in the event of some unanticipated emergency.” Any significant lowering of the force below 3,400 would make it impossible for UNEF “to carry on as a peace force with its present functions and responsibilities,” he warned.

U Thant reported in the period under his review UNEF had not been confronted with any stern challenges in the form of major incidents. “However,” he said, “there have been some disturbing signs recently that a change in this favorable situation could occur. It is an unhappy statement to have to make, but it is a reality all too apparent that, despite almost a decade of relative quiet along the long line on which UNEF is deployed, relations between the people on the opposite sides of the line are such that if the U.N. buffer zone should be removed serious fighting would, quite likely, soon be resumed.”

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