HC Deb 28 April 1948 vol 450 cc367-9
37. Dr. Segal

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any statement to make on the present situation in Haifa.

Mr. Mayhew

Yes, Sir. Heavy fighting between Arabs and Jews broke out in Haifa on 21st April. For some days previously there had been sporadic violence largely due to the infiltration into the town of groups of armed Arabs intent on interfering with Jewish communications to the East and North. The Jews launched an attack by Haganah from Mount Carmel against the Arab sections of the town and by the morning of the 22nd had closed in on the market area. British forces concentrated to protect the port area and those installations and routes which are vital to the maintenance and the ultimate evacuation of our troops from the interior of the country. Meanwhile, the Military Commander in Haifa, in an effort to stop the fighting by negotiation, presided at two meetings between Arab and Jewish leaders on the 22nd to endeavour to arrange a truce. British forces also gave all possible help to Arab non-combatants attempting to escape from the town to the North, and Arabs wishing to reach Acre were transferred there in landing craft. With military assistance, the staff and patients of an Arab hospital in the battle area were evacuated to the Government Hospital in Haifa.

In these operations three Army officers were wounded; two British policemen were killed and one was wounded. By the morning of 23rd April the situation was much quieter and normal life was being resumed. On the 24th, the High Commissioner reported that quiet had been restored. Arab evacuation from the town has now practically ceased. Some 5,000 persons, out of a total Arab population of about 70,000, have left. Final casualty figures are not yet available, but it is thought that at least Too Arabs were killed and more than 100 injured before the fighting subsided on the 23rd. Fourteen Jews were reported to have been killed, and 40 wounded. Early reports of widespread massacre in the town are untrue, and were merely rumours caused by panic.

Dr. Segal

Can the Minister confirm that as a result of the curfew imposed by the Haganah no looting has taken place in Haifa, that the Moslem Holy Places in that town have been fully safeguarded, and that full protection has been afforded to Arab property?

Mr. Mayhew

I can only say that according to the latest reports quiet has been restored there, and that would imply those things.

Mr. T. Reid

In view of the situation in Haifa, can the Government see to it that the oil from Kirkuk is by-passed beyond Haifa, and sent down to Tripolis in Syria for the use of Europe?

Mr. Mayhew

I should like to have notice of that Question.

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