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Department of Public Information (DPI)
6 July 1948
Department of Public Information
Press and Publications Bureau
Lake Success, New York
Press Release PAL/208
6 July 1948
UN MILITARY OBSERVER IN PALESTINE FATALLY HURT
WHILE INVESTIGATING REPORT OF TRUCE VIOLATION;
ANOTHER OBSERVER WOUNDED
(The following was received at UN Headquarters from the UN Press Officer with the UN Mediator on Palestine.)
Haifa, 6 July - The United Nations suffered its first casualty in Palestine today with the death about 5:30 p.m. of French Observer Commandant Rene Labarriere, who was wounded in the Afoula area last night while investigating an alleged violation of the truce provisions by Jewish forces.
Labarriere died in the Jewish Hospital at Afoula and his body is being brought to Haifa via UN plane this evening. It will be met at the airfield by the French Consul, Pierre Landy.
With Labarriere at the time of the incident was French Officer Commandant Du Moustier De Canchy, who was wounded in the leg and is now in Hadassah Hospital at Haifa, and an unidentified Italian priest who was acting as interpreter and was slightly wounded.
According to the report given to the Mediator's operational headquarters by De Canchy, he and Labarriere and the priest were proceeding from Lubiya to Shajara after visiting the Arab lines in the course of the investigation. While proceeding toward the Jewish lines, they halted their jeep and waved a white flag.
The explosion occurred while the jeep was standing still. Labarriere fell wounded on the road. De Canchy left and jeep and pulled Labarriere off the road, picked up the white flag and started on foot toward the Jewish lines. Another explosion occurred and he fell. The Jews quickly came to him and gave every possible aid, removing Labarriere to the Afoula Hospital and providing transport for De Canchy to Haifa.
De Canchy said the Jews told him the jeep had hit a magnetic mine and he had stepped on a personnel mine. De Canchy had been over the road several days ago and it was then unmined. The Italian priest who was travelling with the officers as an interpreter reported that the Jews had assured him the morning of the incident that the road was unmined.
De Canchy said he thought they had been shot at but added that he could be .....
Precise details will not be available until UN Observer Colonel Maurice L. Martin, who was dispatched to investigate, makes his report. With Martin is Doctor J. G. Freymann of the United States Public Health Service, who is attached to the Consulate General at Jerusalem.
Another incident also was reported today:
Private Robert Lee Ridgeway of the United States Marine Corps, serving as a truck driver on the staff of the Mediator, was fired on at dusk yesterday near Khefar on the Haifa-Tel Aviv road. He encountered three men, who fired one shot at him. When he failed to halt the truck, they sent a machine gun burst through the windshield. Ridgeway escaped unhurt, miraculously.
Colonel Bonde, the Mediator's Deputy in charge of observing the truce in Palestine, has forwarded a very strong letter to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, pointing out that the incident did not occur at a road block and that the truck was painted white, clearly identifying it as a UN vehicle. Colonel Bonde's letter describes the incident as outrageous and demands that drastic steps be taken to identify the culprits and prevent a recurrence.
In another incident, Colonel Bonde himself was forced to turn back on the Tel Aviv-Haifa road this morning, while enroute to meet the UN Mediator, Count Folke Bernadotte, in Tel Aviv. Fighting in the Jaba area prevented him from proceeding and he returned to Haifa to go to Tel Aviv by plane. Observers are now investigating.