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        Security Council
19 June 1954


Report dated 19 June 1954 by the Chief of Staff of the United Nations Truce
Supervision Organization in Palestine to the Secretary-General concerning
the Scorpion Pass incident

[Original text: English]
[25 June 1954]


On 17 March 1954, the Israel delegation presented a verbal complaint to the Chairman of the Jordan-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission concerning an attack on an Israel passenger bus which had occurred about noon on the same day at the Scorpion Pass (MR 1632-0364) on the highway from Eilat to Beersheba. The Israel delegation requested an on-the-spot investigation.

An emergency meeting of the Commission was held immediately in Jerusalem. It ordered an investigation of the complaint.


On 17 March 1954, before the Israel complaint was received in Jerusalem, a United Nations observer who happened to be at Beersheba on duty was informed of the dent and drove to the Scorpion Pass accompanied by Israel officer. At 17.40 h, after meeting an ambulance carrying two wounded persons, they reached the monument to the Israel Engineer Corps erected in the Scorpion Pass. Fifty meters further, down the slope, a bus was guarded by Israel soldiers and police officers. The rear end of the bus was bent in and rested against the rocky wall on the left side of the road. Four dead bodies outside the bus and seven in it, covered with blood. One of the four victims outside the bus, a woman, had no shoes and the ring-finger of her right hand was cut off another victim, a man, had no shoes. The windshield of the bus and two windows on the left side were smashed; there were holes in other windows and parts of the vehicle, inside and outside. The United Nations observer saw empty small-arms cartridges outside the bus, and also behind the monument and on the left of it. He found others on the top of the rocks to the loft, together with a small skull-cap and a clip. Though it was getting dark, he could distinguish incoming and outgoing which he estimated to be those of about five persons and which he followed along a narrow path on the ridge for about 300 meters in a south-easterly direction.


The same United Nations observer returned to the Scorpion Pass in the early morning of 18 March 1954, together with the Israel representatives on the Mixed Armistice Commission, who were accompanied by three trackers, three dogs and two dog-masters. At 07.00 h they picked up tracks on the narrow path explored by the United Nations observer on the previous evening. Tracks which seemed to be those of about four to seven persons who had walked towards the east led to Wadi Fuqra and were followed in the bed of the wadi and sometimes, where the walls were not steep, on one of its sides, until 1500 h. At that time, after having been followed for about 17 kilometers, the tracks were lost at approximately MR 1724-0376 (about 9.5 kilometers, in a straight line, in the scene of the incident, and about 11.5 kilometers, a straight line, from the nearest point on the armistice demarcation line between Israel and Jordan).

From the spot where the tracks were lost, Wadi Fuqra continues to go down in a north-easterly direction until it opens up, over 5 kilometers from the armistice demarcation line, into the flat land of the Ghor, to the south of the Dead Sea. In addition, about 1.5 kilometers from the spot were the tracks were lost, a path provides another natural exit from the wadi towards the south, and a short distance further on there are numerous other natural exits leading to the north and to the south.

The tracks followed on 18 March were those of persons who walked down the wadi. Now and then, in the bed of the wadi, near the water pools and at other places where the ground was soft, there were tracks of persons who had walked in the opposite direction. On 19 March, the senior Israel delegate was informed that tracks had been found by the Israel trackers some 8 kilometers to the south-east of the spot where the tracks had been lost on the previous afternoon. Accompanied by two United Nations observers, he went to approximately MR 1785-0300. Tracks of apparently two persons, one of them barefooted, were followed for a Jew hundred meters until nightfall. The connection between those tracks and those followed on the previous day was not established.


A United Nations observer who, on 19 March, went to the Jordanian side of the armistice demarcation line, south of the Dead Sea, was informed by the responsible officers of the measures they had taken. The District Commander of Karak stated that, on receiving information about the bus incident in the evening of 17 March, he bad immediately moved forces on patrol under the command of several officers. The border area on the Jordanian side, from the south end of the Dead Sea to Wadi Ein el Fidan, in the south, was being checked by Jordanian patrols in transport, on horseback or on foot. The District Commander added that his efforts were co-ordinated with those of the officer in charge of the area to the south.

The same United Nations observer was informed by the officer in charge of the desert patrol, one of those directing the search, that he had been instructed by the Chief of Staff of the Arab Legion to search for any strangers or suspects, or any evidence in relation to the bus incident. His men had arrived in the area at about 02.00 h on 18 March and had patrolled the region south of the Dead Sea on horseback, in transport or on foot. So far, no evidence had been found. It would, in his opinion, be very easy to arrest anyone coming from Israel-controlled territory: the terrain was salt marsh land and, because of the type of people living in the area, it was not difficult to detect anything unusual.

On 19 March, the Chief of Staff of the Arab Legion offered the services of his Bedouin trackers to the United Nations observer on the Jordanian side in order that be might take them to the spot in Israel where the tracks had been lost and attempt to continue tracking therefrom. The Israel Chief of Staff agreed to allow Jordanian trackers to go to the point in Israel up to which the tracks had been followed so far, in order to attempt to continue the tracking to the demarcation line together with Israel trackers on the understanding that the joint tracking would be continued in Jordanian territory as well.


On the following day (20 March), the two Jordanians trackers put at the disposal of the Mixed Armistice Commission by the Chief of Staff of the Arab Legion went to Wadi Fuqra together with two United Nations observers and the Israel investigating team. They found no tracks between MR 189-048 on the Israel-Jordan armistice demarcation line and MR 171-038, where there were, on an area of 2 square meters, tracks of probably four persons who had walked to the south-west (in the direction opposite to that of the demarcation line). Those tracks were thought by the trackers of both sides to be approximately six days old. The party checked the walls of Wadi Fuqra at several points and also several small wadi lead-offs that could have been exits from Wadi Fuqra. No tracks were seen.

On the following day (21 March), the two Jordanian trackers again accompanied a United Nations observer and the Israel investigating team to Wadi Fuqra. At Ein Fuqra (MR 1665-0337), the Jordanian trackers were shown the tracks which had been seen on 18 March. The Jordanian trackers stated that they saw the tracks of three men going down the wadi and of two men going up. They were the same persons. Some 75 meters to the south-east, the Jordanian trackers saw the tracks of the same (three men going in both directions). The tracks in their opinion were approximately six days old. The Jordanian trackers were then taken to Ein el Quseib (approximately MR 1759-0325) along the path leading from Wadi Fuqra to the south. Nothing was found near this spring.


On 19 March 1954, a United Nations observer and an Israel officer heard statements from and put questions to the two adult survivors who had escaped unscathed--an Israel army sergeant and a girl. It was also possible to put a few questions to a wounded girl--a private in the Israel army--and to a small child.

The following extracts from their statements relate to:

(a) The way in which the attack was carried out;

(b) The number and description of the attackers;

(c) The extent to which the actions of the attackers threw any light on the object of the attack.

According to the Israel army sergeant who had been in charge of the two soldiers escorting the bus, the latter--an unscheduled bus with 16 passengers returning from Eilat--was fired at " first from the monument, automatic first, through the front window, and then from the hill to the left of the road and from a promontory to the right of the road ". The first burst of automatic fire killed the driver instantly. While the bus was reversing about 20 meters down the slope, the attackers continued to shoot. An Israel soldier was hit when loading his rifle, which he handed over to the sergeant. The latter fired three rounds at four attackers whom he saw on a hill through the left window of the bus. When the bus came to a standstill, the sergeant tried to jump out of the rear door, taking with him a small boy, but he was seen by two other attackers standing outside, who started shooting, hitting the boy in the head. The sergeant lay down, holding the boy in his arms, and the two men entered the bus. They took the weapons of the Israel escort and went to the rear of the bus where the sergeant heard four or five shots. The two men stayed in the bus about one minute. He heard them walking around the bus before they left. They seemed to be in a hurry. One of them said all the time: "Yalla, yalla" ("Hurry up" in Arabic). In his opinion, the attackers were gone not more than ten minutes after the first shot. The survivors of the massacre remained in the bus for about an hour, until a jeep arrived.

The girl who escaped unscathed saw firing at the bus from the left, but could not say if it had come also from other directions. According to her, the driver was killed first and the bus stopped; maybe it reversed a little. Everyone was lying down on the floor of the bus, dead or alive, The Israel soldiers did not return the fire -- "they had no time". It happened very quickly, in about one minute. Then two men entered the bus and shot at everyone inside. They remained in the bus for about three minutes. Then she bad heard the attackers "digging". This "sound of scratching" had stopped after about an hour, and two or three minutes later a jeep and a command car bad arrived.

The wounded girl described the attack as "shots from all around". The shooting had stopped when "five" attackers had entered the bus.

As indicated above, the Israel sergeant was the only one who stated that he had seen attackers outside the bus--four on the top of a hill and two whom he had seen standing outside before they entered the bus. He thought, however, that they must have been "about 13 to 15, according to the fire". He also thought that more than two had entered the bus, because he had "heard voices inside" it.

The sergeant called the attackers "Arabs". Those he had seen on the top of the hill appeared to be wearing some kind of khaki dress. He had not distinguished it clearly. Some had keffiyehs on their heads--he believed of red color--one had had a skull-cap. The faces of the two he had seen outside the bus were light brown. One had worn a keffiyeh. When they entered the bus, he bad seen only the lower part of their bodies. They had been wearing trousers of some kind of khaki drill, "usual of kind of trousers of the kind we wear, not the Arab type". He had assumed they were shod; he had heard their foot steps on the floor. They had spoken Arabic. He did not understand Arabic. He could, however, distinguish it by Its sound, because some of his soldiers spoke Arabic among themselves.

In her statement, the Israel girl who escaped unscathed said: "Two soldiers entered the bus and shot at everyone." She had seen the lower part of their bodies. They had been in khaki, in what seemed to be beige overalls; she could see two breast-pockets. The trousers had been ordinary, like those of soldiers. One of the men had worn a red belt with a knife stuck in it; it was not a belt in which one could carry ammunition. She could hear them walking in the bus as if they had had leather shoes on. She had seen one face--milk- coffee brown, with a thin black moustache. She had heard the two men talking in a language which she did not know, but which she had heard very often at the place where she worked. "There are people from Iraq, Egypt and Persia, and they talk like that." It had been that kind language, but she thought the accent was a little different.

The above descriptions by the two unscathed adult survivors of the two attackers and of the language they spoke, do, it seems, tally. On the other hand, the wounded woman soldier stated that she had seen "five" men enter the bus, stealing weapons. One had also gone to the roof of the bus to steal something. They had all worn long robes with white and dark blue stripes. They had had brown leather belts with pockets for bullets. They had worn keffiyehs and agals. Their faces had been dark, some had had straight moustaches, some had had beards. When asked if she had heard them talk, the girl, who is from Egypt and understands Egyptian Arabic, said she had heard only "Hurry up", in Arabic, but did not remember how they had said it.

The little girl of five who escaped unscathed was positive that the men who entered the bus had worn red belts and shoes.


The following written Israel complaint was received on 20 March 1954:

"Date and time of incident: 17 March 1954 at 11.45 h.

"Place: Ma’ale Aqrabim [Scorpion Pass]--MR 1632-0364.


Before the Scorpion Pass incident occurred, on 17 March 1954, the Chairman of the Jordan-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission had agreed to hold emergency meetings to deal with three other complaints (two Israel and one Jordanian). However, in view of the gravity of the Scorpion Pass incident, the Jordan delegation accepted the suggestion that it should be given top priority. The Mixed Armistice Commission met on the afternoon of 22 March 1954, as soon as the reports of the observers were ready.


In opening the examination of the complaint by the Mixed Armistice Commission on 22 March 1954, the Israel delegation laid stress upon the evidence which, in their view of the case, argued the military character of the attack. They found that the incident had involved not casual marauding in quest of loot, but a well planned and organized military ambush carried out by a group carefully trained and under military discipline, and specifically aimed at a vital artery of the internal communications of Israel. They referred to the lack of Arab settlements in the vicinity of the Scorpion Pass, even on the Jordanian side, so that it could not have been the work of Jordanian civilians; to the deployment of the men in a manner to take military account of the possibilities of the terrain; to the extreme accuracy of shooting; to the depth of the penetration into Israel; and to the use of Wadi Fuqra for approach and retreat--the only effective route--including the use of the bed of the Wadi when they had approached by night and the use of the fighting ridge of the road close to the wadi when they had retreated by day--another indication of military training.

In their reply on 23 March 1954, the Jordanian delegation emphasized that, had Jordanian forces wished to attack the bus, the logical place would have been in the stretch of the road northward from Eilat where it skirted the demarcation line, sometimes within a few for 160 kms. The spots inhabited by Jordanians rest to the Scorpion Pass were 50 kms. away to the east, 70 kms. to the north, with difficult desert between. As to the alleged planning of the attack, the bus had been unscheduled one.The various sets of tracks found presented many dissimilarities as to age, number, and identification--too slight a piece of evidence to justify so grave a charge against Jordan, the more so when they stopped 12 kms. as the crow flies from the demarcation line, and some 20 kms. by ordinary routes of travel in the area. No track had been discovered starting from Jordan, and the Israel authorities had not permitted the Jordanian trackers to begin from the scene of the crime. Witnesses' descriptions of dress were conspicuously lacking in uniformity. Altogether, the evidence suggested that the murderers had not come from Jordan, and had not left Israel. Moreover, the Jordanian Government had made available trackers, officers, and an aeroplane for the search, sent forces to the adjacent Jordan area, and offered a large monetary reward for the apprehension of any suspicious newcomers from the Negev.


On 22 March 1954, when the meeting was about to begin, the Israel delegation gave the Chairman the names of three individuals alleged to be the leaders of the group which had attacked the bus. They were said to belong to the Arab es Saidin tribe and to have entered Israel from the Safi area, south of the Dead Sea. The Israel delegation allowed the Chairman to pass the names of the three individuals to the Jordanian authorities, while specifying that such passing of information to Jordan should remain separate from the discussion in the Mixed Armistice Commission, whose duty it was to establish the responsibility of the country involved.

The Chairman telephoned the information given by the Israel delegation to the Chief of Staff of the Arab Legion, who promised to take immediate action. By 22.00 h on the same day the Chief of Staff of the Arab Legion informed the Chairman that so far it had been impossible to find in the Arab es Saidin tribe men bearing the names of the alleged criminals. However, the investigation was being continued.

On 23 March 1954, the information that the names of the alleged criminals had been given to the Mixed Armistice Commission was published in the Israel Press. During the continuation of the discussion of the Israel complaint in the Mixed Armistice Commission on that day, the Chairman referred to the information published in the Israel Press and explained how the investigation by the Chief of Staff of the Arab Legion had started and was continuing. He suggested that the Mixed Armistice Commission should adjourn, assign United Nations observers to the Safi area and, with the help of Arab Legion officials, complete the investigation. He did not think the Commission should take a decision while there remained an element of doubt and at the same time a possibility of establishing the identity of the actual criminals.

The Chairman's suggestion was not accepted by the senior Israel delegate, on the grounds that the duty of the Mixed Armistice Commission was only to establish the responsibility of the country involved, while the apprehension of the criminals was an internal Jordanian police matter.


The Israel delegation submitted the following draft resolution:

“1. The Mixed Armistice Commission

"3. The Mixed Armistice Commission

The voting on the above draft resolution was as follows:

Paragraph 1:

Israel . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 votes in favor.
Jordan . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 votes against.
Chairman . . . . . . . . . . . 1 abstention.

Paragraph 2:

Israel . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 votes in favor.
Jordan . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 votes against.
Chairman . . . . . . . . . . . 1 abstention.

The draft resolution was not adopted.


The Chairman made the following statement:


After the Chairman's statement, the Israel delegation announced its withdrawal from the Mixed Armistice Commission in the following terms:

Since 23 March 1954, the Israel Government has severed all connections with the Mixed Armistice Commission. It has also discontinued attendance at the local commanders' meetings provided for under a separate Israel-Jordan agreement. Israel communications referring to alleged violations by Jordan of the General Armistice Agreement have been addressed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, with the request that they should be circulated to the members of the Security Council. The Chief of Staff of the Truce Supervision Organization in Jerusalem has been informed of such alleged violations of the General Armistice Agreement only on receiving from New York a copy of the Security Council document. The non-co-operation of the Israel Government has prevented the investigation of such alleged violations in conformity with the provisions of the General Armistice Agreement.

Emergency meetings of the Mixed Armistice Commission have been held in the absence of the Israel delegation to deal with Jordanian complaints about incidents whose gravity had been ascertained by United Nations observers.

In a communication which I addressed to the Prime Minister of Israel on 20 April 1954, I expressed the hope that the Israel Government would instruct its delegation to return to the Israel-Jordan Mixed Armistice Commission. So far, my hope has not been fulfilled.

The continued non-co-operation of a party in a mixed armistice commission enhances, it seems, the importance of one of the decisions taken by the Security Council in its resolution of 11 August 1949 [S/1376, II]. 1/ It then reaffirmed, pending the final peace settlement, the order to observe an " unconditional cease-fire ", contained in its resolution of 15 July 1948 [S/902]. Such a decision had been suggested by the Acting Mediator for Palestine in his report to the Security Council of 21 July 1949 on the conclusion of the armistice agreements [S/1357]. In part III, paragraph 2, of his report, the Acting Mediator suggested the following:

In its resolution of 11 August 1949, the Security Council further provided as follows:

Replying on 9 November 1953 to the fourth question put to me by the representative of France on the Security Council, I made the following statement:

I should like to add that United Nations observers sent by the Chief of Staff of the Truce Supervision Organization to observe and maintain the cease-fire ordered by the Security Council should, in my opinion, be granted the same co-operation and the same freedom of movement as observers sent by the Chairman of a mixed armistice commission to investigate a complaint according to the provisions of a general armistice agreement.


1/ Same text as S/1367 (Official Records of the General Assembly, Fifth Session, Supplement No. 2, p. 19).

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