I have the honour to communicate to you for transmission to the President of the Security Council the attached report on the status of the operations of the Mixed Armistice Commissions during the period 17 November 1950 to 17 February 1951.
W. E. Riley,
Major General, USMC,
Chief of Staff.
2. An Israel training aircraft on 19 December 1950, while on routine training flight, supposedly lost its way and crashed off the northern edge of the Egyptian-controlled Gaza-Rafah strip. The Egyptian authorities recovered six bodies from the wreckage and returned them to the Israel authorities with full military honours.
3. On 23 December 1950, the Egyptian delegation submitted a complaint alleging that Israel was concentrating armed forces in the Beersheba area in excess of the number allowed by the General Armistice Agreement. A United Nations observer investigated this complaint immediately and found no evidence of any increase in the garrison in excess of that authorized by the General Armistice Agreement.
4. On 30 January 1951, at the request of the Egyptian delegation, a United Nations observer investigated an alleged incursion of Israel soldiers across the demarcation line into Egyptian-controlled territory south of Gaza. The Egyptian delegation’s complaint alleged that during the night of 29-30 January 1951, an Israel armed force had penetrated one mile inside the Egyptian-controlled area, under covering rifle an machine gun fire and had blown up a house. At the meeting of the Mixed Armistice Commission on 14 February 1951, the Israel delegation stated that no Israel army personnel were involved and added that further investigation of the incident was being continued.
5. On 14 February 1951, at the meeting of the Mixed Armistice Commission, the Chairman reminded both delegations of those parts of the Security Council resolution of 17 November 1950, which requested the Egyptian-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission to “give urgent attention to the Egyptian complaint of thousands of Palestine Arabs”, and called upon both parties to give effect to any findings of the Egyptian-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission regarding the repatriation of any such Arabs who, in the Commission’s opinion, are entitled to return”. The Chairman made the following proposals, for the mutual agreement of both Parties:
(b) Both parties agree to repatriate at the earliest practicable date, individuals who, in the opinion of the Mixed Armistice Commission, are entitled to repatriation.
(c) The Mixed Armistice Commission notes the statement of the Israel military commander of the area that no future transfers will be made and that the assurance be reaffirmed by he Israel delegation.
(d) The question of reuniting separated families and the transfer of Arabs now living in the Gaza strip, who desire to join the heads of heir families, in territory under the control of the Hashemite Jordan Kingdom, be given immediate consideration.
7. Also at the meeting of 4 February 1951, the Mixed Armistice Commission considered the Egyptian delegation’s complaints of 2 and 11 September 1950, alleging expulsion of members of the Azarte bedouin tribe from Israel-controlled territory into Egypt, and the Israel delegation’s complaint not that members of the Azazme tribe had been forced across the Egyptian-Israel demarcation line into Israel-controlled territory.
8. On the question of members of the Azazme bedouin tribe; the Israel delegation stated that its position remained unchanged. The Azazme bedouins, the Israel delegation maintained; had fled into the Sinai during military operations and were not in Israel territory at the time of the elating of the General Armistice Agreement. Following the signing of the Agreement, Israel had registered all bedouins under Israel control. The members of the Azazme tribe were not among those bedouins registered at the time; they had returned to Israel-controlled territory at a later date: Therefore, they were infiltrators and would be treated as such.
9. The Egyptian delegation suggested that a Committee of United Nations observers be appointed to prepare for the Mixed Armistice Commission a list of Arabs expelled; the Commission could then take the necessary action for their repatriation. The Israel delegation opposed this suggestion on the ground that the name of the tribe was known to the Mixed Armistice Commission and, in the Israel delegation’s opinion, previous investigations by United Nations observers had established the fact that these Bedouins had infiltrated into Israel-controlled territory: The Israel delegation added that, at a previous meeting of the Mixed Armistice Commission, the Chairman at the time had stated that these Bedouins were, in fact, infiltrators.
10. The Chairman proposed that both delegations explore informally the possibility of arriving at a mutually acceptable solution of the Azazme tribe problem. The Israel delegation rejected this suggestion, stating that a compromise delegation to this problem would be it dangerous precedent for Israel. Should a compromise be found on this matter, all other questions would similarly be resolved by compromise. The Egyptian delegation, however, agreed to an informal discussion.
11. The Chairman pointed out that historically the Azazme tribe’s home grounds, wells, and water points were encompassed in a wide oblong area running from Beersheba to El Anja. The official map used by the Mixed Armistice Commission indicates the areas attributed to the Azazme sub-tribes. Authorities on the subject of Bedouins, long before the present problem had arisen, had ascribed this area to the Azazme tribe. The Chairman added the tribe was semi-nomadic and in the past was accustomed to roam westward into the Sinai and eastward into Transjordan in search of water and pasture. Today, the majority of the tribe were in the Sinai, but they were in urgent need of a living space of their own. In the past, the Bedouins were unregimented by the governments of the countries through which they moved, and were not “citizens” or “subjects” in the sense of being members of a modern State. For example, in the past they were not subject to Palestine law but, instead, administered their own justice by means of tribal courts. In the opinion of the Chairman, one important point had not been clearly established, namely, the location of the Azazme tribe at the time of the signing of the General Armistice Agreement between Egypt and Israel.
12. In summing up his statement, the Chairman said:
(b) Any attempted solution which treats the Azazme as “citizens” tribe the usual sense would be unrealistic.
(c) The solution of the problem must come from the joint efforts of all concerned, that is, the sincere joint efforts of Israel and Egypt and the enlisted co-operation of the sheikhs of the Azazme tribe and sub-tribes.
(d) Both delegations, in their discussion of the problem, had taken what appeared to be irreconcilable positions with respect to the disposition of the Azazme tribe. Therefore, there was a great necessity for the reconsideration, by both Parties, of their positions in the hope that in the near future, constructive proposals for a joint resolution may be forthcoming.
14. The Chairmen again called upon both Parties to give serious reconsideration to their positions in order that another meeting night in the near future with a view toward finding a mutually acceptable solution.
2. On 7 October 1950, the Israel delegation to the Hashemite Jordan Kingdom-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission addressed a letter to the United Nations Chief of Staff of the Truce Supervision Organization on the question of the dispute over the Naharayim area. The Israel delegation requested that an “emergency meeting be convened to discuss and vote on the question whether the disputed area lies east or west of the demarcation line, or, in other words, did Israel violate the Armistice Agreement by ploughing this area”.
3. The Security Council discussed this complaint in October and the early part of November 1950. In its resolution of 17 November 1950, the Security Council, “taking into consideration the views expressed and the data given by the representatives of Egypt, Israel and the Hashemite Jordan Kingdom, and the United Nations Chief of Staff of the Truce Supervision Organization”, called upon the Parties to the complaints before the Security Council to consent to their being handled according to the procedures established in the General Armistice Agreements.
4. The Israel delegation’s request of 7 October 1950 was communicated to the Hashemite Jordan Kingdom delegation and informal talks are in progress.
5. A major problem settled by the Hashemite Jordan Kingdom-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission concerned the location of a diversion of the Beersheba-Elath road in the Wadi Araba. On 22 November 1950, the Hashemite Jordan Kingdom delegation complained that a diversion of the Beersheba-Elath road had been constructed by Israel during 1950 on Hashemite Jordan Kingdom territory. Following a series of meetings, the Hashemite Jordan Kingdom-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission, on 14 February 1951, decided that
“b. The remainder of the road between Kilometre 74 and Kilometre 78 is to be considered as being in Israel-controlled territory, it being recognized that these two decisions shall not in any way prejudice the rights, claims, and position of either Party in an ultimate peace settlement between them.
“c. Israel traffic shall cease to use that portion of the Wadi Araba road declared to be in Jordan-controlled territory, from 1200 hours on 25 February 1951.”
On 25 February 1951, the portion of the road declared to be in Hashemite Jordan Kingdom-controlled territory was blocked and Israel traffic ceased to use it. (The Wadi Araba dispute is discussed fully in a separate report to the Security Council dated 12 March 1951.)
7. At the Mixed Armistice Commission meeting on 14 February 1951, it was also decided unanimously that in the future the Chairman would have the sole right to determine which complaints called for emergency meetings. In the event the Chairman decided that a complaint was of an emergency nature, a meeting of the Hashemite Jordan Kingdom-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission would be called within twenty-four hours.
2. On 23 November 1950, the Lebanese-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission considered a complaint submitted by the Lebanese delegation, which alleged that Israel military aircraft had flown across the demarcation lines. The Israel delegation replied that annex (Definition of Defensive Forces) of the Lebanese-Israel General Armistice Agreement did not prohibit military aircraft from using the air space above the defensive zone. The Lebanese delegation rejected this interpretation and requested the Lebanese-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission to take a decision on the matter. The Chairman suggested, and both Parties agreed, that the Israel position should be studied further before the question was voted upon. At a subsequent meeting, both delegations agreed that the deputy Chiefs of Staff of the Israel and Lebanese armed forces, who had signed the General Armistice Agreement, should meet in order to resolve the question. In the meantime, the Israel delegation agreed to prohibit military aircraft from entering the air space above the defensive zone. To date, the proposed meeting of the deputy Chiefs of Staff has not taken place.
3. In addition, the Lebanese Israel Mixed Armistice Commission dealt with the following matters:
(b) The return of herds of livestock and individuals domestic animals which had wandered across the demarcation lines and were seized.
(c) The return of fishing boats from one State which had entered the waters of the other and were seized.
(d) The disposition of cases of smuggling and theft along the demarcation lines.
(e) The consideration of the repatriation to Israel of Arab Refugees who had fled to the Lebanon during the hostilities.
“The Principle that no military or political advantage should be gained under the truce ordered by the Security Council be recognized.”
The Syrian delegation further held that the work undertaken by the Israel authorities prevented many Arab residents of the demilitarized zone from resuming normal civilian life.
2. Under the terms of article V of the Syrian-Israel General Armistice Agreement the Syrian delegation is required to address its complaint concerning the demilitarized zone to the United Nations Chairman and likewise the United Nations Chairman can decide whether the work being carried out by the Israel authorities in the demilitarized zone could be permitted wider the terms of the General Armistice Agreement. The Syrian Complaint was made to the Syrian-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission on 14 February 1951. The Israel delegation, however, raised no objection to the complaint being considered by the Commission. Instead, at the formal meeting of the Syrian-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission on 21 February 1951, both delegations agreed mutually to seek the opinion of the United Nations Chief of Staff on the question as to whether or not the work undertaken by the Israel authorities constituted a contravention of article II (military advantage) of the General Armistice Agreement.
3. At the meeting of the Syrian-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission on 7 March 1951, the United Nations Chief of Staff submitted a memorandum to the Chairman of the Syrian-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission which was circulated to the delegations. In submitting the memorandum the United Nations Chief of Staff took into consideration the fact that the Israel delegation had raised no objection to the Syrian complaint being discussed in the Syrian-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission. This memorandum read as follows:
“a. Military Advantage
It concluded that:
i. in draining Lake Hula, the Israelis will not enjoy any military advantages not equally applicable to the Syrians;
ii. the demilitarized, zone was not created where natural obstacles to the movement of armed forces were non-existent.
The demilitarized zone created by the Armistice Agreement was defined with a view toward separating the armed forces of both Parties while providing for the gradual restoration of normal civilian life in the area of the demilitarized zone. The Chairman of the Mixed Armistice Commission was charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the provisions of the Armistice Agreement with respect to the demilitarized zone were implemented. It follows that neither Party to the Armistice Agreement, therefore enjoys rights of sovereignty within the demilitarized zone. Any laws, regulations or ordinances in force prior to the Armistice Agreement which affected any areas included in the demilitarized zone are null and void. Therefore, the concessionaires do not enjoy the right to expropriate lands or buildings, to occupy lands temporarily or to force the owners of lands to accept compensation. There is no law of expropriation within the demilitarized zone. Any occupancy of lands either temporary or permanent, without the full consent of the land owners is a hindrance to the restoration of normal civilian life in the demilitarized zone, and a violation of article V, paragraph 2, of the Armistice Agreement.
“C. In the opinion of the Chief of Staff, the Palestine Land Development Company Limited should be instructed forthwith to cease all operations within the demilitarized zone, until such time as a mutual agreement is arranged through the Chairman between Syria and Israel for continuing this project.
4. At the meeting of 7 March 1951, the Israel delegation contended that the Syria-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission had invited the United Nations Chief of Staff to express an opinion whether the work being done by Israel was a contravention of article II of the General Armistice Agreement or not. It was not in order for him to go outside the scope of the request as he had done in his memorandum. The Israel delegation charged the United Nations Chief of Staff with assuming prerogatives in the demilitarized zones which were not given to him under the General Armistice Agreement. The Israel delegation maintained that Israel was determined to uphold her sovereignty in the demilitarized zone except insofar as it was limited by the terms of the General Armistice Agreement.
5. The Syrian delegation stressed that it would have been improper for the United Nations Chief of Staff to express an opinion on one aspect of the problem only. He was within his rights to advise the Syrian-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission on all aspects of the problem. The Syrian delegation called on the Commission to vote on the Syrian delegation’s complaint. However, it was mutually agreed to postpone the vote for twenty-four hours to permit the Israel delegation to study further the memorandum from the United Nations Chief of Staff and the position taken by the Syrian delegation.
6. Three hours before the time set for the meeting on 8 March 1951, the Chairman of the Syrian-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission received the following message from the Israel deputy Chief of Staff:
7. This message was communicated to the Syrian delegation which replied on the same day as follows:
“b. The Syrian delegation protests against the delay caused by the Israel delegation in the Syrian-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission taking a decision on the question of Lake Hula. The Syrian delegation requests the intervention of the United Nations Chief of Staff, Truce Supervision Organization, in order that the Israel work now in progress in the demilitarized zone be stopped immediately.”
9. Paragraphs 1 to 8 refer to matters which occurred after the ninety-day period from 17 November to 17 February. These details are included in this report in view of the importance attached to the Lake Hula problem by the Israel and Syrian delegations.
Rapport sur l'état des traveaux des Commissions mixtes d'armistice du 17 novembre 1950 au 17 novembre 1951 - Organisme des Nations Unies chargé de la surveillance de la trêve Français