LETTER DATED 12 MARCH 1951 FROM THE CHIEF OF STAFF OF THE TRUCE SUPERVISION
ORGANIZATION TO THE SECRETARY-GENERAL TRANSMITTING A REPORT ON THE
STATUS OF THE OPERATIONS OF THE MIXED ARMISTICE COMMISSIONS
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.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
W. E. Riley,
Major General, USMC,
Chief of Staff.
REPORT ON THE STATUS OF TIE OPERATIONS OF THE MIXED
ARMISTICE COMMISSIONS, DURING THE PERIOD
17 NOVEMBER 1950 TO 17 FEBRUARY 1951
I have the honour, in pursuance of the Security Council resolution of 17 November 1950 (document S/1907), to submit the following report on the status of the operations of the Mixed Armistice Commissions during the period 17 November 1950 to 17 February 1951.
I. Egyptian-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission
1. On 12 December 1950, the Egyptian delegation to the Egyptian-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission requested that an investigation be made by a United Nations observer to confirm that all Israel armed forces had been withdrawn from Bir Qattar near the Gulf of Akaba. The Security Council, in its resolution of 17 November 1950, took note of the statement of the Government of Israel that “Israel armed forces will evacuate Bir Qattar pursuant to the 20 March 1950 decision of the Special committee, provided for in article X, paragraph 4, of the Egyptian-Israel General Armistice Agreement, and that Israel armed forces will withdraw to positions authorized by the Armistice Agreement”. A United Nations observer visited Bir Qattar on 3 January 1951 and found no evidence of military positions there, and former defence works had been filled in.
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:
6. Both delegations agreed to study the Chairman’s proposals and to give their replies at the earliest possible time.
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:
13. The Israel delegation agreed with the Chairman’s contention that historically the members of the Azazme tribe were connected with the Beersheba area, but that the map showed other names of bedouin tribe which no longer lived in the area and were refugee elsewhere. The Israel delegation reiterated that none of the Azazme tribe; except two email sub-tribes whose members were accepted as Israel citizens, were living in territory at the time Bedouins were registered 1948. The Israel delegation agreed that the Azazme tribe needed an area of their own, but added that it was not authorized to propose any Israel territory as a reserve area, nor did the delegation believe that the Israel Government would agree to such a proposal.
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.
II. Hashemite Jordan Kingdom-Israel
Mixed Armistice Commission
1. On 11 September 1954 the Hashemite Jordan Kingdom Government complained in a telegram to the Security Council that Israel armed forces had violated the northern frontiers of the Hashemite Jordan Kingdom by occupying a piece of land abutting on the hydroelectric works near Naharayim.
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
6. During the period 15 December 1950 to 15 February 1951, a series of incidents along the demarcation lines between the Hashemite Jordan Kingdom and Israel led to sixteen requests for emergency meetings of the Hashemite Jordan Kingdom-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission. At its meeting on 14 February 1951, the Hashemite Jordan Kingdom-Israel Armistice Commission adopted a resolution unanimously, condemning the wanton killings and murders and drew attention to the imperative need for preventing the recurrence of such acts. It was further resolved that, since high-ranking Hashemite Jordan Kingdom and Israel military officers were to meet shortly to discuss the prevention of future incidents, the sixteen complaints would be considered as having been acted upon by the Hashemite Jordan Kingdom-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission. At subsequent sub-committee meetings, a total of 116 complaints were stricken from the agenda of the Hashemite Jordan Kingdom-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission. (This subject 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.
III. Lebanese-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission
1. The task of marking on the ground the demarcation lines between Israel and the Lebanon map completed on 27 January 1951. The purpose of this project, undertaken by a special sub-committee set up by the Lebanese-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission on 16 November 1949, was to reduce incidents arising out of uncertainty as to the exact location of the demarcation line. In general, the work of this sub-committee progressed smoothly. For example, in a number of cases special measures were taken with respect to fields lying astride the demarcation lines, it being understood that catch measures would not affect final decisions to be incorporated in an eventual peace treaty. However, with respect to a small portion of the demarcation lines, the Israel and Lebanese delegations were unable to come to an agreement, as a result of differing interpretations of the text of the Anglo-French Agreement of 1923. The sub-committee is now engaged in preparing the final draft of its report and is expected to meet in March 1951, for a final study of the draft report before its submission.
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:
IV. Syrian-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission
1. The main concerns of the Syria-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission has been the administration of demilitarized zones and the problems arising therefrom. The Israel project for straightening and deepening the bed of the Jordan River at the southern end of Lake Hula has led to complaints to the Syrian-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission by the Syrian delegation. The aim of this project is to lower the water level of Lake Hula and to dry the marshes north thereto. The Syrian delegation has contended that the carrying out of this project would remove a natural military obstacle, in contravention of article II, paragraph 1 of the Syrian-Israel General Armistice Agreement, which states;
“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:
(Sgd.) W. E. Riley,
Major General, USMC.”
Note: The United Nations Chief of Staff now believes that his memorandum should have stated that any laws, regulations or ordinances in force prior to the Armistice Agreement which affected any areas included in the demilitarized zone; “are held in abeyance”, instead of “are null and void”.
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:
The message added the Israel delegation would inform the Chairman of the date on which it could take part in a meeting of the Syrian-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission.
7. This message was communicated to the Syrian delegation which replied on the same day as follows:
8. On 10 March 1951, the Chairman of the Syrian-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission requested the Israel delegation to ensure that instructions are issued in order that Israel works on Arab-owned lands in the demilitarized zone be stopped until action has been taken by the Syrian-Israel Mixed Armistice Commission. To date, the Israel authorities have ignored the request of the Chairman to cease work on this project within the demilitarized zone.
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.
Major General, U.S. Marine Corps,
United Nations Chief of Staff of the
Truce Supervision Organization.
Jerusalem, 12 March 1951.
Download Document Files: S2049.pdf S2049f.pdf
Document Type: Agreement, French text, Letter, Report
Document Sources: Mixed Armistice Commissions, United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO)
Subject: Access and movement, Agriculture, Boundaries and demarcation lines, Golan Heights, Green Line, Incidents, Land, Legal issues, Living conditions, Negotiations and agreements, Peacekeeping, Refugees and displaced persons, Right of return, Security issues, Situation in Lebanon, Situation in the OPT including Jerusalem, Water
Publication Date: 12/03/1951