RAF - JaffaFive R. A. F. Spitfires Make Strafing Runs, Cannon Are Fired at Jewish Position; Haganah Joins Irgun in Battle for Last Arab Port City

By Kenneth Bilby By Telephone From London Copyright, 1948, New York Herald Tribune Inc.

TEL AVIV. April 28.-Royal Air Force Spitfires were turned on the Jewish attackers of Jaffa today after a second British Army ultimatum to cease the assault on the last Arab port city of Palestine had been defied.

A flight of five British fighters appeared over Jaffa at 5 p. m. and British troops fired cannon at a Jewish strongpoint in Bat Yam, a village near southern Jaffa. It was the first R. A. F. intercession in the battle for the Holy Land.

The planes appeared after the city’s Arab defenders had been caught in a jammed pincer to the entrance by Haganah, the Jewish Army, in the four-day-old battle.

While Haganah forces assaulted and captured two Arab strong points in the city’s southern suburbs, Jewish underground fighters of the Irgun Zvai Leumi drove through northern Jaffa to the sea.

All of Mansieh, the northern section of Jaffa, fell to the Irgunists after an eighteen-hour struggle.

Tonight, the Irgun advance was nearing the port area, which dominates the Arab city. Irgun field headquarters said- “We are just beginning our general offensive.”

After first condemning the assault on Jaffa, then expressing disinterest, Haganah completed its turn-about today by capturing the Arab villages of Keria and Sackia and attacking the hill strong point of Tel el Risch, one mile southwest of the town’s center. Haganah said it had seized large quantities of arms and ammunition.

Still maintaining its pretext of neutrality in the greatest struggle of the Palestinian war, Haganah headquarters insisted tonight that its action in the south was independent of the Irgun campaign. and had been planned for days in advance.

The fact remained, however, that the Haganah attack put heavy pressure on the Arab southern flank and provided hard pressed Irgun fighters with some much-needed assistance. Irgun headquarters said it had shelled southern Jaffa, at the request of Haganah, while the villages were under assault.

The Irgun advance toward the port was slow tonight, as British troops in Jaffa joined with the R. A. F. in battling the Jews. The British for the first time began hurling two-pound artillery shells at the advancing Irgunists.

This correspondent witnessed the R. A. F. attack from a hotel rooftop about a mile distant. The five planes, flying tight formation, swept over Jaffa from the northern Mediterranean coast at about 5,000 feet. They peeled off individually and dove to roof-top level. Six strafing runs were completed before the Spitfires departed north, in the direction of Haifa.

Jewish sources said tonight that planes with R. A. F., markings had attacked Jewish positions. They had no report of casualties.

It was impossible to distinguish the planes’ markings with the naked eye, because of low visibility, but J. M. Flanagan, British Police Commissioner of Haifa, confirmed that they were R. A. F. Spitfires, on a strafing mission.

After completing the conquest of Mansieh, the Irgunists lifted the curtain of secrecy from their operations, and escorted correspondents on a tour of the front.

At Irgun field headquarters, a school building near the Tel Aviv Jaffa border, the commander of the operation described his battle plan.

He said large numbers of prisoners were taken in Mansieh, including Arab women and children who were turned over to the International Red Cross. Correspondents were permitted to see some of the prisoners-un-uniformed Arab youths, including a scattering of dark-skinned Sudanese.

The frontier area was a shambles, comparable to many destroyed German towns. Numerous Arab strongpoints had been dynamited, and mortar shells had torn gaping holes in streets and building walls.

Most of the Irgun soldiers. who no longer made any pretense at secrecy, were young men dressed in nondescript khaki. Officers were distinguished by blue ribbons on their chests. Sten guns of local manufacture were the standard infantry weapon. A large number of girls bearing arms were included in the Irgun ranks.

The Irgun commander said Mansieh had been virtually evacuated by its hundreds of Arab residents, and that its famous Hassan Bek Mosque had been placed under Jewish guard. He said Irgun loudspeakers were moving near the front, asking the Arab defenders to lay down their arms.

Deny Plans to Conquer Jaffa

JERUSALEM, April 28 (AP).-A Jewish Agency spokesman said here today that the attack on Jaffa was not one of conquest, but the result of “day and night attacks on the Tel Aviv border area with various weapons directed from Jaffa for five months.”

The spokesman added- “There is no desire on our part to remain there permanently or to interfere with the normal civilian life of its inhabitants.”

(Picture) Palestine-The Day’s Fighting and the Arab Evacuation of Haifa

Herald Tribune-Luboff Irgun Zvai Leumi troops continued their advance into Jaffa (1) and Haganah forces joined in the attack. Royal Air Force planes were reported to have strafed a Jewish position near the city. Arab Legionnaires were in Jericho (2) but British said they were there only to protect the Allenby Bridge. Arabs and Jews at the United Nations agreed on a truce in the old walled city of Jerusalem (3). The Jews reported a success at Jisrel Majami (4). In Omman (5). King Abdullah of Trans-Jordon conferred with other high Arab leaders.