6. Editorial Note

At 10 p.m. Gaza time on May 16, 1967, United Arab Republic Brigadier Eiz-El-Din Mokhtar gave Major-General Indar Jit Rikhye, the commander of the United Nations Emergency Force in the Middle East, a letter from Lieutenant General Mohammed Fawzi, Chief of Staff of the UAR armed forces, stating that in accordance with his instructions to the UAR armed forces to be ready for action against Israel in case of any aggressive Israeli action against any Arab country, UAR troops were concentrated in Sinai on the UAR eastern borders. He requested that [Page 8] Rikhye withdraw all the UNEF troops in the observation posts along those borders. Rikhye replied that he would report the request to UN Secretary-General U Thant. The Secretary-General replied at 6:45 p.m. on May 16 through the UAR permanent representative at the United Nations asking for a clarification of the request. His reply stated in part:

“If it was the intention of the government of the United Arab Republic to withdraw the consent which it gave in 1956 for the stationing of UNEF on the territory of the United Arab Republic and Gaza it was, of course, entitled to do so. Since, however, the basis for the presence of UNEF was an agreement made directly between President Nasser and Dag Hammarskjold as Secretary-General of the United Nations, any request for the withdrawal of UNEF must come directly to the Secretary-General from the government of the United Arab Republic. On receipt of such a request, the Secretary-General would order the withdrawal of all UNEF troops from Gaza and Sinai, simultaneously informing the General Assembly of what he was doing and why.”

The Secretary-General’s message is quoted in a report which he submitted to the UN General Assembly on May 18. For text of the report, see Public Papers of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations, Volume VII, U Thant, 1965–1967, pages 424–433. Concerning the establishment of UNEF, see Secretary-General Hammarskjold’s report to the General Assembly on November 20, 1956, with an annexed aide-mémoire on the basis for the UNEF presence in Egypt; ibid., Volume III, Dag Hammarskjold, 1956–1957, pages 373–376. An aide-mémoire of August 5, 1957, in which Hammarskjold described his November 1956 exchanges with the Egyptian Government over the conditions that should govern UNEF’s withdrawal, is ibid., pages 377–382. General Rikhye recorded his recollections of the UAR demand and subsequent events in The Sinai Blunder: Withdrawal of the United Nations Emergency Force Leading to the Six-Day War of June 1967 (London and Totowa, N.J.: Frank Cass and Company Limited 1980). Documentation relating to UNEF is in the National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1967–1969, POL 27–4 UN, although most of the documentation pertaining to UNEF withdrawal is ibid., POL ARAB–ISR.