The attack on the Arab village of Deir Yassin near Jerusalem (today, the Har Nof neighborhood), in April 1948, was not, as claimed, a "massacre" nor was it a premeditated killing. As we now know from Arab sources and other independent research, the number of dead at the village was between 93 and 110, at the most. All of them were killed during the course of the battle, in house-to-house fighting. There were no mutilations or atrocities caused to the corpses as per testimony from the villagers themselves. The attacking combined force of Irgun and Lehi units brought with them a loudspeaker to the village entrance to warn the inhabitants. They also left an escape route open, which led to Ein Karem, so as not to have to harm the inhabitants unnecessarily.
The fighters were instructed before the attack specifically not to harm unarmed civilians. The survivors were provided transportation to the Old City of Jerusalem and not physical injury was done to them after the surrender. True, the battle itself was not conducted with the utmost professionalism as the underground combatants were not fully trained in urban warfare of this type. The house-to-house character of the fighting, the shooting from within the homes and the lack of knowledge of who was in the houses, all led to the use of dynamite rather indiscriminately causing thus many of the deaths.
On April 9, 1948, in the early morning early hours of a Friday, some 120 Irgun and Lehi fighters attacked Deir Yassin located in the western approach to Jerusalem on a hill dominating the area. The battle, part of the “Nahshon” campaign to relieve Jerusalem of the siege the Arabs were applying to the city by blocking the main highway, was approved by the Hagana commander. Deir Yassin provided a base for the Arab attacks on the Castel and the Histadrut “Davar” newspaper issue of April 4, 1948, contained a report that the previous Friday night, shors from snipers had been fired from Deir Yassin towards Bet Hakerem and Bayit VeGan Jewish neighborhoods. A local Palmach unit provided mortar support fire at one point. Claims of rape, butchering of bodies and other atrocities is simply not true.
The village, portrayed as a quiet and uninvolved village in the fighting, is also misleading. In the first instance, Iraqi soldiers and other Arabs state irregulars had been in the village for weeks. Secondly, the villagers had been involved in the 1920 and 1929 Arab communal riots on nearby Jews and in 1938, the Hagana attacked the village in a reprisal raid after sniper fire was directed at the main Jerusalem high way. The attacking force suffered 35% casualties of 5 killed and 40 injured.
Please refer to Bregman, Ahron & El-Tahri, Jihan, "The Fifty Years War, Israel and the Arabs", Penguin Books, BBC Books, London, 1998. pp. 27-34 and Klein, Morton A., “Deir Yassin History of a Lie, ZOA, NY 2005
And see: http://www.urimilstein.com/product.sc?categoryId=1&productId=13.
A translation of the Red Cross document contains errors of commentary and interpretation such as suggesting that Menachem Begin was at the village when he arrived in Jerusalem for the first time since early 1944 only in August 1948, see: http://www.ariga.com/peacewatch/dy/redcross.htm.
A video clip of Hazem Nusseibeh, editor of the Palestine Broadcasting Service's in 1948, describing how the original press report was compiled, it being basically propaganda, can be seen here: http://deir-yassin.tripod.com/
The southern wing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem was requisitioned by the British Mandatory government and later, by the Army, for use as the Government Secretariat and the Military Headquarters beginning in 1938. By 1946, the hotel was completely surrounded by a barbed-wire security fence with armed guards patrolling as well as a platoon of Paratroopers on the grounds in response to the Irgun's revolt of armed liberation struggle for independence which had been joined in late 1945 by the Hagana and Palmach.
Following the “Black Sabbath” or, Agatha, operation against the Yishuv on June 29, 1946, the United Resistance Movement command, overseeing all three resistance groups, Hagana/Palmach, Irgun and Lechi, requested the Irgun to carry out a previously planned action to place bombs at the hotel. Menachem Begin was asked to delay the attack once and then, a second request was made on July 19 to hold off for “a few days”. Unbeknownst to Begin in Tel Aviv, Moshe Sneh, Hagana Commander, had fled the country to Paris after Chaim Weizmann had succeeded in halting all guerilla activities against the Mandatory regime.
The attack proceeded as planned, including three telephone warning calls that were made, the igniting of two fire walls in front of the hotel and the throwing of petards to stop traffic from moving across the hotel and to alert all of the imminent attack. The hour chosen was so done to avoid casualties in the La Regence Cafe where the milk can bombs were placed. Hagana records indicate that indeed a telephone warning was received at the hotel’s front desk. Raya Jaglom, later WIZO President, wrote in he autobiography of being in the hotel lobby and rushed by employees to the north wing stairwell shortly before the explosion.
Despite planning to the contrary, the British authorities did not evacuate any of their personnel and 91 persons died in the subsequent explosion which mostly destroyed the south wing, including Irgun sympathizers working as Mandatory clerks.
See: Clarke, Thurston, “By Blood & Fire : the Attack on the King David Hotel”, Putnam, NY 1981; forthcoming English translation “Gidi” by Yosef Evron and Charters, David A., “The British Army and Jewish insurgency in Palestine, 1945-47”, Macmillan, London, 1989; Bell, J. Bowyer, “Terror Out of Zion”, Transaction Publishers, 1996
The Irgun purchased a LST in 1947 and intended for it to bring arms and men into Israel. It arrived at a French port in early 1948 and the Hagana and Mossad were made aware of its presence. A junior Mossad agent boarded the boat and an offer to sell it to the Hagana was discussed but as British Intelligence was already aware of the ship according to the agent, the offer was refused. Several telegrams regarding the ship, its contents and its plans were sent by Mossad heads to David Ben-Gurion and other senior officials informing them of various details regarding the ship and Irgun relations with the French army and foreign ministry. Ben-Gurion noted in his diary that on the evening of June 15, a Hagana-IDF-Irgun meeting was held to facilitate the ship’s arrival due to the truce having come into affect. Begin, Shmuel Katz, Haim Landau and others of the Irgun participated.
The ship’s landing at Kfar Vitkin beach, a Mapai-affiliated moshav, was coordinated with the IDF. The Saturday night of June 19, 1948, Yisrael Galili met with Ben-Gurion to seek final approval for the landing plans. The ship's intentions, arrival and contents were no secret to the Israel's heads of state.
Upon anchoring off-shore, almost all the 900 men and women aboard left the boat and were driven to Netanya. Off-loading by Irgunists began since 20% of the weapons were to go directly to Irgun recruits in the IDF in line with previously agreed understanding. Menachem Begin and Yaakov Meirdor, however, were presented with an ultimatum by an army officer. Fighting broke out with casualties on both sides, the Irgun and the IDF. In informing the government about the ship, Ben-Gurion nevertheless kept them in the dark regarding all the negotiations and agreements but ended his presentation with the words: “We must decide whether to hand over power to Begin or to order him to cease his separate activities. If he does not do so, we will open fire!”, deliberating misleading them about Irgun intentions.
Ultimately two ministers resigned over Ben-Gurion’s handling of the matter and the ensuing loss of life.
For further reference:Begin, Menachem, “The Revolt” and Katz, Samuel, “Days of Fire”, WH Allen, London, 1968