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Deir Yassin massacre

The neutrality of this article is disputed.

The Deir Yassin massacre took place following a battle in the town of Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948, during the Israeli War of Independence. The massacre occurred during Jewish attempts to break the siege of Jerusalem (imposed by raids of Arab irregular forces upon the sole Tel-Aviv-Jerusalem road).

At least 107 Palestinian civilians were killed; one source, that has been discredited as being inaccurate, gives a considerably higher figure.

The Jewish forces participating in the battle belonged to two Jewish groups widely considered terrorist- the Irgun and the Stern gang. At the time notorious for their hard-handedness and "take no prisoners" strategy.

The incident had a large impact on the outcome of the war, It greatly stimulated Palestinian Arab refugee flight (see Palestinian Exodus) and appear to have been critical in the final decision of the Arab states to intervene directly in Palestine in 1948 to thwart the creation of the state of Israel. It also inflamed hatred among Jews and Arabs and took the atrocities both sides committed during the conflict to a higher level.

Table of contents
1 Historical background
2 The town of Deir Yassin
3 Were there foreign troops in Deir Yassin?
4 Battleplans
5 The battle
6 The massacre
7 Number of dead, wounded and prisoners
8 Results
9 Modern debate
10 External links
11 References

Historical background

In the years leading up to 1948 the tension between Jews and Arabs in the British Mandate of Palestine had worsened significantly. The United Kingdom's decision to withdraw from the territory had made its future uncertain. Violence between Jews and Arabs broke out and by the spring of 1948 Palestine was in a state of civil war.

During the winter and spring of 1948, the Arab Liberation Army, composed of Palestinians and volunteers from various Arab countries and sponsored by the Arab League, attacked Jewish communities in Palestine, and Jewish traffic on major roads. This phase of the war became known as "the battle of roads" because the Arab forces mainly concentrated on major roadways in an attempt to cut off Jewish settlements from each other. Initially, they were successful and in March 1948 they had the vital road that connected Tel Aviv to western Jerusalem, where 1/6 of all Jews in Palestine lived, under siege.

The Haganah decided to launch a counter offensive - Operation Nachshon to break the siege of Jerusalem. On April 6th they had taken al-Qastal, an important roadside town 2 kilometers west of Deir Yassin, but intensive fighting would last for days more.

Irgun and Stern gang moves

At this time the two Jewish guerillas, Irgun and Stern, decided to do their first major move in the conflict by capturing an Arab village. Their goal was, in addition to improve Jewish morale, to gather supplies. They decided to attack Deir Yassin. The guerillas consisted mostly of teens lacking battle experience and was ill-equipped. They expected the village to be an easy target.

The town of Deir Yassin

Deir Yassin was an Arab village to the west of Jerusalem, about a mile south of the road to Tel-Aviv. On a modern map, the former location of Deir Yassin is now called Kfar Shaul, on the western edge of Har Nof, well inside metropolitan Jerusalem (see ). The 1945 British census counted 610 residents; according to Arab sources the number had grown to 750 by April 1948 (Sharif Kanani and Nihad Zitawi, Deir Yassin, Monograph No.4, Destroyed Palestinian Villages Documentation Project (Bir Zeit: Documentation Center of Bir Zeit University, 1987), p.6.) The village was located 3 kilometers from Kastel and 1 kilometer from Jerusalem's western suburb, Givat Shaul. Irgun operations chief Yehoshua Goldsmidt was raised in that suburb and had been sworn by his father to avenge the attacks emanating from Deir Yassin against Givat Shaul during the earlier conflicts in the 1930s.

Deir Yassin was different from Kastel that had recently been attacked by the Haganah, in that it didn't participate in the conflict. The villagers reportedly wanted to remain neutral in the war and they had repeatedly resisted help and alliances with the Palestinian irregulars. Instead they had made a pact with Haganah to not help the irregulars as long as they were not the target of military operations. (Levi, Yitzhak, op. cit. pp 340-341) They had even remained cooperative while the Haganah took the stategic Sharafa ridge between Deir Yassin and the nearby ALA base Ein Kareem. Haganah intelligence confirmed after the village had been captured that it infact had stayed faithful allies of the western [Jerusalem] sector. (Kanani and Zitawi, "Deir Yassin, Monograph No. 4," 50; Collins and Lapierre, "Deir Yassin"; Milstein, Out of Crisis Comes Decision, 257; "Conquest of Deir Yassin," Yitzhak Levi (1948 Jerusalem Haganah intelligence chief) file, quoted in Levi, Nine Measures, 343.) Yoma Ben-Sasson, Haganah commander in Givat Shaul, later recalled that there was not even one incident between Deir Yassin and the Jews (Milstein, out of Crisis Comes Decision, 257)

Were there foreign troops in Deir Yassin?

Earlier that year the ALA had repeatedly urged the villagers to let soldiers enter the village but they were denied every time.

It is highly unlikely that there were more than at most half a dozen foreign fighters in Deir Yassin at the time of the attack.

A theory that has been put forward is that Arab troops passed through Deir Yassin and that it therefore was an important military target. Abba Eban claimed that "In fact, the two villages were interconnected militarily, reinforcements passing from Dir Yassin to Kastel during the fierce engagement for that hill." (Eban, Background Notes on Current Themes - No.6: Dir Yassin[sic])


As the battle for Kastel raged the Irgun and Stern took their plan to attack Deir Yassin to Haganah for coordination. Rivalry between them made matters tense. The guerillas contacted David Shaltiel, the Haganah district commander, and asked for his approval. Shaltiel was surprised by their choice and asked:

Why go to Deir Yassin? It is a quiet village. There is a non-aggression pact between Givat Shaul and the Mukhtar of Deir Yassin. The village is not a security problem in any way. Our problem is in the battle for the Qastel. I suggest you participate in the operations in that area. I will give you a base in Bayit Vagan, and from their you will take over Ein Kerem, which is providing Arab reinforcements to the Qastel. (Yitzak Levi, Nine Measures, p. 341)

The guerillas refused to change their minds and complained that the proposed mission would be too hard for them. Shaltiel ultimately surrendered and wrote in a letter to the underground commanders that he allows them to attack the village, provided that they could hold it thereafter. (Shaltiel, David, Jerusalem 1948, Israel Ministry of Defense, Tel Aviv 1981, p. 139)

Shaltiel's consent was met with internal resistance. Meir Pa'il objected to violating the agreement with the village but Shaltiel maintained that he had no power to stop the guerillas. Yitzchak Levi proposed that the inhabitants should be notified that the truce was over but Shaltiel refused to endanger the operation by warning them. (Pa'il and Isseroff, "Meir Pa'il's Eyewitness Account"; Levi, Nine Measures, p. 341)

During some of the preliminary meetings the idea of a massacre was discussed and rejected. (Milstein, op. cit. p. 258.) A Stern proposal suggested liquidating them to show what happens when the IZL [Irgun] and the Lehi set out together. (Statement of Yehuda Lapidot [Irgun], file 1/10 4-K, Jabotinsky Archives, Tel Aviv, quoted in Silver, Begin: The Haunted Prophet, 90) According to most insider accounts, instructions were given to minimize casualties, some guerillas nonetheless anticipated inciting panic throughout Arab Palestine by their actions in Deir Yassin. (Dan Kurzman, Geneis 1948: The First Arab-Israeli War 1970, p.139)

The battle

The attack force consisted of about 132 men, 72 from Irgun and 60 from Lehi as well as a few women to serve as support. Most were teens lacking military training or experience.

From Givat Shaul a Lehi unit approached Deir Yassin, accompanied with Meir Pa'il and a photographer to watch their military performance. (Uri Milstein, Deir Yassin) One Irgun unit moved towards Deir Yassin from the east, while a second approached it from the south. At 4:45 a.m. the fighting started when concealed Irgunists encountered a village guard. (Uri Milstein, Out of Crisis Comes Decision, p.262) The road south-westward towards Ein Kerem filled with panicked villagers fleeing.

From the Sharafa rigde, villagers fire inflicted heavy casualties and drove off the Irgun. The Lehi units advance stopped at the town's center where they were only holding the eastern parts. The attacker's fighting capability matched their progress, weapons failed to work, a few tossed hand-grenades without pulling the plug and a Lehi unit commander, Amos Keynan, was wounded by his own men. (Deir Yassin, Milstein; A Jewish Eyewitness: An Interview with Meir Pa'il, McGowan)

While both Irgun and Stern commanders had anticipated many residents would flee, and the remaining would surrender after token resistance, both groups of soldiers, entering the town from different sides, immediately encountered fierce volleys of Arab rifle fire.

Irgun deputy commander Michael Harif, one of the first to enter Deir Yassin, later recalled how, early in the battle, I saw a man in khaki run ahead. I thought he was one of us, I ran after him and told him, 'Move ahead to that house!' Suddenly he turned, pointed his weapon at me and fired. He was an Iraqi soldier. I was wounded in the leg. (Milstein interview with Harif, p. 262)

Patchiah Zalivensky of Lehi recalled that among the Arab soldiers killed by his unit was a Yugoslavian Muslim officer. (Uri Milstein, Out of Crisis Came Decision p.263)

The villagers sniper fire from higher positions in the west contained effectively the attack, especially from the mukhtar's (the mayor's) house. Some Lehi units went for help from the Haganah's Camp Schneller in Jerusalem. (Out of Crisis Comes Decision, p.262-265, Milstein)

Intense Arab firepower caused the fighters' advance into Deir Yassin to be very slow. Reuven Greenberg reported later that the Arabs fought like lions and excelled at accurate sniping. He added that [Arab] women ran from the houses under fire, collected the weapons which had fallen from the hands of Arab fighters who had been wounded, and brought them back into the houses. (Testimony of Reuven Greenberg.)

In certain cases, after storming a house, dead Arab women were found with guns in their hands, a sign they had taken part in the battle. (Testimony of Yehoshua Gorodenchik, MZ.)  Ezra Yachin recalled, To take a house, you had either to throw a grenade or shoot your way into it. If you were foolish enough to open doors, you got shot down--sometimes by men dressed up as women, shooting out at you in a second of surprise. (Lynne Reid Banks, A Torn Country: An Oral History of the Israeli War of Independence (New York: Franklin Watts, 1982), p. 62.)

Pre-battle briefings had stated that most of the Deir Yassin houses had wooden doors, so while trying to storm them, the fighters were surprised to discover the doors were made of iron, leaving no recourse but to blow them open with powerful explosives, in the process inadvertently killing or wounding some inhabitants.(Testimony of Yehoshua Gorodenchik, MZ.) The Lehi forces slowly advanced house by house.

Meanwhile, the IZL soldiers on the other side of the village, were having a very difficult time. By 7:00 a.m., discouraged by the Arab resistance and their own increasing casualties, IZL commanders relayed a message to the Lehi camp that they were seriously considering retreating from the town.

Lehi commanders relayed back that they had already entered the village and expected victory soon.

The large number of wounded was a big problem for the guerillas, they had to be evacuated but if they did they could be fired upon. Meret called the Magen David Adom station for an ambulance that came to the battle area. The attackers took beds out of the houses, laid the wounded on them and ordered the inhabitants of the village, including women and old people, to carry the beds to the ambulance and to screen them. They believed the Arabs would not shoot their own people which however they did. (Uri Milstein, Out of Crisis Came Decision, p. 265)

The IZL quickly arranged to receive a supply of explosives from their base in Givat Shaul, and started blasting their way into house after house. In certain instances, the force of the explosions collapsed whole parts of houses, burying Arab soldiers as well as civilians who were still inside.

In numerous instances of Arabs emerged from the houses and surrendered; over 100 were taken prisoner by day's end. At least two Haganah members on the scene reported the Lehi repeatedly using a loudspeaker to implore the residents to surrender. (Milstein, p.263, interview with Uri Brenner; Daniel Spicehandler's testimony, quoted in Ralph G. Martin, Golda: Golda Meir - The Romantic Years (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1988), p. 329) In certain cases Arabs pretending to surrender revealed hidden weapons and shot at their would-be Jewish captors. (Testimony of Yehoshua Gorodenchik, MZ. Benny Morris, a harsh critic of the IZL and Lehi, has characterized Gorodenchik's testimony as confused. (Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem (New York and London: Cambridge University Press, 1987), p. 323, n. 175.)

At about 10:00 am a sizeable Palmach unit from the Haganah arrived, they brought an armored vehicle and a two-inch mortar. (Out of Crisis Comes Decision, p.265-266, Milstein) The mortar shot tree shoots at the mukthar's house which silenced its snipers. The Palmach unit managed to clear the village of serious resistance and Lehi officer David Gottlieb saw the Palmach accomplish in one hour what we could not accomplish in several hours. (Edge of the Sword, p.450, Lorch)

The loudspeaker truck

Before the battle the Irgun had prepared a truck armored with a loudspeaker to warn the villagers of the attack and urge them to flee.

In Sid Zion's essay Deir Yassin: History of a Lie he states that: The first fighter unit to reach Deir Yassin was led by a truck armed with a loudspeaker. An Iraqi-born Jew, fluent in Arabic, called out to inhabitants to leave Deir Yassin via the western exit the attackers had left clear for that purpose. Soon after entering the town, however, the truck was hit by Arab gunfire and careened into a ditch.

The source is unreferenced and it is the only study that claims that the truck actually entered the village.

According to Uri Milstein: The armored car with the loudspeaker left Givat Shaul a few minutes before 5:00 AM as planned, and by then the battle had already started."

According to Irgun leader Menachem Begin the truck was driven to the entrance of the area and broadcasted a warning to the civilians (The Revolt 1977, Begin).

Other sources claim that the truck never reached the village (Levi, Yitzhak, op. cit. p 342), although some state that it came to a relatively small distance from it. Other sources claim that the truck rolled into a ditch caused by Palestinian gunfire before it could broadcast its warning (Terror out of Zion 1977, Bowyer Bell). Ezra Yachin related,

After we filled in the ditch we continued travelling. We passed two barricades and stopped in front of the third, 30 meters away from the village. One of us called out on the loudspeaker in Arabic, telling the inhabitants to put down their weapons and flee. I don't know if they heard, and I know these appeals had no effect. We alighted from the armored car and joined the attack (Uri Milstein, op. cit. p. 262.)

Whether or not the truck's message was heard by the villagers is unclear. While hundreds of Deir Yassin residents did flee, it is unclear if it was because of the announcements, the sound of gunfire, or warnings from fellow-villagers who were near the battle sites.

The massacre

The fighting was over at about 11:00 am. The fighters begin to clean up the houses to secure them. Irgun's commander Ben-Zion Cohen noted: [We] felt a desire for revenge. (Statement of Ben-Zion Cohen, file 1/10 4-K, Jabotinsky Archives) One villager has stated that the attackers appeared to have been set off by an Irgun commander's death, still others reported that upon discovering an armed man disguised as a woman, one guerrilla began shooting everyone around, followed by his comrades joining in. (Out of Crisis Comes Decision, p.276, Milstein)

In the afternoon prisoners were taken on the village trucks to a victory parade in the Jewish neighbourhoods in Jerusalem before they were released in Arab East Jerusalem. Fahimi Zeidan testified that they put us in trucks and drove us around the Jewish quarters, all while cursing us. (Deir Yassin, Monograph No. 4, p.56, Kanani and Zitawi) Harry Levin, a Haganah broadcaster, reported seeing three trucks driving slowly up and down King George V Avenue bearing men, women, and children, their hand above their heads, guarded by Jews armed with sten-guns and rifles. (Jerusalem Embattled, p.57, Levin)

Photographs of the bodies

Meir Pa'il who was at the scene while the massacre happened brought with him a photographer that took photos of the dead bodies. Those photos have never been published and are to this date still kept secret in the IDF archives, not even academic researchers have been able to gain access to them.

Meir Pa'il's eyewitness account

Meir Pa'il's eyewitness account is by far the most important single eye witness account of the massacre as he was at the scene while it happened. His testimony has lately been discredited by Sid Zion of the Zionist Organisation of America and other right-wing Jewish organisations. Meir Pa'il stated that he:

started hearing shooting in the village. The fighting was over, yet there was the sound of firing of all kinds from different houses... Sporadic firing, not like you would [normally] hear when they clean a house. (Meir Pa'il's Eyewitness Account, Pa'il and Isseroff)

He also stated that no commanders directed the actions, just groups of guerillas running about full of lust for murder. (Meir Pa'il's Eyewitness Account, Pa'il and Isseroff)

Mordechai Gihon's eyewitness account

Mordechai Gihon was a Haganah intelligence officer in Jerusalem. He was in the village at the afternoon of April 9.

Before we got to the village we saw people carrying bodies to the quarry east of Deir Yassin. We entered the village around 3:00 in the afternoon . . . In the village there were tens of bodies. The dissidents got them out of the roads. I told them not to throw the bodies into cisterns and caves, because that was the first place that would be checked...

I didn't count the dead. I estimated that there were four pits full of bodies, and in each pit there were 20 bodies, and several tens more in the quarry. I throw out a number, 150. (Uri Milstein, Out of Crisis came decision, p. 274, Yitzhak Levi, Nine Measures, p. 343)

Eliahu Arbel's eyewitness account

Eliahu Arbel arrived at the scene April 10. He was an Operations Officer B of the Haganah's Etzioni Brigade.

I saw the horrors that the fighters had created. I saw bodies of women and children, who were murdered in their houses in cold blood by gunfire, with no signs of battle and not as the result of blowing up the houses. From my experience I know well, that there is no war without killing, and that not only combatants get killed. I have seen a great deal of war, but I never saw a sight like Deir Yassin (Yediot Ahronot, 1972-02-05)

Jacques de Reynier's eyewitness accout

Jacques de Reynier was a French-Swiss Representative of the International Red Cross. He came to the village on April 11.

a total of more than 200 dead, men, women, and children. About 150 cadavers have not been preserved inside the village in view of the danger represented by the bodies' decomposition. They have been gathered, transported some distance, and placed in a large trough (I have not been able to establish if this is a pit, a grain silo, or a large natural excavation).

[One body was] a woman who must have been eight months pregnant, hit in the stomach, with powder burns on her dress indicating she'd been shot point-blank. (Jacques de Reynier, A Jerusalem un drapeau flottait sur la ligne de feu p. 74, Larry Collins & Dominique Lapierre, O Jerusalem! p. 278)

Dr. Alfred Engel's eyewitness account

Alfred Engel went to Deir Yassin with Jacques de Reynier, his conclusion is similar to de Reynier's.

In the houses there were dead, in all about a hundred men, women and children. It was terrible....It was clear that they (the attackers) had gone from house to house and shot the people at close range. I was a doctor in the German army for 5 years, in World War I, but I had not seen such a horrifying spectacle. (Uri Milstein, Out of Crisis came Decision, p. 279)

Yeshurun Schiff's eyewitness account

Yeshurun Shiff was an adjutant to David Shaltiel. He was in Deir Yassin April 9 and April 12.

[The attackers chose] to kill anybody they found alive as though every living thing in the village was the enemy and they could only think 'kill them all.'...It was a lovely spring day, the almond trees were in bloom, the flowers were out and everywhere there was the stench of the dead, the thick smell of blood, and the terrible odor of the corpses burning in the quarry. (Larry Collins & Dominique Lapierre, O Jerusalem!, p. 280)

Yair Tsaban's eyewitness accout

Yair Tsaban was one of several youths in the burial team at Deir Yassin April 12.

What we saw were [dead] women, young children, and old men. What shocked us was at least two or three cases of old men dressed in women's clothes. I remember entering the living room of a certain house. In the far corner was a small woman with her back towards the door, sitting dead. When we reached the body we saw an old man with a beard. My conclusion was that what happened in the village so terrorized these old men that they knew being old men would not save them. They hoped that if they were seen as old women that would save them. (Eric Silver, Begin, p. 93, 95)

Some villagers eyewitness accounts

Mohammed Jaber, a village boy, observed the guerillas break in, drive everybody outside, put them against the wall and shoot them. (Statement of Mohammed Jaber, dossier 179/110/17 GS, "Secret," Police Investigator Team reports dated 13, 15, and 16 April 1948)

Zeinab Akkel, a woman, offered money (about $400) to protect her brother. One guerilla took the money and then he just knocked my brother over and shot him in the head with five bullets. (Meir Pa'il's Eyewitness Account, Pa'il and Isseroff)

Fahimi Zeidan stated that she and her wounded siblings encounted a captured pair of village males and When they reached us, the soldiers [guarding us] shot them. When the mother of one of the killed started hitting the fighters, one of them stabbed her with a knife a few times. (Deir Yassin, Monograph No. 4, p.56, Kanani and Zitawi)

when one of his daughters screamed, they shot her too. They then called my brother Mahmoud and shot him in our presence, and when my mother screamed and bent over my brother (she was carrying my little sister Khadra who was still being breast fed) they shot my mother too. (Fahimi Zeidan, quoted by Kanani and Zitawi, "Deir Yassin, Monograph No. 4," 55.)

Haleem Eid, a woman, saw a man shoot a bullet into the neck of my sister Salhiyeh who was nine months pregnant (Kanani and Zitawi, "Deir Yassin, Monograph No. 4," 55.)

Some Irgun & Stern member's eyewitness accounts

Irgunist Yehoshua Gorodentchik said that Male Arabs dressed as Arab women were found, and so they started shooting the [surrendering] women also. (Statement of Yehoshua Gorodentchik, file 1/10 4-K, Jabotinsky Archives)

Irgun commander Mordechai Raanan recalled.

A young fighter [from our side] holding a Bren machine gun in his hands took up a position, ... Having seen what happened to the inhabitants of the other houses, [the residents of the house] came out to us with their hands up. There were nine people there, including a woman and a boy. The chap holding the Bren suddenly squeezed the trigger and held it. A round of shots hit the group of Arabs. While he was shooting he yelled 'This is for Yiftach!' (Yediot Ahronot, 1972-04-04)

Ben Zion-Cohen an Irgun commaner reported to the Jabotinsky archives that at some point in Deir Yassin We eliminated every Arab that came our way (Amos Perlmutter, The Life and Times of Menachem Begin, p. 216)

The Jewish Agency and the Haganah leadership immediately condemned the massacre.

Number of dead, wounded and prisoners

In 1948 participants, observers and journalists wrote that as many as 254 villagers were killed that day. Everyone had an interest in publicizing a high Arab casualty figure: the Haganah, to tarnish the Irgun and Lehi; the Arabs and the British to blacken the Jews; the Irgun and Lehi to provoke terror and frighten Arabs into fleeing the country.

Arabs used the incident to unify and invigorate Arab anger against the Jews - resulting in the Hadassah medical convoy massacre, in which 78 Jewish doctors, nurses and patients were killed.

It can now be said with certainty that the death toll did not exceed 120. There were also 12-50 wounded and 50-150 prisoners.

The first number publicized about the death toll was 254. Irgun commander Raanan told it to reporters and it quickly stuck. Raanan's figure was a deliberate exaggeration, he later explained: I told the reporters that 254 were killed so that a big figure would be published, and so that Arabs would panic. (Out of Crisis Comes Decision, p.269, Milstein)

The fog of war accounts for some of the discrepancies. In addition, there were severe rivalries between the Haganah, the Irgun and the Lehi. The number of 254 of killed was a complete fiction very convenient to everyone.

In 1987, the Research and Documentation Center of Bir Zeit University, a prominent Arab university on the West Bank, published a comprehensive study of the history of Deir Yassin, as part of its Destroyed Palestinian Villages Documentation Project. The Center's findings concerning Deir Yassin were published, in Arabic only, as the fourth booklet in its "Destroyed Arab Villages Series." The purpose of the project, according to its directors, is to gather information from persons who lived in these villages and were directly familiar with them, and then to compare these reports and publish them in order to preserve for future generations the special identity and particular characteristics of each village. (Kanani and Zitawi, Deir Yassin (Bir Zeit study), p.5.)

The Bir Zeit study's description of the 1948 battle of Deir Yassin begins with the phraseology typical of many accounts of the event, calling it a massacre the likes of which history has rarely known, (Ibid., p.7.)  However, unlike the authors of any other previous study of Deir Yassin, the Bir Zeit researchers tracked down the surviving Arab eyewitness to the attack and personally interviewed each of them. For the most part, we have gathered the information in this monograph during the months of February-May 1985 from Deir Yassin natives living in the Ramallah region, who were extremely cooperative, the Bir Zeit authors explained, listing by name twelve former Deir Yassin residents whom they had interviewed concerning the battle. The study continued: The [historical] sources which discuss the Deir Yassin massacre unanimously agree that number of victims ranges between 250-254; however, when we examined the names which appear in the various sources, we became absolutely convinced that the number of those killed does not exceed 120, and that the groups which carried out the massacre exaggerated the numbers in order to frighten Palestinian residents into leaving their villages and cities without resistance. (Ibid., pp.7-.8.) The authors concluded: Below is a list of the names and ages of those killed at Deir Yassin in the massacre which took place on April 9, 1948, which was compiled by us on the basis of the testimony of Deir Yassin natives. We have invested great effort in checking it and in making certain of each name on it, such that we can say, with no hesitation, that it is the most accurate list of its type until today. A list of 107 people killed and twelve wounded followed.(Ibid., p.57.)

Additional reports:

From "The Revolt", by Menachem Begin (who did not participate in the battle), Dell Publishing, NY, 1977, pp. 225-227: Apart from the military aspect, there is a moral aspect to the story of Dir Yassin. At that village, whose name was publicized throughout the world, both sides suffered heavy casualties. We had four killed and nearly forty wounded. The number of casualties was nearly forty percent of the total number of the attackers. The Arab troops suffered casualties neraly three times as heavy. The fighting was thus very severe. Yet the hostile propaganda, disseminated throughout the world, deliberately ignored the fact that the civilian population of Dir Yassin was actually given a warning by us before the battle began. One of our tenders carrying a loud speaker was stationed at the entrance to the village and it exhorted in Arabic all women, children and aged to leave their houses and to take shelter on the slopes of the hill. By giving this humane warning our fighters threw away the element of complete surprise, and thus increased their own risk in the ensuing battle. A substantial number of the inhabitants obeyed the warning and they were unhurt. A few did not leave their stone houses - perhaps because of the confusion. The fire of the enemy was murderous - to which the number of our casualties bears eloquent testimony. Our men were compelled to fight for every house; to overcome the enemy they used large numbers of hand grenades. And the civilians who had disregarded our warnings suffered inevitable casualties.

The education which we gave our soldiers throughout the years of revolt was based on the observance of the traditional laws of war. We never broke them unless the enemy first did so and thus forced us, in accordance with the accepted custom of war, to apply reprisals. I am convinced, too, that our officers and men wished to avoid a single unnecessary casualty in the Dir Yassin battle. But those who throw stones of denunciation at the conquerors of Dir Yassin would do well not to don the cloak of hypocrisy.

In connection with the capture of Dir Yassin the Jewish Agency found it necessary to send a letter of apology to Abdullah, whom Mr. Ben Gurion, at a moment of great political emotion, called 'the wise ruler who seeks the good of his people and this country.' The 'wise ruler,' whose mercenary forces demolished Gush Etzion and flung the bodies of its heroic defenders to birds of prey, replied with feudal superciliousness. He rejected the apology and replied that the Jews were all to blame and that he did not believe in the existence of 'dissidents.' Throughout the Arab world and the world at large a wave of lying propaganda was let loose about 'Jewish attrocities.'

The enemy propaganda was designed to besmirch our name. In the result it helped us. Panic overwhelmed the Arabs of Eretz Israel. Kolonia village, which had previously repulsed every attack of the Haganah, was evacuated overnight and fell without further fighting. Beit-Iksa was also evacuated. These two places overlooked the main road; and their fall, together with the capture of Kastel by the Haganah, made it possible to keep open the road to Jerusalem. In the rest of the country, too, the Arabs began to flee in terror, even before they clashed with Jewish forces. Not what happened at Dir Yassin, but what was invented about Dir Yassin, helped to carve the way to our decisive victories on the battlefield. The legend of Dir Yassin helped us in particular in the saving of Tiberias and the conquest of Haifa.

A footnote from "The Revolt", pp.226-7:

To counteract the loss of Dir Yassin, a village of strategic importance, Arab headquarters at Ramallah broadcast a crude atrocity story, alleging a massacre by Irgun troops of women and children in the village. Certain Jewish officials, fearing the Irgun men as political rivals, seized upon this Arab gruel propaganda to smear the Irgun. An eminent Rabbi was induced to reprimand the Irgun before he had time to sift the truth. Out of evil, however, good came. This Arab propaganda spread a legend of terror amongst Arabs and Arab troops, who were seized with panic at the mention of Irgun soldiers. The legend was worth half a dozen battalions to the forces of Israel. The `Dir Yassin Massacre' lie is still propagated by Jew-haters all over the world


Deir Yassin very quickly became an ideological bait in the propaganda war between Israel and the Arab states. Panic flight of Arabs across Palestine intensified. It was also used as a strong argument for the Arab states to intervene against Israel, Arab League chief Azzam Pasha said The massacre of Deir Yassin was to a great extent the cause of the wrath of the Arab nations and the most important factor for sending [in] the Arab armies. Moreover the Arab retaliatory strike came very quickly. Just four days after the massacre at Deir Yassin had been published, an Arab force ambushed a Jewish convoy on the way to Hadassah Hospital, killing 77 Jews, doctors, nurses and patients (see Hadassah medical convoy massacre).

After the war Deir Yassin was settled by Israelis and named Givat Schaul Beth, today belonging to the district of Jerusalem (at the top end of Har Nof). In 1980 a settlement was built over the remaining ruins and its streets were named after the Irgun-units who participated in the battle.

Modern debate

Several articles (including one by Sid Zion below) discuss the incident as a pitched battle. These reports raise the question of whether the battle's description as a massacre had been exaggerated in media for propagandist purposes. This turns the discussion of the events of Deir Yassin into an information war of its own, as Arabs claim that pro-Israel organizations are trying to tone down the size of the massacre.

See also: List of massacres committed during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war

External links