Operation Nachshon

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Villages captured during Operation Nachshon Operation Nachshon.jpg
Villages captured during Operation Nachshon
Telegraph dated 5 April 1948, confirming the beginning of Operation Nachshon that same night (Israel Defense Forces - IDF, Archives) Nachshon operation telegraph.jpg
Telegraph dated 5 April 1948, confirming the beginning of Operation Nachshon that same night (Israel Defense Forces – IDF, Archives)

Operation Nachshon (Hebrew : מבצע נחשון, Mivtza Nahshon) was a Jewish military operation during the 1948 war. Lasting from 5–16 April 1948, its objective was to break the Siege of Jerusalem by opening the Tel-Aviv – Jerusalem road blockaded by Palestinian Arabs and to supply food and weapons to the isolated Jewish community of Jerusalem. The operation was also known as "The operation to take control of the Jerusalem road,", following which participating units later broke-off to form the Harel Brigade. [1]

Hebrew language Semitic language native to Israel

Hebrew is a Northwest Semitic language native to Israel; the modern version of which is spoken by over 9 million people worldwide. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites and their ancestors, although the language was not referred to by the name Hebrew in the Tanakh. The earliest examples of written Paleo-Hebrew date from the 10th century BCE. Hebrew belongs to the West Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic language family. Hebrew is the only living Canaanite language left, and the only truly successful example of a revived dead language.

Arabs are a population inhabiting the Arab world. They primarily live in the Arab states in Western Asia, North Africa, the Horn of Africa and western Indian Ocean islands. They also form a significant diaspora, with Arab communities established around the world.


Nachshon was the first major Haganah operation and the first step of Plan Dalet, The plan was a set of guidelines for taking control of the territory allotted to Palestinian Jews by the 1947 UN Partition Plan, and defending its borders and people, including the Palestinian Jewish population outside the borders, 'before, and in anticipation of' the invasion by regular Arab armies. [2] [3] According to the Israeli Yehoshafat Harkabi, "Plan Dalet" called for the conquest of Arab towns and villages inside and along the borders of the area allocated to the proposed Jewish State pursuant to the UN Partition Plan. [4] In case of resistance, the Arabs of conquered villages were to be expelled outside the borders of the Jewish state. If no resistance was met, the Arab residents could stay put, under military rule. [5] [6] Operation Nachshon was carried out by the Haganah's Givati and what was later to be known as the Harel Brigade of the Palmach.

Haganah was a Jewish paramilitary organization in the British Mandate of Palestine (1921–48), which became the core of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Plan Dalet was a plan worked out by the Haganah in Mandatory Palestine in March 1948. Its name was from the letter Dalet (ד), the fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

Yehoshafat Harkabi Israeli general

Yehoshafat Harkabi was chief of Israeli military intelligence from 1955 until 1959 and afterwards a professor of International Relations and Middle East Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


By the end of March 1948, Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni's troops were preventing supply convoys from reaching Jerusalem. The city was besieged and the Jewish population was forced to adhere to a rationing system. On 31 March a 60 vehicle Jewish convoy was ambushed at Khulda and forced to turn back with the loss of five vehicles and 17 dead. [7] [8] Yishuv leader David Ben-Gurion decided to launch Nachshon in order to open up the city and provide supplies to the Jewish residents. [9] Although initially intended as a one-shot affair, Nachshon later proved to be the first operation in the implementation of Plan Dalet. [10]

Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni Palestinian Arab nationalist

Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni was a Palestinian Arab nationalist and fighter who in late 1933 founded the secret militant group known as the Organization for Holy Struggle, which he and Hasan Salama commanded as the Army of the Holy War during the 1936–39 Arab revolt and during the 1948 war.

Khulda Village in Ramle, Mandatory Palestine

Khulda, also Khuldeh, was a Palestinian Arab village located 12 kilometers (7.5 mi) south of Ramla in the Mandatory Palestine. Known as Huldre to the Crusaders, it is also mentioned in documents dating to the periods of Mamluk, Ottoman, and Mandatory rule over Palestine. During the 1948 war, the village was depopulated as part of Operation Nachshon and was subsequently destroyed. The Israeli kibbutz of Mishmar David was established that same year on land belonging to the village.

David Ben-Gurion Israeli politician, Zionist leader, prime minister of Israel

David Ben-Gurion was the primary national founder of the State of Israel and the first Prime Minister of Israel.

Members of the Harel Brigade assembling at Khulda at the beginning of Operation Nachshon Harel Nachshon.jpg
Members of the Harel Brigade assembling at Khulda at the beginning of Operation Nachshon

The operation

Palestinian irregulars, under the command of Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni, moving to counterattack Haganah positions in Al-Qastal, 7-8 April 1948 Kastal.jpg
Palestinian irregulars, under the command of Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni, moving to counterattack Haganah positions in Al-Qastal, 7–8 April 1948

The operation was named after the Biblical figure Nachshon Ben Aminadav, who was the first to wade into the Red Sea when the Hebrews escaped from slavery in Egypt. The operation was commanded by Shimon Avidan. [10]

Nahshon biblical figure

In the Hebrew Bible, Nahshon was a tribal leader of the Judahites during the wilderness wanderings of the Book of Numbers. In the King James Version, the name is spelled Naashon.

Red Sea Arm of the Indian Ocean between Arabia and Africa

The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. To the north lie the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez. The Red Sea is a Global 200 ecoregion. The sea is underlain by the Red Sea Rift which is part of the Great Rift Valley.

Egypt Country spanning North Africa and Southwest Asia

Egypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia by a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt is a Mediterranean country bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west. Across the Gulf of Aqaba lies Jordan, across the Red Sea lies Saudi Arabia, and across the Mediterranean lie Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, although none share a land border with Egypt.

The first orders were given on 2 April 1948. [11] A telegraph confirming the beginning of the operation, was released on 5 April, with the operation starting that same night. It lasted until 20 April. [12] 1,500 men from the Givati and Harel brigades took control of the road to Jerusalem, [13] allowing three of four convoys to get to the city. [14]

The operation was a military success. All the Arab villages that blocked the route were either taken or destroyed, and the Jewish forces were victorious in all their engagements. Nonetheless, not all the objectives of the operation were achieved, as only 1,800 tonnes of the 3,000 envisaged were transported to the town, and two months of severe rationing had to be assumed. [15]

Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni was killed during the night of 7–8 April, in the middle of the battles taking place in Al-Qastal. The loss of the charismatic Palestinian leader 'disrupted the Arab strategy and organisation in the area of Jerusalem.' [16] His successor, Emil Ghuri, changed tactics: instead of provoking a series of ambushes throughout the route, he had a huge road block erected at Bab-el-Oued, and Jerusalem was once again isolated as a consequence. [17]

During Operation Nachshon the Haganah wanted to attack the strategic village of Abu Gosh but this was opposed by the Stern Gang whose local commanders were on good terms with the mukhtar. [18]


Operation Nachshon exposed the poor military organisation of the Palestinian paramilitary groups. Due to lack of logistics, particularly food and ammunition, they were incapable of maintaining engagements that were more than a few hours away from their permanent bases. [19]

Faced with these events, the Arab Higher Committee asked Alan Cunningham to allow the return of the Mufti, the only person capable of redressing the situation. Despite obtaining permission, the Mufti did not get to Jerusalem. His declining prestige cleared the way for the expansion of the influence of the Arab Liberation Army and of Fawzi al-Qawuqji in the Jerusalem area. [19]

Between 15 and 20 April, three convoys, totalling over 700 lorries were able to reach Jewish Jerusalem. [20] The Arabs, however, managed to block the road immediately thereafter. [21] Operation Nachshon was therefore followed by Operation Harel, and immediately thereafter Operation Yevusi. Further operations in the Jerusalem region, Operation Maccabi and Operation Kilshon, took place in May.

Palestinian communities captured during Operation Nachshon

al-Qastal 903–9 AprilPalestinian irregulars led by al-Qadir Palmach First target of the operation due to its commanding position over the road to Jerusalem. Taken on night of 3rd but the attackers retreated the next day. They briefly held the position on 8th and finally took complete control on 9th. All buildings including the mosque were demolished.
Dayr Muhaysin 4606 Apriln/an/aInhabitants ordered to leave and the village completely levelled. Palestinian irregulars launched several counterattacks and on 9 April the British army ordered the Jewish forces out because of the threat to British supply routes.
Khulda 2806 Aprilno resistance Haganah BattalionThe attackers were ordered to leave by the British army. Jewish forces bulldozed all the village buildings on 20 April.
Saydun 2106 Apriln/an/aVillagers fled.
Dayr Yasin 6109 Aprilvillagers Irgun, Lehi with Haganah assistance.Around a sixth of inhabitants killed after village taken.
Qalunya 1,260 (including 350 Jews)11 Apriln/aPalmachTaken in a night-time attack. The villagers fled on hearing of killings in neighbouring Dayr Yasin. All buildings blown up on 10 & 11 April.
Bayt Naqquba 24011 Apriln/aPalmach, HaganahDepopulated and levelled shortly after capture. In 1962 the village of Ein Naqquba was recognised; its population consisted mainly of "internal refugees" from Bayt Naqquba.
Bayt Thul 260after 11 Apriln/an/aChanged hands several times over following months, finally coming under Israeli control in July.
Saris 56013 Aprilno opposition.Haganah, force of 500 men.Seven villagers, including women, killed in the attack, the rest were expelled. 25–35 buildings destroyed.
Khirbat Bayt Far 3001st half of Apriln/aHaganahMay have been taken in subsequent operations at the end of April.
Dayr Ayyub 3201st half of Apriln/an/aScene of an ambush of a Jewish convoy to Jerusalem on 17 April. Village depopulated and changed hands several times over the summer.
Wadi Hunayn 3,380 including 1,760 Jews17 Apriln/aGivati BrigadeMay have been taken and depopulated a few weeks later.
Bab el-Wad 11–17 Apriln/an/aSeveral buildings marking beginning of valley leading to Jerusalem. Briefly held on 11th, finally captured on 17th. [22]


See also

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  1. Yosef Tabenkin, The Turning Point in the War of Independence (המפנה במלחמת העצמאות), Yad Tabenkin: Efal 1989, p. 123 [Hebrew]
  2. David Tal (2004). War in Palestine, 1948: strategy and diplomacy. Psychology Press. pp. 165–.
  3. Benny Morris. The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, Benny Morris, Cambridge University Press, pg 155.
  4. Yehoshafat Harkabi (June 1974). Arab attitudes to Israel. John Wiley and Sons. pp. 366–. ISBN   978-0-470-35203-8 . Retrieved 12 April 2011.
  5. MidEast Web, Plan Daleth (Plan D)
  6. Yoav Gelber (January 2006). Palestine, 1948: war, escape and the emergence of the Palestinian refugee problem. Sussex Academic Press. pp. 98–. ISBN   978-1-84519-075-0 . Retrieved 14 April 2011.
  7. Joseph, Dov. The Faithful City: The Siege of Jerusalem, 1948, Simon and Schuster, 1960. Congress # 60 10976. Page 98.
  8. The Times, 1 & 2 April 1948.
  9. Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins (1971), p. 369
  10. 1 2 Morris 2008, p. 116
  11. orders to diversion attacks arose on 2 April, Including Qastel
  12. Benny Morris (2003), p. 234.
  13. Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins (1971), p. 372
  14. Benny Morris (2003), p.236 speaks of 3 resupply convoys but Lapierre and Collins (Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins (1971), p. 456) speak of a fourth convoy of 300 lorries that left Kfar Biou on the dawn of 20 April
  15. Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins (1971), p. 457
  16. Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins (1971), p. 455
  17. Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins (1971), p. 456
  18. Pappe, Ilan (2006) The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. Oneworld. ISBN   1-85168-467-0. p. 91.
  19. 1 2 Yoav Gelber (2006), p. 89
  20. Joseph, pages 100,101.
  21. Benny Morris, 1948 (2008), p.121
  22. O'Ballance, Edgar (1956) The Arab-Israeli War. 1948. Faber & Faber, London. p. 57.