Safsaf massacre

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Coordinates: 33°0′40″N35°26′46″E / 33.01111°N 35.44611°E / 33.01111; 35.44611 The Safsaf massacre took place on 29 October 1948, when the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) captured the Palestinian Arab village of Safsaf in the Galilee. The village was defended by the Arab Liberation Army's Second Yarmuk Battalion.

Geographic coordinate system Coordinate system

A geographic coordinate system is a coordinate system that enables every location on Earth to be specified by a set of numbers, letters or symbols. The coordinates are often chosen such that one of the numbers represents a vertical position and two or three of the numbers represent a horizontal position; alternatively, a geographic position may be expressed in a combined three-dimensional Cartesian vector. A common choice of coordinates is latitude, longitude and elevation. To specify a location on a plane requires a map projection.

Israel Defense Forces combined military forces of Israel

The Israel Defense Forces, commonly known in Israel by the Hebrew acronym Tzahal, are the military forces of the State of Israel. They consist of the ground forces, air force, and navy. It is the sole military wing of the Israeli security forces, and has no civilian jurisdiction within Israel. The IDF is headed by its Chief of General Staff, the Ramatkal, subordinate to the Defense Minister of Israel; Lieutenant General Gadi Eizenkot has served as Chief of Staff since 2015.


Safsaf was a Palestinian village located 9 kilometres northwest of Safed, present-day Israel. Its villagers fled to Lebanon after the Safsaf massacre in October 1948, during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.


Safsaf was the first village to fall in Operation Hiram, the aim of which, according to the IDF, was to "destroy the enemy in the central Galilee 'pocket,' to take control of the whole of the Galilee and to establish a defense line on the country's northern border." [1] The village was attacked by two platoons of armored cars and a tank company from the 7th Brigade, and a fierce battle lasted from the evening until seven o'clock the next morning. [2]

Operation Hiram

Operation Hiram was a military operation conducted by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. It was led by General Moshe Carmel, and aimed at capturing the Upper Galilee region from the Arab Liberation Army (ALA) forces led by Fawzi al-Qawuqji and a Syrian battalion. The operation, which lasted just 60 hours, was marked by heavy fighting between Arabs and Jews, and ended just before the ceasefire with the neighboring Arab countries went into effect.

Platoon military unit size, usually composed of two of more squads or equivalent units

A platoon is a military unit typically composed of two or more squads/sections/patrols. Platoon organization varies depending on the country and the branch, but typically, per the official tables of organization as published in U.S. military documents; a full-strength U.S. infantry rifle platoon consists of 39 Soldiers or 43 Marines. There are other types of infantry platoons, depending upon service and type of infantry company/battalion to which the platoon is assigned, and these platoons may range from as few as 18 to 69. Non-infantry platoons may range from as small as a nine-man communications platoon to a 102-man maintenance platoon. A platoon leader or commander is the officer in command of a platoon. This person is usually a junior officer—a second or first lieutenant or an equivalent rank. The officer is usually assisted by a platoon sergeant. A platoon is typically the smallest military unit led by a commissioned officer.

7th Armored Brigade (Israel) Israeli Defense Force combat formation

The 7th Armored Brigade is a military formation of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Formed during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War and in operation ever since, it is the oldest armored brigade in the IDF. The brigade took part in all of Israel's wars. During the Battles of Latrun in 1948, the 3rd Alexandroni and 7th Brigades together suffered 139 casualties. It fought in the Six-Day War under the command of Colonel Shmuel Gonen (Gorodish). In the Yom Kippur War, under the command of Colonel Avigdor Ben-Gal, it was stationed at the defense line of the northern part of the Golan Heights, where it successfully repulsed heavy attacks by much larger Syrian forces.

Evidence of a massacre in which 52–64 villagers were killed by the IDF comes from several contemporaneous Israeli government sources and Arab oral history. The evidence suggests that 52 men had their hands tied, were shot and killed, and were buried in a pit. Several women reported allegations of rape by the IDF, including a 14-year-old, and they were possibly killed. [3] At least two internal inquiries were initiated during 1948–49 by the IDF, but their reports remain classified.

Massacre incident where some group is killed by another

A massacre is a killing, typically of multiple victims, considered morally unacceptable, especially when perpetrated by a group of political actors against defenseless victims. The word is a loan of a French term for "butchery" or "carnage".

Massacre allegations

Israeli accounts

A key source are the diaries of Yosef Nachmani, a senior officer in the Haganah, who was also director of the Jewish National Fund in Eastern Galilee from 1935 until 1965. He visited Safsaf or the area around it on 6 November, accompanied by the Israeli Minority Affairs minister Bechor-Shalom Sheetrit. The men were briefed by Immanuel Friedman, a representative of the Minority Affairs ministry, who talked about "the cruel acts of our soldiers." The Nachmani diary was released by the Israeli government in the early 1980s. It had been published before, but with the passages about the massacre omitted. [3]

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

Jewish National Fund voluntary association

The Jewish National Fund was founded in 1901 to buy and develop land in Ottoman Palestine for Jewish settlement. The JNF is a non-profit organization. By 2007, it owned 13% of the total land in Israel. Since its inception, the JNF says it has planted over 240 million trees in Israel. It has also built 180 dams and reservoirs, developed 250,000 acres (1,000 km2) of land and established more than 1,000 parks.

Galilee large region in northern Israel

Galilee is a region in northern Israel. The term Galilee traditionally refers to the mountainous part, divided into Upper Galilee and Lower Galilee.

On 6 November 1948, Nachmani wrote: "In Safsaf, after ... the inhabitants had raised a white flag, the [soldiers] collected and separated the men and women, tied the hands of fifty-sixty fellahin [peasants] and shot and killed them and buried them in a pit. Also, they raped several women..." After listing alleged atrocities in other villages—Eilaboun, Farradiyya, and Saliha—Nachmani writes: "Where did they come by such a measure of cruelty, like Nazis? ... Is there no more humane way of expelling the inhabitants than by such methods?" [4]


Farradiyya was a Palestinian Arab village of 670 located 8 kilometers (5.0 mi) southwest of Safad.


Saliha, sometimes trasliterated Salha, meaning 'the good/healthy place', was a Palestinian Arab village located 12 kilometres northwest of Safed.

Moshe Erem reported on the massacre to a meeting of the Mapam Political Committee but his words were removed from the minutes. According to notes of the meeting taken by Aharon Cohen, Erem spoke of: "Safsaf 52 men tied together with a rope. Pushed down a well and shot. 10 killed. Women pleaded for mercy. 3 cases of rape ... A girl of 14 raped. Another four killed." [5]

Moshe Erem Israeli politician

Moshe Erem was an Israeli politician who served as a member of the Knesset for several left-wing parties and factions from 1949 until 1959, and again from 1965 until 1969.

Mapam political party

Mapam was a left-wing political party in Israel. The party is one of the ancestors of the modern-day Meretz party.

Aharon Cohen Israeli politician

Aharon Cohen was a senior member of Mapam, a pro-USSR Israeli political party which existed during the first two decades of statehood.

Arab accounts

The Israeli accounts in broad detail are supported by Arab witnesses who told their stories to historians. According to Nafez Nazzal, who interviewed survivors in Ain al-Hilweh camp in 1973, witnesses spoke of four rapes and the murder of about 70 men. Villagers said that when the attack began on the village, the militiamen were braced to defend it but were surprised by a three-pronged assault. One militiaman said later: "We did not expect them to fight on three fronts. When none of the Arab armies joined the fighting, we retreated, together with the ALA volunteers to Lebanon. We left behind most of the villagers, many dead or injure...." [6]

Those left behind said that Israeli soldiers had entered Safsaf around sunrise and ordered the villagers to line up in a spot in the northern part of the village. One villager told Nazzal: "As we lined up, a few Jewish soldiers ordered four girls to accompany them to carry water for the soldiers. Instead, they took them to our empty houses and raped them. About seventy of our men were blindfolded and shot to death, one after the other, in front of us. The soldiers took their bodies and threw them on the cement covering of the village's spring and dumped sand on them." In later days, Israeli troops visited the village, telling the inhabitants that they should forget what had occurred and could stay in their homes. But they began to leave under cover of the night towards Lebanon, about four at a time, until Safsaf was empty. [6] [7]

See also


  1. Morris 2008, p. 341.
  2. Khalidi, p. 491.
  3. 1 2 Morris 1995, p. 53.
  4. see Zertal, 2005, p. 171; Morris, 2004, p. 500; Morris 1995, p. 55.
  5. Morris, 2004, p. 500.
  6. 1 2 Nazzal 1948, pp. 93–95
  7. Khalidi, p.491, mostly quoting Nazzal.

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