Dec 1947-April 1948
i. Givat Hayim
ii. Ramat Gan
iii. The Anglo-American Committee's Recommendations
iv. Night of the Bridges
v. Attack on Railway Workshops
vi. OP Agatha
vii. Bombing of the king David Hotel
viii. Operation Shark
This incident is almost a replay of a 1943 incident at Ramat Hakovesh.
On the night of 15th/16th November 1945 the Palmach sabotaged what was then a remote coast guard post at Givat Olga in the police district of Lydda. One British Sergeant and three Arab constables were slightly injured, not exactly a major incident but the Lydda Superintendent sent for the dog handlers and a unit of the Police Mobile Force (PMF,) based at Sarona, who hastened to the scene. PMF units, at that time, consisted, for the most part, of young, inexperienced policemen, not regarded as ready to join the regulars.
The dogs, dobermann pinschers, led the police over the sand dunes into the Hefer valley and came to a halt outside the locked gates of the nearest kibbutz, Givat Hayim, in the neighbouring police district of Haifa.
Unfortunately a shipload of Jewish Displaced Persons (DPs)from Europe had landed illegally only a short while previously. Haganah had distributed them in settlements across the Hefer Valley until the Jewish Agency could find them permanent homes. To protect the DPs in his care, the mukhtar of Givat Hayim refused entry to the police, saying he would have to consult the Jewish Agency before he could let them in. Behind the Mukhtar stood kibbutzniks waving thick, heavy sticks.
By this time settlers from another nearby kibbutz, also armed with cudgels had arrived and were shouting insults, such as Nazi pigs and British Gestapo. The Lydda superintendent, who was outside his territory, wirelessed HQ for instructions and then informed the PMF Inspector allocated to his district that the army were sending in The Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders to cordon off the kibbutz. There would also be an RAF spotter plane flying overhead. He then ordered the PMF inspector keep to his squad on site overnight while he consulted with the Superintendent of Haifa police district who was Raymond Cafferata, the 1926 hero of Hebron. By this time was far from praising Cafferata for having saved so many Jews, the Irgun were blaming him for the Hebron massacre.
The Highlanders,arrived during the night, preceded by a line of Sherman tanks. After digging shallow holes around the kibbutz, most soldiers took up position in the holes, lying on their stomachs with rifles pointing at the surrounding countryside. They had also dug out and sandbagged one deeper hole, where they set up a machine gun. A few troopers were detailed to set up detention cages on a piece of ground about the size of a tennis court.
In the meantime the kibbutzniks inside Givat Hayim demolished a brick wall, stacking the bricks in caches to use as weapons Jewish settlers from all over the Hefer valley, at Haganah's request were hiking to Ein HaHoresh, a beauty spot near Givat Hayim. When assembled there, they were to await orders to march to Givat Hayim for a peaceful demonstration.
The Jewish Agency, anticipating trouble, sent for Jewish ambulances. These who were tailed by inquisitive journalists, both local and the international ones gathered in Palestine to report on.
As the morning progressed, a car arrived with truckloads of police in its wake. The superintendent of Lydda stepped out, accompanied by an inspector from Tulkarm. The Superintendent of Haifa had obviously said that as Lydda had started the operation they could finish it.
"We'll be going in now using seasoned squads," the Lydda Superintendent informed the PMF Inspector. "You and your men keep an eye on that lot there." He pointed to the hikers at Ein HaHoresh whose numbers had increased considerably but most of whom were now picnicking. "If things inside here get out of hand the inspector and I will fire into the air. Interpret that as a signal to call in the paras."
The regular police set to at the kibbutz gates using olive-tree trunks as battering rams. The sound of wood on metal was drowned by screeching insults hurled from beyond the gates. The kibbutzniks had organised themselves into rows, barricading the drive that led further into the settlement. The gates gave way. Police rushed in, on the receiving end of a volley of bricks and stones. Once inside, the police reformed and marched forwards in line, intent on pushing their way through the hostile crowd without striking anyone.
The kibbutzniks went wild using thick sticks to hail blows on the police.
The police drew out their batons.
Matters deteriorated into a heaving, truncheon-to-cudgel struggle with elderly women on the sidelines continuing to shout insults in between egging their men on, while younger women darted in and out, delivering blows with their own sticks. Before long, wounded police and kibbutzniks writhed on ground running with blood.
Meanwhile, outside the kibbutz the PMF inspector focussed his binoculars on the hikers at HaHoresh. They were still picnicking and didn't seem intent on making trouble. If they did decide to join in the fight,however, the long row of soldiers with rifles pointing in their direction, not to mention a machine gun, should prove a sufficient deterrent. The PMF inspector was more worried about what was happening inside the kibbutz. The superintendent still hadn't fired in the air but there was no way forty-eight police using only standard-issue batons could gain control of one hundred and fifty berserk settlers armed with longer cudgels and bricks.
When the hikers at HaHoresh lined up in ranks the PMF Inspector focused his attention on them.
The crack of the expected gunshot sounded. The PMF Inspector signalled to the backup troops and the lines of hikers moved forward.
The soldiers had their fingers on their triggers now. One soldier knelt purposefully beside the machine gun.
A jeep drove up. A young lieutenant, standing in the front passenger seat, megaphone to his mouth, revolver in his free hand, bawled, 'Stop right there or we shoot.'
The front rank of hikers hesitated.
'Kadema,' (forward) came a shout from a young man in the third row. When questioned afterwards the hikers claimed he was not from the Hefer Valley and none of them knew him. Given the circumstances, it could be irrelevant that Kadema was the Irgun motto. Just a slight hesitation, and then the hikers continued.
The young lieutenant fired a shot into the air. Simultaneously, the PMF inspector saw bullets from shrubs at the side of the field speeding towards the paras. Several soldiers collapsed. The front rank of hikers halted.
The military machine gun, barking, turned an arc. Some younger settlers had training enough to dive to the ground, covering their heads with their arms, but mature men in the front row crashed to the ground, wounded. A woman in the second row clutched her stomach, screaming as she fell. Winter green grass turned scarlet. Most hikers sprinted off, shrieking in terror, either to shelter behind tree trunks or to rush through the army cordon.
One man in the front row remained standing, staring in surprise at an arm hanging useless at his side while blood poured from it. Beside him an elderly man lay sprawled on the ground next to several others. A young woman behind lay face down, blood pouring from her side.
The superintendent came up beside the PMF Inspector. 'We're bringing out the first lot of kibbutzniks now. Organize them into the pens.' As the Inspector was directing the first contingent to the furthest cage,the superintendent approached him again. 'Don't let the ambulances drive the wounded to hospital before someone's taken their statements.'
All witnesses from the march claimed to have been taking part in a peaceful protest over the arrest and detention of illegal immigrants two nights previously. They were not trying to prevent the police arresting criminals. They had brought no weapons, not even sticks.
This was patently true. The PMF squad had already searched everyone as they made their way to the ambulances. None carried weapons and no weapons had been thrown to the ground. Besides, the inspector had seen the direction from which bullets had been fired. The marchers were nowhere near the shrubs.