Massacre at Dahmash mosque in al-Lydd

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5 Aug 1948
Israel appoints a Military Governor of the Occupied Area of Jerusalem
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1 Aug 1948
Date proposed in November 1947 as implementation date for partition of Palestine
31 Jul 1948
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29 Jul 1948
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26 Jul 1948
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24 Jul 1948
start of Ethnic cleansing of the Little Triangle
18 Jul 1948
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17 Jul 1948
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16 Jul 1948
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15 Jul 1948
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Israeli aircraft bomb Saffuriya
14 Jul 1948
Israelis capture Shafa 'Amr
British agents disguised as Jordanian legionnaires attack the French Consulate compound in the Old City of Jerusalem
13 Jul 1948
Expulsion of the population of Lydda and Ramleh
12 Jul 1948
Massacre at Dahmash mosque in al-Lydd
11 Jul 1948
Israelis occupy al-Lydd
9 Jul 1948
end of First truce in Arab-Israeli War
start of Operation Danny (Mivtza Dani in Hebrew)
8 Jul 1948
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7 Jul 1948
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6 Jul 1948
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Jul 1948
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30 Jun 1948
Last British troops leave Palestine
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29 Jun 1948
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28 Jun 1948
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27 Jun 1948
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25 Jun 1948
start of Visit by king of Trans-Jordan to Saudi Arabia to end feud
24 Jun 1948
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21 Jun 1948
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20 Jun 1948
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16 Jun 1948
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15 Jun 1948
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11 Jun 1948
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Event #244 Massacre at Dahmash mosque in al-Lydd
Date: Monday, 12 Jul 1948

On 11 July 1948, the Israeli 89th Commando Battalion lead by Moshe Dayan occupied Lydda. Shortly afterwards, several hundred civilians were killed by Israeli troops, including 80 machine-gunned inside the Dahmash Mosque.

If the following accounts are all true, there were several stages to the massacre at Lydda. Many died on the evening of July 11 during Moshe Dayan's famous lightening strike into the town. The town surrendered, and things were then quiet until just before noon the next day, when two or three Arab Legion armored cars rolled into town. Two (or perhaps as many as four) Israeli solders were killed, inciting a spasm of Israeli violence that killed 250 Arabs, including the (first?) massacre at the mosque. Finally, according to Guy Erlich's article, some 20-50 Arabs were slaughtered after cleaning up the mosque. Note that this account and Palumbo's assertion that the bodies of the first group killed at the mosque "lay decomposing for ten days in the July heat" cannot both be true.

After all this, the inhabitants of Lydda and neighboring Ramle were expelled in the infamous "Lydda death march," as a result of which several hundred more probably died. See Chapter VIII, "The Lydda Death March" (pp. 126-138), in Palumbo, The Palestinian Catastrophe.

"Civilians ran for cover as an armoured unit of the Israeli 89th Commando Battalion fired its way into Lydda, an Arab town not far from Tel Aviv. At the head of the column in an armoured car he called 'The Terrible Tiger' rode Major Moshe Dayan, a relatively obscure professional soldier who had personally recruited the men of his battalion including a contingent of Stern Gang terrorists. Dayan was eager to prove that his method of lightening warfare would win quick results against the Arabs. For fourth-seven minutes on the evening of 11 July 1948, Dayan and his armoured forces terrorized both the defenders of Lydda and the neighbouring town Ramle, as well as their Arab civilian population.

Keith Wheller, a reporter for the Chicago Sun Times, witnessed the attack. In an article titled 'Blitz Tactics Won Lydda,' he wrote that as the Israeli vehicles surged through the town, 'practically everything in their way died.' [1] Not all the casualties were members of the Arab Legion that was defending the town. Kenneth Bilby of the New York Herald Tribune who entered Lydda in the company of an Israeli intelligence officer noticed 'the corpses of Arab men, women and even children strewn about in the wake of the ruthlessly brilliant charge.'[2]

The Israelis were not keen to take prisoners. Netiva Ben Yehuda, a young female member of the Palmach, recalled that a soldier 'went through the streets of Lydda with loudspeakers and promised everybody who would go inside a certain mosque that they would be safe.' Hundreds of Arabs entered the Dahmash Mosque believing that nothing would happen to them if they sat quietly with their hands on their head. But according to Ben Yehuda 'something did happen.'[3] In retaliation for a grenade attack after the surrender which killed several Israeli soldiers, over eighty Arab prisoners were machine-gunned to death. The bodies lay decomposing for ten days in the July heat. The Dahmash Mosque massacre terrorized the people of Lydda."


Footnotes:

  • Reprinted in Palestine Post, 13 July 1948.
  • Kenneth Bilby, New Star in the Near East, p. 43
  • Lynne Reid Banks, A Torn Country: An Oral History Of The Israeli War Of Independence, New York, Franklin Watts, 1982. Also Raja'i Buseilah, The Fall of Lydda 1948: Impressions and Reminiscences, Arab Studies Quarterly, Spring 1981, pp. 137-138.

Source: Palumbo, The Palestinian Catastrophe, pp. 126-127.

"After the entry of the [Arab Legion] detachment, the local Arab population rose in revolt, and, to suppress the revolt, orders were given to fire on any one seen in the streets. 'Yiftah' troops opened heavy fire on all passers-by and suppressed the revolt mercilessly in a few hours, going from house to house and firing at every moving target. According to the commander's report, 250 Arabs were killed in the fighting."

Source: An article by Israeli historian Arieh Vitzhaqi from the April 14, 1972, issue of the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot, translated in "From the Hebrew Press," Journal of Palestine Studies, vol. 1, no. 4 (summer 1972), p. 145. Also quoted in Hadawi, Bitter Harvest, p. 88.

"After Lydda gave up the fight, a group of stubborn Arab fighters barricaded themselves in the small mosque. The commander of the Palmach's 3d Battalion, Moshe Kalman, gave an order to fire a number of blasts towards the mosque. The soldiers who forced their way into the mosque were surprised to find no resistance. On the walls of the mosque they found the remains of the Arab fighters. A group of between twenty to fifty Arab inhabitants was brought to clean up the mosque and bury the remains. After they finished their work, they were also shot into the graves they dug."

Source: "Not Only Deir Yassin" (Guy Erlich, Ha'ir [Israeli newspaper], 6 May 1992).

See also Morris, Birth, pp. 205-206, who writes that "In the confusion, dozens of unarmed detainees in the mosque and church compounds in the centre of the town were shot and killed." He also suggests that to call the events on July 12 a "revolt" is unwarranted. As is his tendency, Morris attempts to mitigate Israeli moral responsibility by asserting that the occupying Israeli solders "felt threatened, vulnerable and angry" during the July 12 phase of the massacre.


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