Massacre at Safsaf

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Massacre at Safsaf

Date: Saturday, 30 Oct 1948
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What happened: According to a Palestinian eyewitness, 70 young men were blindfolded and shot to death, one after another, by Israeli troops in front of the assembled villagers. The Israeli army report acknowledges 14 deaths.

"At about sunrise, the Israelis entered the village. There they ordered the villagers to line up around Isma'il Nassir Za'mut's and Ahmad Muhammad Shuraidah's houses, to the north. Umm Shahadah al-Salih, among those present, recalled that tragic morning:

'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 70 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....'"

Source: Nafez Nazzal, The Palestinian Exodus from Galilee 1948, Beirut: The Institute for Palestine Studies, 1978, p. 95, reporting the account of eyewitness Umm Shahadah al-Salih, interviewed (along with two other eyewitnesses) at Ain al-Hilwah refugee camp in Sidon, Lebanon, on March 23-24, 1973. The story of Israel's takeover of Safsaf is on pp. 93-96.

Morris, Birth, in note 37 on page 350, says that Nazzal's account "in the main tallies with" the military's report that Morris quotes. (That report is quoted just below.)

"In his briefing of 11 November to the Political Committee of Mapam, Galil

The village was attacked during the evening of October 29 and a fierce battle lasted until 7 AM the next morning. The village defenders inflicted heavy casualties to the attackers.

Safsaf was the first village to fall in Operation Hiram .

The known details of the massacre come to us via several contemporary second-hand Zionist reports and via Arab oral history. Yosef Nachmani , the director of the Jewish National Fund in the Galilee recorded in his diary what he was told by Immanuel Friedman , a representative of the Minority Affairs ministry: In Safsaf, after ... the inhabitants had raised a white flag, the 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...

Moshe Erem reported on the massacre to a meeting of the Mapam Political Committee but his words were censored from the minutes. According to the notes taken by another person present, 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.

These accounts in broad detail are supported by Arab witnesses who told their stories to historians. According to Nafez Nazzal, witnesses spoke of four rapes and the murder of about 70 men. After the massacre, the remainder of the village fled to Lebanon.

At least two internal inquiries into the massacre were initiated during 1948-9 by the IDF, but their reports remain classified and unavailable.

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