Massacres:By Salman Abu-Sitta, from his 1996 book, The Right of Return
The "massacre" is defined here as " the killing of a group of civilians with intent". Many atrocities had been committed which could have been defined as massacres, but sufficient evidence todate is incomplete.
Table 6 lists 25 reported massacres. This list excludes the following:
- Murder of individuals, although widespread.
- Mass killing of civilians during air-raids especially in the period October-December
- Killing of Prisoners of War.
- Unrecorded massacres.
The most well-known massacre is Dayr Yassin, which was publicized by the Arabs to demonstrate the savagery of the Zionists, and by the Zionists, frequently by loudspeakers touring the villages, to drive the Arabs out of their homes, "or meet the fate of Dayr Yassin".
The biggest and least publicized massacre is that of al Dawayima village in Hebron District (population 4,300). On the afternoon of Friday, 29 October 1948, 3 units of the 89th Battalion (8th Brigade) entered the village from 3 directions, leaving the east open, and occupied it "without a fight".
"The first wave of conquerors killed about 80 to 100 Arabs, women and children. The children they killed by breaking their heads with sticks. There was not a house without dead. One woman, with a newborn baby in her arms was employed to clean the courtyard.... (they) shot her and the baby.... This was not in the heat of battle.... but a system of expulsion and destruction",
(soldier's testimony cited by Morris 1987, p 222).
Over fifty villagers took refuge in the local mosque. The soldiers entered and killed them. Others fled to nearby caves (Tor al Zagh) and huddled against the walls. The soldiers ordered them to line up in two lines, men and women, and led them to a well. The soldiers suddenly opened fire. Bodies fell in heaps. Some survived the ordeal (survivor's testimony, Hudaib, 1985). Two weeks later, the Israeli authorities allowed a team of UN observers to visit the site, after 3 previous requests were denied, probably to remove the traces of the massacre. The observers noted that many houses were still smoking, with "a peculiar smell as if bones were burning". The Israelis refused to allow them to visit the mosque, because it was "not correct". When they got a brief look, they saw quite a few Jewish soldiers inside. (UNA 13/3.3.1, box 11, Atrocities, cited by Palumbo, 1987 p. xiii).
Many years later, the correspondent of the Israeli newspaper Hadashot accompanied the village Mukhtar (head) to the scene of killing. According to the newspaper report of 24 August 1984, they dug where the Mukhtar pointed. Several skulls, including that of a child, were found.
The Mukhtar handed a list of 580 killed to the Jordanian Governer of Hebron at the time. The Hadashot correspondent 'estimated' 332 people killed. Ben Gurion briefly noted in his diary "a rumour about 70-80 persons slaughtered". (Ben Gurion War Diary, p.613).
That was the pattern: to surround the village from three sides, leaving the fourth open for escape, to kill as many as possible, especially those who are determined to stay, and leave some survivors to spread the news in the next village.
If villagers returned, they would be massacred again. The village of Sa'sa has suffered two massacres, the first on 15 February, the second on 30 October 1948, in the aftermath of the return of some of its inhabitants.
The massacres were always part of the military campaign. There were 11 massacres in April and May during the British Mandate, and 14 thereafter. Three massacres took place during Yiftach operation in April, seven during Hiram operation in October, both to occupy Arab Galilee. In terms of geographical distribution, 19 were in the north, three in the central sector and three in the south.