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Sunday, April 10, 2005

 

Deir Yassin Remembered

The 57th anniversary of the Deir Yassin Massacre

Orig. Hebrew on MAHSOM: http://www.mahsom.com/article.php?id=646
English trans from Occupation Magazine: http://www.mahsom.com/article.php?id=646

On 9 April 1948 at 2:00 AM, gangs from Etzel and Lehi massacred residents of the village, murdered about 100 people, including women and children, mutilated bodies and raped.

By the Mahsom Editorial Board, 8 April 2005

Deir Yassin was a Palestinian village near the Jewish settlement of Giv’at Shaul, about four kilometres west of Jerusalem. More than 700 people lived in the village at the time.

On 9 April 1948, at two in the morning, Etzel and Lehi gangs launched a planned attack on the village that had been previously coordinated with David Shaltiel, the Hagana commander in Jerusalem. Due to understandings with Hagana, the village was not prepared for an attack, and all the residents were sleeping. A short battle took place on the scene, in which the residents tried to defend themselves and their children, and they succeeded in killing four members of the Jewish gangs. Etzel and Lehi seized control of the village and massacred its people. About a hundred people, including women and children, were murdered in cold blood. Mutilation of corpses and rapes were also recorded.

Members of the gangs, who destroyed most of the houses of the village, hastened to report on their massacre over loudspeakers and on the radio. They deliberately exaggerated the number of victims, in order to sow panic and fear among the Palestinian residents, and news of the Deir Yassin massacre spread quickly in the Arab world. The Hagana radio station repeated the appalling details again and again, and warned its listeners in Arabic: “Remember Deir Yassin.” In a message spread by loudspeakers in Arab villages in the Jerusalem area, it was said that “If you do not leave your homes, your fate will be like that of Deir Yassin.”

Yeshurun Schiff, the adjutant to the Hagana commander in Jerusalem who was in Deir Yassin during the massacre, described thus what his eyes saw: “It was a beautiful spring day, the almond trees were blooming, there were flowers all around, and everywhere there was the stink of death, a strong smell of blood, and the strong stench of bodies burnt in the quarry.”

Benny Morris wrote about the massacre in 1991: “Fahimy Deidan was 12 on the day of the massacre: “They entered and started to search the place. They took us one by one, they shot the father, and when one of his daughters cried out, they shot her too. After that they called my brother Mahmud, shot him before our eyes, and when my mother cried out and leaned over him while holding my little sister Khadra, who was still breast-feeding, they shot her too. We children began to cry and to scream, and the attackers said that if we did not stop, they would shoot us all. We continued to cry, and they stood us in a row, shot us and left.” Deidan was wounded but not killed. “I looked to see who was still alive. My uncle, his wife and their son were dead. My sister Sumia, who was only four, and my brother Muhammad were alive.” She and her siblings who were left alive were taken prisoner by other soldiers. “We went with some women from the village, and then a young man and an older man appeared before us, waving their hands in the air in surrender. When they got to us, the soldiers shot them.” The young man’s mother was in the group of prisoners, together with Deidan. “She attacked the soldiers and started to hit them. One of them stabbed her with a knife several times.”

Zeinab Aqil was taken prisoner together with her brother. “My husband gave me $400.00. I offered the money to one of the attackers and said, ‘Please help my brother, he is so young.’ The man took the money and then just threw my brother down and shot five bullets into his head.”

Further testimony is that of Yair Tzaban, who later became a minister in the government of Israel, and who was part of the burial team in Deir Yassin on 12 April. Tzaban related then: “What we saw was [dead] women, small children and old men. What shocked us was that at least two or three of the old men were wearing women’s clothes. I remember that we entered the living room of one of the houses. In a far corner was a small woman sitting with her back to the door, dead. When we got to the body we saw an old man with a beard. I concluded that what happened in the village had so terrified these old men, that they knew that their being old men would not save them. They hoped that if they looked like old women that would save them.”

Jacques de Reynier, the Red Cross representative who got to the village on Sunday, 11 April, reported: “At the end the [Irgun] commander told me that for now I could visit some houses, and that the situation was as follows: over 200 dead in total, men, women and children. About 150 bodies were taken from the village, for fear of the danger of decomposition. They were gathered, brought from a certain distance, and put in a big trench. Impossible to see because it was an area under fire. About 20 bodies were “stuck” in a neutral area between the Arab forces and the Irgun companies. About 50 other bodies were found in the village. I entered a house. The first room was dark, everything was disorderly, but there was nobody there. In the second I found, among smashed furniture, blankets and all kinds of rubbish, some cold bodies. Here the slaughter had been carried out with machine-guns, afterwards with a grenade, and at the end they finished with knives, as could be seen. The same thing in the next room … the house I visited was a scene of complete chaos, everything was broken, garbage and bodies on the floor [one of the bodies was] a woman, who was for sure in her eighth month of pregnancy, hit in the belly, gunpowder and scorching on her dress, indicating that she had been shot at close range.” De Reynier concluded by saying that civilians had been “massacred deliberately.”

Translated from Hebrew by Mark Marshall

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