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The Arab Invasion 1948

Bombardment of Jerusalem by Arab Legion 

The Arabs not only rejected partition, but attacked Israel from all sides. On the day that Israel declared its independence, the Arab League Secretary, General Azzam Pasha declared "jihad", a holy war. He said, "This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades".1 The Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin Al Husseini stated, "I declare a holy war, my Moslem brothers! Murder the Jews! Murder them all!" 2 The armies of lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq invaded the tiny new country with the declared intent of destroying it.3

War in Palestine 1947-9. After the UN resolution of Nov. 29, 1947, to partition the country into Jewish and Arab states with Jerusalem as a corpus separatum. Palestinian Arabs (including veterans of the 1936-9 disturbances, members of Arab youth organizations, and police) initiated hostilities against the Jewish population. They were soon joined by volunteers from neighboring Arab states. Jewish forces were organized mostly in the Haganah (underground militia) with a fulltime component of about 4,000, mostly members of the Palmah. 

The early attacks resembled the intifada of 1936-9, the Haganah restricting itself to defense of settlements and communications and limited retaliation. Early in 1948, the first attack on a Jewish village (Tirat Tzevi) occurred which proved unsuccessful. In the cities, the Arabs employed terrorist methods. During March, they concentrated on roads and on towns with a mixed population. The Jerusalem-Tel Aviv road was fiercely attacked and eventually, Jewish Jerusalem was cut off, except for communication by a few light aeroplanes. Meanwhile, the Jews had received a first consignment of arms from Czechoslovakia and the road to Jerusalem was eventually reopened.

A volunteer "Arab Liberation Army" led by the Syrian Fawzi el Kawukji failed in its attack on Mishmar ha-Emek in the Jezreel Valley, while a battalion of volunteers from Jebel Druze was routed when attempting to attack Ramat Yohanan near Haifa. In April, the Haganah counter-attacked, overrunning Tiberias, opening the road to Galilee, and capturing Haifa and the Katamon suburb in Jerusalem. Early in May, Safed and the southern Huleh district came into Jewish hands, together with Acre and most of western Galilee. Internal Arab resistance was thus ended. 

But on May 15, with the termination of the Mandate, the states of the Arab League (armies from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, and a token force from Saudi Arabia) invaded the country. The Arab Legion overran the Etzion bloc of settlements south of Jerusalem, two Jewish settlements north of the city, as well as the Sheikh Jarrah district of the city and the Jewish quarter of the Old City; the new city of Jerusalem was now under siege. However, Arab attempts to reach the center of the New City failed, largely because of the successful resistance of the outlying settlement of Ramat Rahel and the Notre Dame compound. The siege was eventually circumvented by the secret construction of a road ("Burma Road") for the transport of food and ammunition from the Jewish-held Plain of Aijalon. The Egyptians, attacking through the Negev, at first advanced rapidly, occupying Gaza and Beersheba, but were held back by a chain of Jewish settlements (Kephar Darom, Nirim, Beerot Yitzhak, and Negbah) and at Ashdod, south of Tel Aviv. 

Plans for an Egyptian landing in the vicinity of Tel Aviv were foiled by the hastily-improvised Israel navy cooperating with the fledgling air force, and the Egyptians thereupon limited their objective to an unsuccessful endeavor to isolate the, Negev. The main Syrian attacks south of the Sea of Galilee were checked at Deganyah after an initial advance and driven back. Further N, however, the Syrians captured Mishmar ha-Yarden. Iraqi attacks in the nothern sector were met by stiff Israel opposition and were not pressed. The Lebanese entered Galilee but made little headway. 

On June 11, a general truce came into effect which ended on July 8. During this time, a fundamental change had occurred in the balance of forces. The newly-established Israel Defense Army now cleared Lower Galilee and captured Nazareth, took Lydda and Ramleh in the central sector, widened the Jerusalem corridor (but failed to capture Latrun despite repeated attempts), and continued to hold the Egyptians in the south. The UN Security Council enforced a second cease-fire on July 19. This lasted until October when, in a week of heavy fighting, Beersheba was taken, the Egyptians driven back, and an Egyptian brigade surrounded at Faluja. In the north Kawukji unsuccessfully attacked the settlement of Manara; Israel forces, in 21 1/2 days, cleared Upper Galilee and captured villages inside the Lebanon. Fighting in the Negev was resumed in Dec. when the Egyptian front collapsed and Israel forces occupied almost the entire Negev, with the exception of the Gaza strip; they also entered the Sinai peninsula, but a British ultimatum led to the withdrawal of Israel forces from Egyptian territory. 

The Egyptians then agreed to discuss armistice terms and an agreement was signed at Rhodes in Feb., 1949 . Subsequently, the Israel army occupied Elath at the S tip of, the Negev after its evacuation by the Arab Legion. In the ensuing months, separate armistice agreements were signed with Jordan, the Lebanon, and Syria; no agreement was, however, signed with Iraq or Saudi Arabia.4

1. Howard M Sachar, A History of Israel (New York: Knopf, 1979), p. 333. 

2. Leonard J. Davis and M. Decter (eds.). Myths and facts 1982; a Concise Record of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Washington DC: near east report, 1982), p. 199 

3. In a formal cablegram to the UN Secretary General on May 15, 1948, the Secretary general of the Arab League declared that the Arab states rejected partition and intended to set up a "United State of Palestine." For a full text of the cablegram, see John N. Moore (ed.), The Arab-Israeli Conflict; Readings and Documents (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, abridged and revised edition, 1977), pp. 938-943. 

4. The Standard Jewish Encyclopedia, 1959 

Source for 1,2 & 3: The Jewish Agency for Israel

This page was produced by Joseph E. Katz
Middle Eastern Political and Religious History Analyst 
Brooklyn, New York 
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Source of picture above, "The Standard Jewish Encyclopedia", 
Doubleday & Company, Inc. 1959