Acre Prison break
The Acre Prison break was an operation undertaken by the Irgun on May 4, 1947 in the British Mandate of Palestine, in which its men broke through the walls of Acre prison and freed 28 incarcerated Irgun and Lehi members.
At the time of the British Mandate the citadel in the old city of Acre was used as a prison. In total, the prison contained 700 Arab prisoners and 90 Jewish prisoners, the latter mainly members of the Jewish underground groups Haganah, Lehi, and Irgun, who were captured by the British. One of those prisoners was Eitan Livni (father of Tzipi Livni), the Irgun operations officer.
On April 19, 1947, four Irgun members, Dov Gruner, Yehiel Dresner, Mordechai Alkahi and Eliezer Kashani, who were captured by the British 6th Airborne Division, were hanged in Acre Prison to become the Irgun's first postwar 'martyrs'. At his trial, Dov Gruner declared the British Army and Administration to be 'criminal organizations'.
The Lehi and Irgun prisoners mulled an escape but concluded that would be impossible without outside assistance. They therefore contacted Irgun headquarters with a plan. Dov Cohen, AKA "Shimshon", was selected to lead the operation.
The break-out was originally planned for April, but was eventually rescheduled for Sunday, May 4, 1947, at 4 p.m., the day the United Nations General Assembly convened to discuss the Palestine issue.
The logistic preparations were complicated: The Irgun purchased a truck, a jeep, two military pickup trucks and civilian vehicles, which were then disguised as British. British army uniforms were also acquired. a stock of civil clothings was also arranged in order to help the escapees assimilate into the population.
Irgun reconnaissance efforts had discovered a weak spot in the citadel: the southern wall right above a Turkish bath. The Irgun had therefore smuggled TNT into the prison, which was then used to improvise 30 hand grenades and 2 bombs, each weighing one kilogram, to blast the prison walls open.
On Sunday, May 4, 1947, at 14:00 a military engineering unit of the Irgun, under the command of Dov Salomon and Yehuda Apiryon, made its way to the nearby Turkish bath, disguised as telephone technicians and carrying ladders, TNT, ropes and other necessary incursion equipment. Meanwhile, other Irgun strike and escape teams spread around the prison, disguised as British military convoys.
The excursion occurred at 16:22 with a massive explosion that shook the prison. One of the prisoners, Michael Eshbal, blew up the grille at the corridor, while another group of prisoners delayed the British jailors with hand grenades and burning barricades.
34 Jewish guerilla fighters attacked the prison. In the course of the retreat, Dov Cohen and two other fighters from the attacking force were killed. Three British guards were also killed. Another five fighters from the attacking force were captured by the British, along with eight escapees. 28 Lehi and Irgun prisoners escaped, as did 182 Arab prisoners.
The New York Herald Tribune wrote that the underground had carried out "an ambitious mission, their most challenging so far, in perfect fashion", while in the House of Commons, Oliver Stanley asked what action His Majesty's Government was planning to take "in light of the events at Acre prison which had reduced British prestige to a nadir."
Three out of the five men captured were sentenced to death. The Irgun kidnapped two British sergeants, Clifford Martin and Mervyn Paice, and threatened to execute them should the British carry out the death sentences. When the British did not relent and had the Irgun men executed, the Irgun hanged the two sergeants.
The Acre Prison break, with other operations had a strong moral effect on the Yishuv and on the fight for foundation of Israel. It is considered to have seriously damaged the British prestige and sped up to the foundation of the UNSCOP committee.
The operation is marked by a monument on the Acre promenade.
- Lapidot, Yehuda. "The Acre Prison Break". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2008-01-15.
- Robinson, James. "Acre Jail Break". Archived from the original on 2 January 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-15.
- Taylor, Neil W.: The Tapestry of Israel (p. 240)
- Aisenberg, Lydia (2006-06-08). "Heroism reflected in stone". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2008-01-15.
- "Kidnappings, Beatings, Murders and Hangings". Archived from the original on 29 January 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-15.
- UN Doc A/364 Add. 1 of 3 September 1947 See Annex 10 Letter; dated 17 June 1947 from relatives of the men sentenced to death by the Jerusalem Military Court on 16 Juno 1947