Coordinates: The al-Dawayima massacre describes the killing of civilians by the Israeli army (IDF) that took place in the Palestinian Arab town of al-Dawayima on October 28, 1948 during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. The incident occurred after the town was captured by the IDF's 89th Commando Battalion during Operation Yoav. The battalion, whose first commander was Moshe Dayan, was composed of former Irgun and Lehi forces. Fatality estimates range from 80 to 200 men, women and children.
Al-Dawayima's core clan, the Ahdibs, traced their ancestry to the conquest of Palestine by Umar ibn Khattab in the 7th century. At the time, it had a population of 6,000 since some 4,000 Palestinian Arab refugees had taken refuge in the village prior to the massacre. The Haganah intelligence service (HIS) considered the village to be 'very friendly'. Dawayima was situated a few kilometres west of Hebron.
Benny Morris writes:
Ben-Gurion, quoting General Avner, briefly referred in his war diary to the 'rumours' that the army had 'slaughtered 70–80 persons.' one version of what happened was provided by an Israeli soldier to a Mapam member, who transmitted the information to Eliezer Peri, the editor of the party daily Al HaMishmar and a member of the party's Political Committee. The party member, Sh. (possibly Shabtai) Kaplan, described the witness as 'one of our people, an intellectual, 100 percent reliable.' The village, wrote Kaplan, had been held by Arab 'irregulars' and was captured by the 89th Battalion without a fight. 'The first [wave] of conquerors killed about 80 to 100 men, women, and children. The children they killed by breaking their heads with sticks. There was not a house without dead,' wrote Kaplan. Kaplan's informant, who arrived immediately afterwards in the second wave, reported that Arab men and women who remained were then shut away in houses 'without food or water.' Sappers arrived to blow up the houses.
One commander ordered a sapper to put two old women in a certain house ... and to blow up the house with them. The sapper refused ... The commander then ordered his men to put the old women in the house and the evil deed was done. One soldier boasted that he had raped a woman and then shot her. One woman, with a newborn baby in her arms, was employed to clean the courtyard where the soldiers ate. She worked a day or two. In the end they shot her and her baby.
Benny Morris writes:
According to one 89th Battalion veteran, Avraham Vered, the village houses “were filled with the loot of the Etzion Bloc [i.e. Kfar Etzion massacre]. The Jewish fighters who attacked Dawayima knew that … the blood of those slaughtered cries out for revenge; and that the men of Dawayima were among those who took part in the massacre." Avraham Vered, added another motive for revenge, the fact that the village was in the Hebron hills, some of whose villagers had been responsible for the 1929 Hebron massacre.
The soldier-witness, according to Kaplan, said
cultured officers ... had turned into base murderers and this not in the heat of battle ... but out of a system of expulsion and destruction. The less Arabs remained—the better. This principle is the political motor for the expulsions and the atrocities.
From the sworn Statement given by the Mukhtar of Dawaymeh village, Hassan Mahmaod Ihdeib.
Hassan Mahmaod Ihdeib reported that half an hour after the midday prayer on Friday, 28 October 1948, Hassan heard the sound of shooting from the Western side of the village, On investigation, Hassan observed a troop of some twenty armoured car approaching the village on the Qubeiba – Dawaymeh road and a second troop approaching along the Beit Jibrin–Dawaymeh road and other armoured vehicles approaching from the direction of Mafkhar-Dawaymeh. The village had only twenty guards, They were posted on the Western side of the village, When the armoured cars were within half a kilometre from the village, they opened fire from automatic weapons and mortars and advanced on the village in a semi-circular movement, thereby surrounding the village on the Western, Northern and Southern sides, A section of the armoured cars entered the village with automatic weapons blazing — Jewish troops jumped put of the armoured cars and spread out through the streets of the village firing promiscuously at anything they saw. The villagers began to flee the village while the older ones took shelter in the Mosque and others in a nearby cave called Iraq El Zagh. The shooting continued for about an hour.
The following day, the Mukhtar met with the villagers and agreed to return to the village that night to find out the fate of those that had stayed behind. He reports that in the Mosque there were the bodies of some sixty persons, most of them were, men of advanced age who had taken shelter in the Mosque. His father was among them, He saw a large number of bodies in the streets, bodies of men, women and children, He then went to the Cave of Iraq El Zagh, He found at the mouth of the cave the bodies of eighty five persons, again men, women and children, The Mukhtar then carried out a census of the inhabitants of the village and found that a total of 455 persons was missing of whom 280 were men and the rest women and children, There were other casualties among the refugees, the number of which the Mukhtar was unable to determine, The Mukhtar explicitly states that the village had not been called upon to surrender and that the Jewish troops had not met with any resistance.
Morris has estimated "hundreds" of people were killed, he also reports on the IDF investigation, which concluded around 100 villagers had been killed, and cites an account by a Mapam member, based on an interview with an Israeli soldier, who reported 80 to 100 men, women and children killed. Saleh Abdel Jawad evaluates the total to "between 100 and 200".
The UN inspection team
Yigal Allon cabled General Yitzhak Sadeh to check "the 'rumours' that the 89th Battilion had 'killed many tens of prisoners on the day of the conquest of al-Dawayima', and to respond". On the 5 November probably worried about a UN investigation Allon then ordered Sadeh to instruct the unit:
that is accused of murdering Arab civilians at Dawayima to go to the village and bury with their own hands the corpses of those murdered.
Although unbeknownst to Allon, the 89th had cleaned up the site of the massacre on 1 November 1948.
On 7 November, UN inspectors visited the scene of the village to investigate accusations of a massacre, the accusation being made by the Egyptians and refugees from the village. The team found "several demolished buildings and one corpse but no other physical evidence of a massacre". The UN team did however take a witness statement from the village mukhtar
Isser Be'eri, the commander of the IDF intelligence service, who conducted an independent investigation, concluded that 80 people had been killed during the occupation of Al-Dawayima and that 22 had been captured and executed subsequently. Be'eri recommended prosecution of the platoon OC, who had confessed to the massacre, but notwithstanding his recommendations no one was put on trial or punished.
The American consul in Jerusalem, William Burdett, who had received news about the massacre reported on November 16 to Washington "Investigation by UN indicates massacre occurred but observers are unable to determine number of persons involved."
News of the massacre reached village communities in the western Hebron and Judean foothills "possibly precipitating further flight".
The reason why so little is known about this massacre which, in many respects, was more brutal than the Deir Yassin massacre, is because the Arab Legion feared that if the news was allowed to spread, it would have the same effect on the morale of the peasantry that Deir Yassin had, namely to cause another flow of Arab refugees.
- "Survival of the fittest". Haaretz. 8 January 2004.
- Morris, 2004. p. 469-471
- UN Doc. Com Tech/W.3 United Nation Conciliation Commission for Palestine Technical committee Report Submitted by the Arab Refugee Congress Dated 14 June 1949
- Morris, 2004 p. 494 note 40
- Morris, Benny (June 25, 2014). "Before the Kidnappings, There Was a Massacre: How the national trauma of Kfar Etzion helped bring Israeli Yeshiva boys to the West Bank". Tablet Magazine. p. 2. Retrieved 3 July 2014.
- Benvenisti, 2002, p. 153.
- Flapan, Simha (1987). The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities. New York: Pantheon. p. 94.
- Gilmour, David (1980). Dispossessed: The Ordeal of the Palestinians 1917–1980. London, UK: Sidgwick & Jackson. pp. 68–69.
- Benny Morris (2004), The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, p. 469.
- Benny Morris (2008), 1948: An History the First Arab-Israeli War, p. 333.
- Saleh Abdel Jawad (2007), Zionist Massacres: the Creation of the Palestinian Refugee Problem in the 1948 War, in E. Benvenisti & al, Israel and the Palestinian Refugees, Berlin, Heidelberg, New-York : Springer, pp. 59–127 See page 67.
- Morris, 2004, p. 495. endnote 49
- Benvenisti, Meron (2002). Sacred Landscape: The Buried History of the Holy Land Since 1948. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-23422-7
- Morris, Benny (2004). The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-00967-7
- Khalidi, Walid (1991). "ALL THAT REMAINS: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948", The Institute of Palestine Studies, Washington, D.C. ISBN 0-88728-224-5