Night of the Bridges
Operation Markolet (known as Night of the Bridges) was a Haganah venture on the night of the 16th to the 17th of June 1946 in the British Mandate of Palestine. Its aim was to destroy eleven bridges linking Palestine to the neighboring countries Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt, in order to immobilize its transportation.
Operation Merkolet was the largest and most comprehensive Haganah operation within the United Resistance framework, and it was also the final one. But it achieved its goal; transportation was suspended.
To disguise and protect the real operations and to confuse the British Army, around 50 diversion operations and ambushes were carried out throughout the country on the same night. The Palmach members could return easier due to the common confusion.
The Haganah started the preparations in January–February 1946. First, the SHAI (Hagana Intelligence Service), Palmach patrols and forces scheduled to carry out the operation began spotting, photographing and measuring the targets but also exploring possible access and escape paths. They were disguised as lovers enjoying nature or as geography excursions.
Originally, the operation should have taken place in May, but due to political reasons it was postponed.
The political leadership forbade an attack on three targets.
|Ras a-Nakura tunnel, Rosh HaNikra||railway||Lebanon||Restoring the tunnel would be too difficult and it was within Lebanon|
|Yarmuk, Gesher||railway||Jordan||Led to the power station in Naharayim|
|Jordan, Gesher||railway||Jordan||Led to the power station in Naharayim|
The planners knew that the operation could not cause heavy damage, and that it would take some weeks for the connections to be restored. The real targets were:
- demonstration of the ability of the Haganah to operate throughout the country, even in deserted areas or at the center of the Arab population
- demonstration of the ability to sabotage the British army's operation
- demonstration of the ability of the Haganah to discourage neighboring armies from future involvement
- harming the British army's prestige as the most powerful force in the Middle East and damaging the legitimacy of the British Mandate
- strengthening and encouraging the Jewish population in Palestine, and showing the Haganah as being as active as the Irgun and Lehi groups
The objectives were fully accomplished. The Haganah could hit strategic targets at the same time. As a precaution, the Syrian, Lebanese and Trans-Jordanian armies were put on standby, and the borders were tightened. The British Mandate lost a lot of its prestige and suffered a damage of 250,000 pound sterling. Twelve days after the attack the British authorities retaliated by imposing a curfew on Jewish communities and launching a security operation known as Operation Agatha. Despite the involvement of 20,000 British troops and the arrest of 3,000 Jews no major damage was done to the Haganah.
|Nahal Ayyun, Metula||road||Lebanon||was unguarded,|
|NW of Metula||road||Lebanon||executed discreetly,|
|Nahal Akhziv||railway||Lebanon||forces were spotted, explosives were laid under fire, operation failed, 14 casualties and 5 injuries|
|Nahal Akhziv||road||Lebanon||called off following the heavy casualties taken during the attack on the nearby railway bridge|
|Banot Ya'aqov||road||Syria||executed discreetly,|
|Sheikh Hussein||road||Jordan||executed discreetly,|
|Damiya (Adam)||road||Jordan||executed discreetly|
|Allenby||road||Jordan||forces were spotted, explosives were laid under fire|
|Nahal Habsor, Gaza||road||Egypt||forces were spotted, explosives were laid under fire|
|Nahal Habsor, Gaza||railway||Egypt||forces were spotted, explosives were laid under fire|
After the attacks, the British army began broad investigations in the settlements near the destroyed targets in the hope to find weapon caches. Two weeks later, on June 29, 1946, Operation Agatha was launched with the goal to capture many Palmach members. During that surprise action, more than 2,700 Jews were arrested, including the senior leadership of the Haganah. The British discovered important papers proving the role of the Unified Resistance, which were stored at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. That led to the King David Hotel bombing on July 22, 1946.
- Allon, Yigal (1970) Shield of David - The Story of Israel's Armed Forces. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. SBN 297 00133 7 Page 178.