Al-Hamma Incident

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The al-Hamma Incident (Hebrew: תקרית אל-חמה‎‎) refers to an event which happened on 4 April 1951 and resulted in the death of seven IDF soldiers by Syrian military forces during an Israeli attempt to enforce its sovereignty over the demilitarized zone along the Syrian border.


Al-Hamma was in the territory of the British Mandate of Palestine, and allocated to the Jewish state under the 1947 UN partition plan. During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, the main thrust of the Syrian invasion of the Galilee crossed the border at Al-Hamma.[1] According to the 1949 armistice agreement between Israel and Syria, it was determined that a string of villages, including Al-Hamma, Nuqeib, Al-Samra in the Tiberias Subdistrict, and Kirad al-Baqqara and Kirad al-Ghannama further north in the Safad Subdistrict, would be included the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between Israel and Syria. The inhabitants and their property were formally protected by Article V of the Israeli-Syrian agreement of 20 July that year. However, according to Benny Morris, Israel wanted the 2,200 Palestinian inhabitants of those villages to move to Syria.[2] The Israeli military thought that the inhabitants of the DMZ remained loyal to Syria and they suspected them of helping Syrian intelligence. Local Jewish settlers and law enforcement suspected the villagers of petty crimes.[3] Morris also believes that Israeli settlers and settlement agencies coveted the land of the local Palestinians Arabs.[4]

The incident[edit]

Until 1951, Israel had never patrolled or occupied Al-Hamma. However, in the spring of that year, Israel decided to assert its sovereignty over the village.[5] On 4 April that year, IDF General Staff (ignoring the protest from the Northern Command) sent two patrol-vehicles to the village.[5][6] The patrol was disguised as policemen, as Israel was not allowed to have soldiers in the DMZ. [7][8] Seven Israeli soldiers were killed by the Syrians.[6]


The following day, four Israel planes bombed the police station at Al-Hamma and a Syrian positions at Al Hadid. Two women were killed, and six people reported injured.[6] In addition, Israel decided to demolish the remaining houses in the Palestinian villages of Kirad al-Ghannama, Kirad al-Baqqara, Al-Samra and Nuqeib (in that order) to render the DMZ "clear of Arabs".[6] Syria continued to control Al-Hamma until the 1967 Six-Day War. The enclave of Hamat Gader became a continuing source of friction between Israel and Syria.


  1. ^ Morris, 2008, p. 253
  2. ^ Morris, 2004, p. 512
  3. ^ Morris, 2004, p. 513, note 56
  4. ^ Morris, 2004, p. 513
  5. ^ a b Morris, 1993, p. 362
  6. ^ a b c d Morris, 1993, p. 363
  7. ^ UN Doc S/1353 Syria Israel Armistice Agreement of 20 July 1949, Article V
  8. ^ Morris, 1993, p.363, citing Shalev: Shituf-Peula, 168-73


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