Al-Sawafir al-Gharbiyya

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Al-Sawafir al-Gharbiyya
Al-Sawafir al-Gharbiyya is located in Mandatory Palestine
Al-Sawafir al-Gharbiyya
Al-Sawafir al-Gharbiyya
Arabic السوافير الغربية
Name meaning The western nomads[1]
Subdistrict Gaza
Coordinates 31°41′57″N 34°42′11″E / 31.69917°N 34.70306°E / 31.69917; 34.70306Coordinates: 31°41′57″N 34°42′11″E / 31.69917°N 34.70306°E / 31.69917; 34.70306
Palestine grid 122/123
Population 1030[2][3] (1945)
Area 7,523[3] dunams
Date of depopulation May 18, 1948 [4]
Cause(s) of depopulation Fear of being caught up in the fighting
Current localities Merkaz Shappira,[5] Massu'ot Yitzchaq,[5]

Al-Sawafir al-Gharbiyya was a Palestinian Arab village in the Gaza Subdistrict. It was depopulated during the 1948 War on May 18, 1948, during the second stage of Operation Barak. It was located 30 km northeast of Gaza city.


Remains of a winepress and a hypocausts, belonging to a bathhouse, both dating to the late Roman era, have been excavated here.[6]

Two cemeteries from the Byzantine era, together with many ceramic remains from fifth–seventh centuries CE have been excavated.[7] Two pool areas, building remains, and parts of a potter’s wheel, all dating to the Byzantine era have also been found.[6] A Greek inscription has been found on a limestone slab,[8] and the remains of a wall, with numerous pottery sherds, dating to the Byzantine period (fifth–sixth centuries CE).[9]

Pottery sherds from the Mamluk era has also been found.[6]

Ottoman era[edit]

Al-Sawafir al-Gharbiyya was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1517 with the rest of Palestine, and by the 1596 Daftar,[10] the village formed part nahiya (subdistrict) of Gaza under the liwa' (district) of Gaza with a population of 43 households, or an estimated 237 people. All were Muslims. The villagers paid a fixed tax-rate of 25% on a number of crops, including wheat, barley, summer crops, vineyards, fruit trees, as well as on goats, beehives; a total of 8,500 Akçe.[10][11]

In 1863 Victor Guérin found in this village a koubbeh consecrated to a Sheikh Muhammed. He noted that many antique building blocks were used in this sanctuary.[12]

In 1882 the Palestine Exploration Fund's Survey of Western Palestine described it as one of three Suafir adobe villages. Each had small gardens and wells.[13]

British Mandate era[edit]

According to the 1922 census of Palestine conducted by the British Mandate authorities, Al-Sawafir al-Gharbiyya had a population of 572 inhabitants, all Muslims,[14] increasing in the 1931 census when it had an all-Muslim population of 723 in 134 houses.[15]

By 1945, this had increased to 1,030 Muslims,[2] with a total of 7,523 dunams of land.[3] Of this, 585 dunums were for plantations or irrigable land, 6,663 dunums were for cereals,[16] while 585 dunams were classified as un-cultivable land.[17]

al-Sawafir al-Gharbiyya had shared a school with the other two Sawafir villages, and in 1945 it had an enrollment of about 280.[18]

1948, aftermath[edit]

In early May, 1948, the inhabitants of the three Al-Sawafir villages were ordered not to flee, by the Al-Majdal National Committee.[19]

On May 18, the Givati Brigade for a second time conquered Al-Sawafir al-Sharqiyya together with Al-Sawafir al-Gharbiyya. Their operational orders were to: "To conquer the villages, to cleanse them of inhabitants (women and children should [also] be expelled), to take several prisoners....[and] to burn the greatest number of houses."[20] The Givati troops torched and blew up several houses, however, after they withdrew, the villages returned.[20] At the 23 May, 1948, Israeli reports say that at all the three Al-Sawafir villages the inhabitants slept in the fields at night, but returned to work in the villages by day.[21] By late June, both Al-Sawafir al-Sharqiyya and Al-Sawafir al-Gharbiyya were again "full of Arabs."[20]

The two Israeli settlements of Merkaz Shappira and Massu'ot Yitzchaq were both established on Al-Sawafir al-Gharbiyya land after the 1948 war.[5]


  1. ^ Palmer, 1881, p. 274
  2. ^ a b Department of Statistics, 1945, p. 32
  3. ^ a b c Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 46
  4. ^ Morris, 2004, p. xix, village #284. Also gives the cause for depopulation.
  5. ^ a b c Khalidi, 1992, p. 133
  6. ^ a b c Eisenberg-Degen, 2016, Es-Sawafir el-Gharbiya
  7. ^ Baumgarten, 2005, Es-Sawafir el-Gharbiya
  8. ^ Dauphin, 1998, p. 869
  9. ^ Fraiberg, 2014, Es-Sawafir el-Gharbiya
  10. ^ a b Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 149
  11. ^ Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 149, as estimated in Khalidi, 1992, p. 133
  12. ^ Guérin, 1869, p. 82
  13. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1882, SWP II, p. 413
  14. ^ Barron, 1923, Table V, Sub-district of Gaza, p. 8
  15. ^ Mills, 1932, p. 6
  16. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 88
  17. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 138
  18. ^ Khalidi, 1992, p. 132
  19. ^ Morris, 2004, p. 179
  20. ^ a b c Morris, 2004, pp. 257, 306
  21. ^ Morris, 2004, pp. 257-258


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