|Name meaning||"The northern nomads"|
|Also spelled||al-Sawafir al-Halil, Suafir Ibn Audeh, Saouafir ech-Chemalieh Saouafir, Abou -A'ouarr, Sawalir Shamali Sawafir esh Shamaliya|
|Date of depopulation||May 18, 1948|
|Cause(s) of depopulation||Fear of being caught up in the fighting|
Al-Sawafir al-Shamaliyya (Arabic: السوافير الشمالية) was a Palestinian Arab village in the Gaza Subdistrict, located 33 kilometers (21 mi) northeast of Gaza situated along the southern coastal plain of Palestine 50 meters (160 ft) above sea level. It had a population of 680 in 1945. Al-Sawafir al-Shamaliyya was depopulated in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
The village was possibly located at the site of the biblical Shafir, mentioned by Eusibius as a "beautiful town" between Ascalon and Bayt Jibrin. Most modern scholars, however, located Shafir at Khirbat al-Qawm. The Crusader name of the village was Zeophir. They recorded that it was the property of Bishop of Jerusalem in the early 12th century.
Incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in 1517 with the rest of Palestine, Al-Sawafir al-Shamaliya appears in the 1596 tax records as "Sawafir al-Halil". It was under the administration of the nahiya of Gaza, part of the Liwa of Gaza. The village contained 112 households, 71 were Muslim and 41 Christians. With a total population of 616, the village paid taxes on wheat, barley, olive and fruit trees.
In 1863, French explorer Victor Guérin visited the village, which he estimated had five hundred inhabitants. He found three barrels of broken ancient columns of gray-white marble near a well. A koubbeh there was dedicated to a Sheikh Sidi Abd-Allah.
In the late 19th century, al-Sawafir al-Shamaliyya had several small gardens and wells.
Britiah Mandate era
In the 1922 census of Palestine conducted by the British Mandate authorities, the village had a population of 333 Muslims and 1 Christian, increasing in the 1931 census to an all-Muslim population of 454 in 77 houses.
In 1945 the population of Sawafir esh Shamaliya was 680 Arabs, while the total land area was 5,861 dunams, according to an official land and population survey. Of this, a total of 670 dunams were used citrus and bananas, 10 were for plantations and irrigable land, 4,894 for cereals, while 21 dunams were built-up areas.
Many of its houses were built of adobe, although few were made of stone. The residents were Muslim, and the village had its own mosque, but shared a school with the neighboring villages of al-Sawafir al-Gharbiyya and al-Sawafir al-Sharqiyya. The number of students in the school was 280 in the mid-1940s. Agriculture was the mainstay of the economy, and grain, citrus, grapes, and apricots were grown.
1948 War and aftermath
Al-Sawafir al-Shamaliyya was captured by the Haganah in Operation Barak on May 12. Its residents may have been pushed out by the attack on Bayt Daras on May 10 which was preceded by a mortar attack, but it's more likely that the village was depopulated on the attack of the village itself, according to an Associated Press dispatch which quoted a Haganah source. At the near end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Egyptian and Sudanese forces planned to recapture al-Sawafir al-Shamaliyya, but were prevented from doing so at an early stage.
There are no Jewish settlements on the village's lands. Shafir is close to the village site, but is on land belonging to Al-Sawafir al-Sharqiyya. According to Palestinian historian, Walid Khalidi, "A few vacant houses and segments of houses, standing amidst wild vegetation, mark the site. One of them has a covered porch supported on two columns. An old village road is also identifiable, and cactuses and fig trees grow on the site."
- Also called Suafir Ibn Audeh, the nomads of Ibn Audeh (personal name); but this is said to be a modern name, from an inhabitant who died within the century, according to Palmer, 1881, p. 274
- Guérin, 1869, p. 82
- Barron, 1923, Table V, Sub-district of Gaza, p.8
- Mills, 1932, p. 6
- Morris, 2004, p.xix, village #283. Also gives the cause for depopulation.
- Khalidi, 1992, pp.133-134.
- Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 151
- Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 151, as estimated in Khalidi, 1992, p. 134
- Conder and Kitchener, 1882, SWP II, p. 413. Quoted in Khalidi, 1992, 134
- Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 46
- Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 88
- Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 138
- also known as Massu'ot Yitzhak. Morris, 2004, p. xxi, settlement #64, established in 1949
- Khalidi, 1992, p.135
- Barron, J. B., ed. (1923). Palestine: Report and General Abstracts of the Census of 1922 (PDF). Government of Palestine.
- Conder, Claude Reignier; Kitchener, H. H. (1882). The Survey of Western Palestine: Memoirs of the Topography, Orography, Hydrography, and Archaeology 2. London: Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund.
- Guérin, Victor (1869). Description Géographique Historique et Archéologique de la Palestine. 1: Judee, pt. 2.
- Hadawi, Sami (1970). Village Statistics of 1945: A Classification of Land and Area ownership in Palestine. Palestine Liberation Organization Research Center.
- Hütteroth, Wolf-Dieter; Abdulfattah, Kamal (1977). Historical Geography of Palestine, Transjordan and Southern Syria in the Late 16th Century. Erlanger Geographische Arbeiten, Sonderband 5. Erlangen, Germany: Vorstand der Fränkischen Geographischen Gesellschaft. ISBN 3-920405-41-2.
- Khalidi, Walid (1992). All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948. Washington D.C.: Institute for Palestine Studies. ISBN 0-88728-224-5.
- Mills, E., ed. (1932). Census of Palestine 1931. Population of Villages, Towns and Administrative Areas (PDF). Jerusalem: Government of Palestine.
- Morris, Benny (2004). The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-00967-7.
- Palmer, E. H. (1881). The Survey of Western Palestine: Arabic and English Name Lists Collected During the Survey by Lieutenants Conder and Kitchener, R. E. Transliterated and Explained by E.H. Palmer. Committee of the Palestine Exploration Fund.
- Welcome To al-Sawafir al-Shamaliyya
- Survey of Western Palestine, Map 16: IAA, Wikimedia commons
- al-Sawafir al-Shamaliyya from the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center