Al-Sawafir al-Shamaliyya

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al-Sawafir al-Shamaliyya
al-Sawafir al-Shamaliyya is located in Mandatory Palestine
al-Sawafir al-Shamaliyya
al-Sawafir al-Shamaliyya
Arabic السوافير الشمالية
Name meaning "The northern nomads"[1]
Also spelled al-Sawafir al-Halil, Suafir Ibn Audeh,[1] Saouafir ech-Chemalieh Saouafir,[2] Abou -A'ouarr,[2] Sawalir Shamali,[3] Sawafir esh Shamaliya,[4] sawafir ode[5]
Subdistrict Gaza
Coordinates 31°42′48″N 34°42′15″E / 31.71333°N 34.70417°E / 31.71333; 34.70417Coordinates: 31°42′48″N 34°42′15″E / 31.71333°N 34.70417°E / 31.71333; 34.70417
Palestine grid 122/124
Population 680[6][7] (1945)
Area 5,861[7] dunams
5.9 km²
Date of depopulation May 18, 1948[8]
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.[9]


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.[9]

Ottoman era[edit]

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.[10] With a total population of 616, the village paid taxes on wheat, barley, olive and fruit trees.[11]

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.[2]

An Ottoman village list of about 1870 found 55 houses and a population of 171, though the population count included men only.[5]

In 1882 the Palestine Exploration Fund's Survey of Western Palestine (SWP) found that al-Sawafir al-Shamaliyya had several small gardens and wells.[12]

British Mandate era[edit]

In the 1922 census of Palestine conducted by the British Mandate authorities, the village had a population of 334 inhabitants, consisting of 333 Muslims and 1 Christian,[3] increasing in the 1931 census to an all-Muslim population of 454 in 77 houses.[4]

In 1945 the population of Sawafir esh Shamaliya was 680 Muslims,[6] while the total land area was 5,861 dunams, according to an official land and population survey.[7] Of this, a total of 670 dunams were used citrus and bananas, 10 were for plantations and irrigable land, 4,894 for cereals,[13] while 21 dunams were built-up areas.[14]

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.[9]

1948 War and 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.[15]

Al-Sawafir al-Shamaliyya was captured by the Haganah in Operation Barak on May 12.[16] 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.[9] 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.[17]

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.[9]

There are no Jewish settlements on the village's lands. Shafir is close to the village site,[18] but is on land belonging to Al-Sawafir al-Sharqiyya.[19] 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."[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b 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
  2. ^ a b c Guérin, 1869, p. 82
  3. ^ a b Barron, 1923, Table V, Sub-district of Gaza, p.8
  4. ^ a b Mills, 1932, p. 6
  5. ^ a b Socin, 1879, p. 160
  6. ^ a b Department of Statistics, 1945, p. 32
  7. ^ a b c Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 46
  8. ^ Morris, 2004, p. xix, village #283. Also gives the cause for depopulation.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Khalidi, 1992, pp. 133-134.
  10. ^ Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 151
  11. ^ Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 151, as estimated in Khalidi, 1992, p. 134
  12. ^ Conder and Kitchener, 1882, SWP II, p. 413. Quoted in Khalidi, 1992, 134
  13. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 88
  14. ^ Government of Palestine, Department of Statistics. Village Statistics, April, 1945. Quoted in Hadawi, 1970, p. 138
  15. ^ Morris, 2004, p. 179
  16. ^ Morris, 2004, p. 256
  17. ^ Morris, 2004, pp. 257-258
  18. ^ also known as Massu'ot Yitzhak. Morris, 2004, p. xxi, settlement #64, established in 1949
  19. ^ Khalidi, 1992, p.135


External links[edit]