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Ben Yehuda Street bombings

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Car bomb explosion on Ben Yehuda Street, Jerusalem, February 22, 1948

The Ben Yehuda Street bombings refer to a series of attacks perpetrated or ordered by Palestinian Arabs, some of them acting as suicide bombers, on civilians in downtown Jerusalem, from February 1948 onwards. The attacks were carried out on Ben Yehuda Street, a major thoroughfare, later a pedestrian mall, named for the driving spirit behind the creation of Modern Hebrew, Eliezer Ben Yehuda.

1948 (49-58 killed)

1948 Ben Yehuda Street bombing
LocationBen Yehuda Street, Jerusalem
DateFebruary 22, 1948
TargetPedestrian shopping mall
Attack type
car bombs

On February 22, 1948, three British Army trucks led by an armoured car driven by Arab irregulars and British deserters exploded on Ben Yehuda Street killing from 49 to 58 civilians[1][2] and injuring from 140 to 200.[3][4][5][6] The bomb may have been intended to kill members of the Furmans (Palmach convoy escorts) who lodged in the Atlantic and Amdursky Hotels but had left on patrol shortly beforehand.[7] In addition to the two hotels, the Vilenchick Building and the Kupat-Milveh Bank were destroyed.[7] The bomb had been created by Fawzi al-Qutb. The convoy was led by a Jerusalemite militant, 'Azmi al-Ja'uni, who spoke fluent English and could pass himself off as a British officer.[4] Two British deserters, Eddie Brown, a police captain who claimed that the Irgun had killed his brother, and Peter Madison, an army corporal, had been persuaded to join the attack, also by the promise of substantial financial rewards.[8]


A leaflet stating that the explosion was in response to an Irgun bomb attack three days earlier, in Ramla, on the 19th of February, was distributed the following evening. It was signed by Abd al-Qadir, who assumed responsibility for the operation.[3][9] Abd al-Qadir himself, in Cairo the day after, left a statement to Al-Ahram to the same effect and the Army of the Holy War High Command reiterated the declaration in Palestine.[4] Husayn al-Khalidi, secretary of the Arab Higher Committee, deplored the act as 'depravity unfit for the Arab spirit,'[4] while the Committee itself, in an attempt to distance itself from the incident, tried to throw doubt on the authenticity of Abd al-Qadir's public statements.[4]

In the ensuing confusion, Jewish residents immediately blamed the British for the attack. David Ben-Gurion, on visiting the site of the carnage, has been cited as putting some responsibility for this Arab attack on the shoulders of Jewish thugs, stating, "I could not forget that our thugs and murderers had opened the way."[10] The Irgun spread word ordering militants to shoot on sight any Englishman.[11] By day's end, eight British soldiers had been shot dead, while a ninth was murdered while laid up in a Jewish clinic for treatment of a wound.[3] Lehi also reacted several days later by blowing up a train full of British soldiers as it drew out of Rehovot station, killing 27.[3]

The day after, on 23 February, a Jewish offensive, deploying mortars, was launched against the Arab neighbourhood of Musrara, in Jerusalem, killing seven Arabs, including an entire family. The Arabs believed it was in revenge for the Ben-Yehuda Street bombing, though, according to Israeli historian Itamar Radai, at the time the Jews and their official institutions blamed only the British for the incident.[12]

1975 (15 killed)

1975 Ben Yehuda Street Bombing
LocationZion Square, leading onto Ben Yehuda Street, Jerusalem
DateJuly 4, 1975
TargetPedestrian shopping mall
Attack type
time bomb
PerpetratorAhmed Jabara, aka Abu Sukar

On Friday, July 4, 1975, a refrigerator that had five kilograms of explosives packed into its sides exploded on Zion Square, a main city square connecting Ben Yehuda Street and Jaffa Road. Fifteen people were killed and 77 injured in the attack.[13] Ahmad Jabara, who was responsible for placing the bomb, was arrested and sentenced to life and thirty years in prison, but was released by Israel in 2003 after serving 27 years as a gesture to Arafat, who then appointed him his adviser on prisoners affairs.[14] He died in Ramallah in 2013.[14]

On November 13, 1975, an explosive charge went off near Cafe Naveh on Jaffa Road, near the pedestrian mall. Seven people were killed and 45 injured.


September 8, 1971: A grenade was thrown into the entrance of Cafe Alno on Ben Yehuda Street. It did not explode and there were no injuries.


December 12, 1974: An explosive device went off in Ben Yehuda Street. Thirteen people were injured lightly to moderately.


On April 9, 1976, a car bomb was dismantled on Ben Yehuda Street shortly before it was to have exploded.

On May 3, 1976, thirty-three passers-by were injured when a booby-trapped motor scooter exploded at the corner of Ben Yehuda and Ben Hillel Streets. Among those injured were the Greek consul in Jerusalem and his wife. The following day, on the eve of Independence Day, the municipality organized an event at the site of the attack, under the slogan "Nevertheless."[15]

1979 (1 killed)

On January 1, 1979, a car bomb was found opposite Cafe Atara on the pedestrian mall and was neutralized about half an hour before it was to have blown up.

On March 24, 1979, one person was killed and 13 people were injured when an explosive charge blew up in a trash can in Zion Square.


On May 2, 1981, a police sapper was moderately injured by an explosive charge that had been placed in a trash can near Cafe Alno.


On August 15, 1984, a car bomb was discovered on Ben Yehuda Street and defused about 10 minutes before it was to have exploded. In the car were about 12 kilograms of explosives and three kilograms of iron nails.

1997 (5 killed)

1997 Ben Yehuda Street Bombing
LocationBen Yehuda Street, Jerusalem
DateSeptember 4, 1997
TargetPedestrian shopping mall
Attack type
suicide bombers
Deaths5 (+ 3 suicide bombers)

On September 4, 1997, three Hamas suicide bombers simultaneously blew themselves up on the pedestrian mall, killing five Israelis. The bombing was carried out by Palestinians from the village of Asira al-Shamaliya.[16]

Three 14-year-old girls were killed in the attack: Sivann Zarka, Yael Botvin and Smadar Elhanan.[17] Elhanan was the daughter of peace activist Nurit Peled-Elhanan and the granddaughter of Israeli general and politician Mattityahu Peled.

The family of Yael Botvin, a U.S. citizen, filed a lawsuit in the United States against the Islamic Republic of Iran.[18]

A default judgment of $251 million in compensatory and punitive damages was awarded to the relatives of Americans killed in the attack. There were few assets of the Iranian government in the United States following the judgment. The plaintiffs threatened to seize valuable Persian artifacts located in Chicago museums and sell them for proceeds, leading to the Chicago's Persian heritage crisis, as well as suing the account of the Bank Melli Iran in the Bank of New York, but having the United States Department of Justice speak as amicus curiae in support of Bank Melli, advising that the bank had no responsibility for turning the funds over, resulted in a ruling against the students.[19]

2001 (11 killed)

2001 Ben Yehuda Street Bombings
Part of Second Intifada
LocationBen Yehuda Street, Jerusalem
DateDecember 1, 2001
TargetPedestrian shopping mall, responding paramedics
Attack type
suicide bombers and a car bomb
Deaths11 (+ 2 suicide bombers)

On December 1, 2001, two suicide bombers detonated themselves on Ben Yehuda Street, followed by a car bomb set to go off as paramedics arrived.[20][dubious ] The suicide bombers killed eleven victims aged 15 to 21,[21] including a number of soldiers out of uniform,[citation needed][dubious ] and 188 were injured. Hamas claimed responsibility,[21] stating that it was in retaliation for the killing of senior Hamas militant Mahmud Abu Hanoud. A Hamas spokesman in Gaza stated that these bombings did not assuage its lust for vengeance and that it would carry out further bombings.[22][23] Lawsuits were filed against Arab Bank, NatWest and Crédit Lyonnais alleging that they channelled money to Hamas.[24]


  1. ^ Naor, Moshe (2013-08-21). Social Mobilization in the Arab/Israeli War of 1948: On the Israeli Home Front. Routledge. p. 140. ISBN 9781136776489.
  2. ^ Chalk, Peter (2012-11-01). Encyclopedia of Terrorism. ABC-CLIO. p. 113. ISBN 9780313308956.
  3. ^ a b c d Haim Levenberg, Military Preparations of the Arab Community in Palestine, 1945-1948, Psychology Press, 1993 p.202
  4. ^ a b c d e Itamar Radai, Palestinians in Jerusalem and Jaffa, 1948: A Tale of Two Cities,Routledge, 2016 pp.47-48.
  5. ^ Larry Collins, Dominique Lapierre, 'O Jerusalem,' Granada Books 1982 pp.177-183
  6. ^ Joseph, Dov (1960). The faithful city: the siege of Jerusalem, 1948. Simon and Schuster. p. 37. LCCN 60-10976. OCLC 266413. ... it was possible ... [that the] drivers [were] from the more than two hundred deserters who had already joined the Arab force [as opposed to being officially sanctioned by the British Army]
  7. ^ a b Uri Milstein (1998). History of Israel's War of Independence. III. University Press of America. pp. 109–113.
  8. ^ Collins, Lapierre, Oh Jerusalem, pp.179-180.
  9. ^ Radai, p.47, p.63, n.115
  10. ^ Ahron Bregman Israel's Wars: A History Since 1947, Routledge, 2016 p.20, contextualizing the reference as an allusion to the activities of members of the Irgun and the Lehi.
  11. ^ Collins, Lapierre, O Jerusalem!, p.182.
  12. ^ Radai p.51.
  13. ^ Sheleg, Yair (3 December 2001). "A short history of terror". Haaretz. Archived from the original on 2009-05-19.
  14. ^ a b Elior Levy (17 July 2013). "1975 Jerusalem bombing terrorist passes away in Ramallah". Ynetnews. Retrieved 31 May 2020.
  15. ^ "A Short History of Terror". Haaretz.
  16. ^ Democracy Now! | "The Dominion of Death": An Israeli Mother Who Lost Her 13-Year Old Daughter in a Suicide bombing Speaks Out Against Israel Archived November 22, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ The Bombing, a documentary film on the 1997 Ben Yehuda Street bombing Archived 2009-10-20 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Botvin v. Islamic Republic of Iran Archived November 7, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ U.S. Helps Iranian Bank Withdraw, Then Seeks To Freeze Funds, Josh Gerstein, The New York Sun, November 9, 2007
  20. ^ Baum, Noa (2016). A Land Twice Promised: An Israeli Woman's Quest for Peace. Workman Publishing. ISBN 9781944822095. Retrieved 31 May 2020.
  21. ^ a b http://www.mfa.gov.il Archived 2004-06-18 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Israeli blunder kills two children, The Guardian, December 11, 2001.
  23. ^ Bombers leave Arafat facing toughest battle, The Guardian, December 3, 2001.
  24. ^ Preston, Julia (15 April 2006). "Hurt by Hamas, Americans Sue Banks in U.S." New York Times. Retrieved 16 August 2015.

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