Gush Etzion Convoy

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From November 1947 the roads to the four kibbutzim of Gush Etzion ("The Etzion Bloc"), south of Jerusalem were blockaded by militias from neighbouring villages. The Haganah used a strategy of armed convoys to get supplies to the outposts. The initial convoys to the bloc used open pickup trucks ("tenders"), since the British claimed that armored vehicles would irritate the Arabs. The convoys were accompanied by official Mandate police "monitors" (notrim) in uniform.

11 December 1947[edit]

The "Convoy of Ten" was the first failed attempt using this method. Its four vehicles were ambushed on the main road north of King Solomon's pools on December 11, 1947. Ten of the convoy personnel were killed, four injured and only four escaped unhurt. On December 14 an additional person was killed in another attack on a convoy. The Haganah then decided that henceforth it would use armored "sandwich" vehicles in the convoys.

16 January 1948[edit]

Main article: Convoy of 35

The "Convoy of 35": As an alternative to the Jerusalem road the Palmach attempted to reach the settlements from the west. Thirty-five members of the platoon were massacred when they were attacked by militiamen from Surif.

27 March 1948[edit]

The "Nabi Daniel Convoy" refers to a large group ambushed on their way back to Jerusalem on 27 March 1948. The Scotsman newspaper's correspondent Eric Downton described the incident:

The first battle ended this evening when British troops rescued the survivors of the Jewish convoy which was trapped near Solomon's Pools, a mile or so from Bethlehem. Greatly outnumbered, the Jews had fought off constant attacks. They received supplies and assistance from the Jewish planes, which went into action for the first time, attacking and bombing the Arabs and dropping food, water and ammunition to the defenders. Throughout Saturday night Haganah relief forces from Jerusalem tried to break past the Arabs, but the steep, boulder-strewn hills gave cover to the attacking guerrillas, and the relief forces were forced back. A British task force was also compelled to return to Jerusalem on Saturday night after encountering roads heavily mined and obstructed by many blocks. The battle near Bethlehem began on Saturday morning after a convoy of forty trucks with a heavy guard of Haganah troops - men and women - had made a surprise dash from Jerusalem to the isolated Jewish colony Kfar and Zion [sic, Kfar Etzion] in the hills eight miles north of Hebron. They delivered their cargo of goods and munitions, but ran into a trap on the return journey. The Arabs had blocked the road with piles of rocks at short intervals, and also laid extensive minefields, while hundreds of guerrillas lay in wait on the steep hillsides. Half the convoy returned to Kfar and Zion [sic, Kfar Etzion], while the remainder tried to plough forward under heavy fire. The Jews made a stand in a large stone house in the valley near Solomon's Pools, ranging some of their trucks around the building to form a defence perimeter. Armoured cars of the Light Guards with two-pounder guns and troops of the Suffolk Regiment broke through Arab road blocks to the scene of the fighting. Some 200 British troops took up position a mile and a half from the besieged Jews, but did not intervene. The Arabs warned the British if they tried to help the Jews they would be attacked. Meanwhile, British HQ in Jerusalem arranged a truce with Arab leaders. By this means 100 Haganah men and 10 women were rescued from the stone house. The Jews armed with rifles and sten guns, appeared cautiously at the doorway when the British reached the house. The Arab fire stopped, but hundreds of riflemen came from the surrounding hills. They were kept off by the British and the Jews came out and were protected by the British troops. The Jews had been in radio contact with the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem. They were told that the terms of the truce were that arms must be surrendered. At first they refused to give up their arms, but eventually handed them over to the British. The Jews in the besieged house had suffered 50 per cent casualties. Forty-five wounded lay crowded on the floors. There were also the bodies of four dead. The Haganah leader in the house said : 'We had about ten women among us in the house, but none of them were hurt. Although bullets were whizzing all night long and causing mounting casualties. We had no food, as only seven or eight of our lorries managed to reach the house, and we formed them into a protective barrier. We started out with 35 lorries and 14 armoured cars, and now we are left with seven or eight lorries and about six armoured cars. The rest were wrecked by the Arabs.' When the rescued Jews were loaded on to army lorries and ambulances there were found to be 210, according to a senior police officer with the army convoy.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Scotsman, Monday 29 March 1948