Night of the Bridges

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Night of the Bridges (formally Operation Markolet) was a Haganah venture on the night of 16 to 17 June 1946 in the British Mandate of Palestine, as part of the Jewish insurgency in Palestine (1944–7). Its aim was to destroy eleven bridges linking Mandatory Palestine to the neighboring countries Lebanon, Syria, Transjordan and Egypt, in order to suspend the transportation routes used by the British Army. Attacks on a further three bridges had been considered, but were not executed.

Only one operation failed: the Palmach, the elite fighting force of the Haganah, suffered 14 killed and 5 injured at the Nahal Akhziv bridges. The other operations succeeded without injuries.

To disguise and protect the real operations and to confuse the British forces, around 50 diversion operations and ambushes were carried out throughout the country on the same night. The confusion also allowed the Palmach members to escape more easily after completion of the operations.


The Haganah started the preparations in January–February 1946. First, the SHAI (Hagana Intelligence Service), Palmach patrols and forces scheduled to carry out the operation began spotting, photographing and measuring the targets but also exploring possible access and escape paths. They were disguised as lovers enjoying nature or as people on geography excursions.

Originally, the operation should have taken place in May, but due to political reasons it was postponed.

The political leadership forbade an attack on four targets: the railway bridge between the Ras an-Nakura tunnels, and the three bridges over the Jordan and Yarmuk Rivers leading to the Naharayim power plant.

Spared bridges[edit]

Bridge Type To country Coordinates Reason
Bridge between Ras an-Nakura tunnels, Ras an-Nakura (Rosh HaNikra) railway Lebanon Lebanon 33°05′41″N 35°06′16″E / 33.09472°N 35.10444°E / 33.09472; 35.10444 Restoring the tunnel would be too difficult and it was within Lebanon
Over the Yarmuk, near Gesher railway Jordan Jordan 32°38′42″N 35°34′22″E / 32.64500°N 35.57278°E / 32.64500; 35.57278 Led to the power station in Naharayim
Jisr Majami over the Jordan, near Gesher railway Jordan Jordan 32°38′06″N 35°33′57″E / 32.63500°N 35.56583°E / 32.63500; 35.56583 Led to the power station in Naharayim


Yarmouk bridge ruins

The planners knew that the operation could not cause heavy damage, and that it would only take some weeks for the connections to be restored.[1] The real targets were:[citation needed]

  • demonstration of the ability of the Haganah to operate throughout the country, even in deserted areas or at the center of the Arab population
  • demonstration of the ability to sabotage the British Army's operations
  • demonstration of the ability of the Haganah to discourage neighboring armies from future involvement
  • harming the British Army's prestige as the most powerful force in the Middle East and damaging the legitimacy of the British Mandate
  • strengthening and encouraging the Jewish population in Palestine, and showing the Haganah as being as active as the Irgun and Lehi groups


The objectives were fully achieved. The Haganah could hit multiple strategic targets at the same time. As a precaution, the Syrian, Lebanese and Trans-Jordanian armies were put on standby, and the borders were tightened. The British Mandate lost a lot of its prestige and suffered financial damage of 250,000 pounds sterling. Twelve days after the attack, the British authorities retaliated by imposing a curfew on Jewish communities and launching a security operation known as Operation Agatha. Despite the involvement of 20,000 British troops and the arrest of 3,000 Jews, no major damage was done to the Haganah.[2]

Targeted bridges[edit]

Bridge type to country coordinates details
Over Ayun Stream, at Metula road Lebanon Lebanon 33°17′0″N 35°34′52″E / 33.28333°N 35.58111°E / 33.28333; 35.58111 was unguarded
NW of Metula road Lebanon Lebanon 33°17′14″N 35°33′58″E / 33.28722°N 35.56611°E / 33.28722; 35.56611 executed discreetly
Over Nahal Kziv railway Lebanon Lebanon 33°03′02″N 35°06′11.5″E / 33.05056°N 35.103194°E / 33.05056; 35.103194 forces were spotted, explosives were laid under fire, operation failed, 14 dead and 5 injured
Over Nahal Kziv road Lebanon Lebanon 33°03′02″N 35°06′15.5″E / 33.05056°N 35.104306°E / 33.05056; 35.104306 called off following the heavy casualties taken during the attack on the nearby railway bridge
Daughters of Jacob/Bnot Ya'akov Bridge road Syria Syria 33°0′37″N 35°37′42″E / 33.01028°N 35.62833°E / 33.01028; 35.62833 executed discreetly
Over the Yarmuk railway Syria Syria 32°40′47″N 35°38′58″E / 32.67972°N 35.64944°E / 32.67972; 35.64944 was unguarded; never repaired since
Sheikh Hussein Bridge over the Jordan road Jordan Jordan 32°29′49″N 35°34′32″E / 32.49694°N 35.57556°E / 32.49694; 35.57556 executed discreetly
Damiya Bridge (Adam) over the Jordan road Jordan Jordan 32°06′10″N 35°32′06″E / 32.10278°N 35.53500°E / 32.10278; 35.53500 executed discreetly
Allenby Bridge over the Jordan road Jordan Jordan 31°52′28″N 35°32′26″E / 31.87444°N 35.54056°E / 31.87444; 35.54056 forces were spotted, explosives were laid under fire
Over Besor Stream, Gaza road Kingdom of Egypt Egypt 31°27′20″N 34°24′53″E / 31.45556°N 34.41472°E / 31.45556; 34.41472 forces were spotted, explosives were laid under fire
Over Besor Stream, Gaza railway Kingdom of Egypt Egypt 31°27′27″N 34°24′44″E / 31.45750°N 34.41222°E / 31.45750; 34.41222 forces were spotted, explosives were laid under fire

Two weeks later, on 29 June 1946, partly in response to the bridge bombings, the British launched Operation Agatha, whose main goal was to suppress the state of anarchy in Palestine by capturing the most militant Zionists. During that surprise action, more than 2,700 Jews were arrested, including the senior leadership of the Haganah. The British obtained documentary evidence of Jewish Agency involvement in paramilitary acts and collusion between the Haganah and the more violent groups, Irgun and Lehi. Operation Agatha led to the formation of the Jewish Resistance Movement, one of whose acts was the King David Hotel bombing on 22 July 1946, an attack on the British administration headquarters for Palestine, where it was thought that incriminating documentation seized during Operation Agatha was being held.

External links[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Allon, Yigal (1970) Shield of David - The Story of Israel's Armed Forces. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 0-297-00133-7. Page 178.