Night of the Bridges
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 eight bridges linking Mandatory Palestine to the neighbouring countries Lebanon, Syria, Jordan 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.
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 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.
|Bridge between Ras an-Nakura tunnels, Ras an-Nakura (Rosh HaNikra)||railway||Lebanon||Restoring the tunnel would be too difficult and it was within Lebanon|
|Over the Yarmuk, near Gesher||railway||Jordan||Led to the power station in Naharayim|
|Over the Jordan, near Gesher||railway||Jordan||Led to the power station in Naharayim|
The planners knew that the operation could not cause heavy damage, and that it would take some weeks for the connections to be restored. The real targets were:
- 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 operation
- 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 accomplished. The Haganah could hit 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 a damage of 250,000 pound 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.
|Over Ayun Stream, at Metula||road||Lebanon||was unguarded|
|NW of Metula||road||Lebanon||executed discreetly|
|Over Nahal Kziv||railway||Lebanon||forces were spotted, explosives were laid under fire, operation failed, 14 dead and 5 injured|
|Over Nahal Kziv||road||Lebanon||called off following the heavy casualties taken during the attack on the nearby railway bridge|
|Daughters of Jacob/Bnot Ya'akov Bridge||road||Syria||executed discreetly|
|Over the Yarmuk||railway||Syria||was unguarded; never repaired since|
|Sheikh Hussein Bridge over the Jordan||road||Jordan||executed discreetly|
|Damiya Bridge (Adam) over the Jordan||road||Jordan||executed discreetly|
|Allenby Bridge over the Jordan||road||Jordan||forces were spotted, explosives were laid under fire|
|Over Besor Stream, Gaza||road||Egypt||forces were spotted, explosives were laid under fire|
|Over Besor Stream, Gaza||railway||Egypt||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.