Operation Hiram

Operation Hiram

Military Operation
Operation Hiram
Start Date
28 October 1948
End Date
31 October 1948
Zionist Unit(s)
Golani Brigade
Carmeli Brigade
Giv'ati Brigade
Sheva' Brigade
Oded Brigade
Arab Unit(s)

Israeli forces launched Operation Hiram, a full-scale offensive, after the second truce of the war, in late October. According to the New York Times, the sixty-hour campaign was designed "to eliminate the Arab-held bulge descending into Galilee from Lebanon," a reference to the last pocket of Arab resistance in Galilee. Operation Hiram involved units drawn from four different Israeli brigades: Sheva', Carmeli, Golani, and 'Oded. Within three days the whole of Upper Galilee was occupied; the population was either expelled or fled out of fear. Some villages captured during the operation were emptied of their inhabitants immediately, but other villagers were expelled in the following weeks, on the pretext of "clearing" the border. Only a few communities in Upper Galilee remained. This result conformed well with Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion's statement before the cabinet a month earlier. On 26 September, Ben-Gurion predicted that should fighting resume in the north of Palestine, the Galilee would become "clean" and "empty" of Arabs, and implied that he had been assured of this by his generals.

Safsaf (Safad District), some 25 km to the east of Arab al-Samniyya (Acre District) was the first village to be occupied during Operation Hiram. The village had been the headquarters of the Arab Liberation Army's Second Yarmuk Battalion, led by Adib al-Shishakli, according to Palestinian historian Aref al-Aref. It fell before dawn on 29 October 1948; on 30 October, it was the scene of one of several massacres committed during the operation. Two platoons of armored cars and a tank company from the Sheva' (Seventh) Brigade attacked the village.

Forces on the eastern and western fronts converged in a pincer movement at Sa'sa' (also in Safad District, 20 km to the east of Arab al-Samniyya) around noon on 30 October. The following day, an Israeli army spokesman, quoted in the New York Times, said that several hundred of the area's defenders had been killed and another several hundred taken prisoner. In the words of Israel Galili, former head of the Haganah National Staff, acts of "mass murder" were committed in Sa'sa'.

As units of the Golani Brigade's First Battalion advanced on the southern front of Operation Hiram, they met units of the 'Oded Brigade moving eastwards at the Suhmata junction. According to the official Israeli military account, the villagers of Suhmata clashed with the invading Israeli forces. The History of the War of Independence states: "In the beginning, the village of Suhmata showed some resistance, but it was occupied after being encircled by an infantry platoon." United Nations officials observing the operation on 1 November found the villages around Tarshiha (2 km from Suhmata and 10 km southeast of Arab al-Samniyya) to be deserted and "reported the extensive looting of villages and the carrying away of goats, sheep and mules by the Israeli forces." The New York Times quoted the UN report, which added: "The looting appeared to the observers to have been systematic, army trucks being used. This situation has created a new influx of refugees into Lebanon."

At the end of Operation Hiram, on 30-31 October 1948, the participating units were ordered to extend their control along the length of the border with Lebanon, after having conquered a large area in the Upper Galilee. The village of Arab al-Samniyya was probably occupied at this time, when the 'Oded Brigade advanced westwards toward the coast along the road parallel to the border. On 31 October it took a number of other villages, such as Iqrit and Tarbikha.

 

Selected bibliography

The New York Times. 1 November 1948, 7 November 1948.

al-Aref, Aref. Al-Nakba [The Catastrophe]. 6 Volumes. Beirut and Sidon: al-Maktaba al-Asriyya. 1956-1960, p. 305.

Morris, Benny. The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem 1947-1949. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978, p. xiv, 217-19, 224-26, 230-31 ff., 237 ff., 350 (n. 37).

Nazzal, Nafez. The Palestinian Exodus from Galilee, 1948. Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1978, pp. 43-45, 95-96.

Israeli Ministry of Defense. Toldot Milchemet ha-Qomemiyyut [The History of the War of Independence]. Tel Aviv: Marakhot, 1959, pp. 321-26.