Dayr Sunayd

Dayr Sunayd — دَيْر سُنَيْد
Average Elevation
50 m
Distance from Gaza
12 km
Year Arab Total
1931 475
1944/45 730 730
Land Ownership (1944/45) in dunums
Year Arab Jewish Public Total
1944/45 5089 483 509 6081
Land Use (1944/45) in dunums
Use Arab Jewish Public Total
Non-Cultivable & Built-up (Total)
Use Arab Public Total
Built-up 13 13
Non-Cultivable 45 490 535
58 490 548 (9%)
Cultivable (Total)
Use Arab Jewish Public Total
Citrus and Bananas 158 158
Plantation and Irrigable 512 512
Cereal 4361 483 19 4863
5031 483 19 5533 (91%)
Number of Houses (1931)

The village was situated on the coastal plain, not far from the seashore, between Wadi al-Abd (to the north) and Wadi al-Hasi (to the south). Because it was located next to the coastal highway and had a station on the coastal railway line, Dayr Sunayd had easy access to Gaza in the south and the city of al-Majdal in the north. The first part of the village name, 'Dayr' (monastery in Arabic), suggests that a Christian monastic order, if not a Christian lay population, resided there at some time. 'Sunayd' was the name of an Arab tribe. In 1596, Dayr Sunayd was a village in the nahiya of Gaza (liwa' of Gaza), with a population of sixty-six. It paid taxes on a number of crops, including wheat, barely, and fruit, as well as on other types of produce, such as goats and beehives.

In the late nineteenth century, Dayr Sunayd was a moderate-sized village that was rectangular in shape, split into four quadrants by two roads that crossed at right angles. The village had adobe brick houses, wells, gardens, and a pond, and at its center was a mosque. By the end of the Mandate, construction had expanded west toward the coastal highway. A school was opened in 1945 with an enrollment of sixty-three students, and a number of small shops were opened there as well. Agriculture was the mainstay of Dayr Sunayd's economy. Grain fields were concentrated on the south side of the village, while fruits and vegetables were planted to the northeast and northwest. In 1944/45 a total of 158 dunums was devoted to citrus and bananas and 4,361 dunums were planted in cereals; 512 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards. Eight wells were drilled at depths ranging from 14 to 30 m. Apart from agriculture, commerce was a source of income for some of the inhabitants.

The date on which Dayr Sunayd was occupied cannot be specified with certainty, but the village was probably captured by Israeli forces in late October or early November 1948. Dayr Sunayd had come under aerial bombardment at the beginning of Operation Yoav on 15–16 October, according to Israeli historian Benny Morris. The New York Times reported that it was 'pummeled' again on 21 October. During the final stages of that operation at the end of October, the Israeli army advanced along the coastal road after the withdrawal of Egyptian forces and occupied al-Majdal, the city to the north of Dayr Sunayd, on 4 November.

The village had also witnessed fighting in the early stages of the war, as Egyptian and Jewish forces battled for control of the village and the nearby settlement of Yad Mordekhay shortly after 15 May 1948. The late Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, who was a junior officer at the time, reported that he spent the night of 19 May in Gaza Military Hospital, where 'the beds around me were filled with our wounded from the battle of Deir Suneid, which was still in progress.' Abd al-Nasir was critical of the Egyptian command's strategy at Dayr Sunayd, but the battle ended in an Egyptian victory 'after heavy sacrifices and in spite of all the difficulties which our forces encountered. Abd al-Hakim Amir, a colleague of Abd al-Nasir's who later became commander of the Egyptian Armed Forces, participated in the battle of Dayr Sunayd with the Ninth Battalion of the Egyptian Army. The New York Times quoted the Egyptian Defense Ministry as saying that there was a 'Jewish fortified settlement' near the village, which Egyptian forces entered on 20 May 1948, after an aerial, artillery, and infantry attack.

There are no Israeli settlements on village lands. The settlement of Yad Mordekhay was established in 1943 just to the north of village lands.

A railroad bridge, unused segments of track, and three of the train station's buildings are all that remain of Dayr Sunayd. The stone bridge is built astride a wadi and passes over four wide, round-arched culverts. The station's buildings are deserted and in a state of deterioration. Cactuses, eucalyptus trees, and thorny plants grow on the site. The surrounding lands are cultivated.