PLace

Kawkaba

Place
Kawkaba — كَوْكَبا
District
Gaza
Average Elevation
100 m
Subdistrict
Gaza
Distance from Gaza
25 km
Population
Year Arab Total
1944/45 680 680
1931 522 522
Land Ownership (1944/45) in dunums
Year Arab Public Total
1944/45 8386 156 8542
Land Use (1944/45) in dunums
Use Arab Public Total
Non-Cultivable & Built-up (Total)
Use Arab Public Total
Non-Cultivable 14 153 167
Built-up 40 40
54 153 207 (2%)
Cultivable (Total)
Use Arab Public Total
Cereal 8166 3 8169
Plantation and Irrigable 166 116
8332 3 8335 (98%)
Number of Houses (1931)
121

The village was situated on an uneven stretch of red-brown soil on the southern coastal plain. It lay on a highway constructed by the British during World War II, which paralleled and fed the coastal highway and passed through Gaza and Julis (see also Julis, Gaza District). The site was known during the Crusades as Coquebel. In 1596 Kawkab, a site identified with Kawkaba, was a village with 88 people. It paid taxes on wheat, barley, sesame, fruit trees, and vineyards.

The modem village was built around the middle of the nineteenth century on the site of a khirba that bore the same name. In the late 1800s, the village of Kawkaba had a rectangular layout along the above-mentioned road, and expanded north-south alongside it; it had a well to the west and a pool to the north. Kawkaba shared an elementary school with the villages of Bayt Tima and Hulayqat. Its houses were made of adobe and cement, and its shops were located at the village center, on the western side of the road. On its eastern lands were two water sources: a spring and a 70-m-deep well. The inhabitants of Kawkaba, who were Muslims, engaged in rainfed agriculture, cultivating grain and winter and summer vegetables. Toward the end of the Mandate they also cultivated fruits, such as figs and grapes, on all their lands except those to the west. In 1944/45 a total of 8,166 dunums was allotted to cereals; 166 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards.

Kawkaba contained an archeological site with a pool, cisterns, the foundations of buildings, columns, and severed capitals. North of it was Khirbat Kamas (117115), which was identified with the Crusader Camsa and which yielded some archaeological artifacts.

Israeli historian Benny Morris writes that the villagers fled westwards to Gaza on 13 May 1948, as a result of the destruction of the nearby village of Burayr, which was carried out during Operation Barak (see al-Batani al-Gharbi, Gaza District). But some inhabitants seem to have remained in Kawkaba, for the History of the Haganah claims that the villagers left in October 1948, during Operation Yo'av (see Barbara, Gaza District).

The war reached Kawkaba well before these events, however. The Palestinian newspaper Filastin reported that a clash took place on 11 January on the road outside the village. The clash erupted when an armed Jewish convoy was attacked by Arab fighters, who lost one man in the two-hour skirmish.

An Egyptian account complements the Israeli versions of Kawkaba's occupation, claiming that the village was first occupied by Israel on 14 June 1948, in violation of the first truce of the war. Egyptian author Muhammad 'Abd al-Mun'im writes that the villagers were expelled at this time. Relying on Egyptian official records, he adds that Kawkaba was recaptured on 8 July by the Egyptian Second Infantry Battalion, with the help of a Saudi company, just as the first truce was ending. It apparently remained in Arab hands until the end of the second truce, on 18–19 October. The New York Times reported that, on 20 October, the Israeli army announced the capture of Kawkaba, along with Bayt Tima and Hulayqat. Thus, the village changed hands no less than three times in the course of the war, and the inhabitants were probably displaced in stages.

The settlement of Kokhav Mikha'el (118115) was founded in 1950 on village lands, southeast of the village site.

The site is overgrown with sycamore and Christ's-thorn trees. The old road, as well as crumbled walls and debris in a wooded part of the site are clearly visible. The land in the vicinity is cultivated by Israeli farmers.