Operation Dani

Operation Dani

Military Operation
Operation Dani
Start Date
09 July 1948
End Date
18 July 1948
Zionist Unit(s)
Alexandroni Brigade
Kiryati Brigade
Etziyyoni Brigade
Har'el Brigade
Yiftach Brigade
Arab Unit(s)
Egyptian Forces
Iraqi Forces

Operation Dani—the largest offensive to be launched during the Ten Days between the two truces of the war—was designed to expand the Jewish-held corridor to Jerusalem. It was carried out in two stages: in the first stage (9-12 July) the cities of Lydda and Ramla were captured, and in the second stage (13-18 July) the Israeli troops gained control of the Ramallah-al-Latrun highway.

The first stage was carried out by a composite force consisting of three Palmach brigades (Har'el, Yiftach, and the Eighth, or Armored) and two infantry battalions, one from the Kiryati Brigade and another (the Third Infantry Battalion) from the Alexandroni Brigade. Units from the Yiftach Brigade approached Lydda and Ramla from the south while troops from the other brigades approached from the north, seizing the villages in their paths.

The plan for the first stage in the operation was to use the village of al-Barriyya, in Ramla District, as the launching point for an Israeli unit that would surround Lydda and Ramla and cut the towns off from their hinterland. After encircling the two cities in a pincer movement, Israeli units launched an attack against Lydda, which fell on the evening of 10 July. After occupying Lydda, these forces proceeded to fan out into the town's hinterland, overrunning a number of villages in both the Lydda-Ramla Plain and the western approaches to Jerusalem.

Many of the villages occupied were systematically destroyed shortly after they were captured, according to Israeli historian Benny Morris. On 10 July operational headquarters ordered the Yiftach and Eighth brigades to blow up most of the houses of al-Tira, leaving a few houses intact to accommodate a small garrison. The Yiftach Brigade's orders were, in the words of Benny Morris, "to dig in in every place captured and to destroy every house not intended for occupation [by Israeli troops]." Neighboring Innaba received the same treatment. The New York Times reported that "al-Yahudiyya" (al-Abbasiyya) and Rantiyya (both in Jaffa District), and Qula (in Ramla District) were also occupied at this time. No mention is made of the villagers, who either fled under attack or were expelled upon the entry of the troops.

Ramla was attacked and occupied on 12 July. On the same day, some Israeli units were deployed northwards to secure the operation's northern flank. The Second Battalion of the Alexandroni Brigade occupied Majdal Yaba, wresting control of this village from the Iraqi forces defending it.

After this, the second phase of Operation Dani began, spilling over into the Jerusalem corridor. The Har'el Brigade was charged with the occupation of a number of villages further east. According to the History of the War of Independence, the initial plan was to occupy both al-Latrun and Ramallah and gain complete control of the Jerusalem road.

Israeli forces were ordered to attack Bayt Nabala, where the Arab Legion had stationed a second-line company (of around 120-150 soldiers), after the capture of Lydda and Ramla. On 13 July 1948, the residents of Lydda were expelled from their city and many were directed by Israeli soldiers to go to Bayt Nabala (which was still in Arab hands). Bayt Nabala was taken later that day after a "stiff' fight in which armored cars were used by both sides, according to the wire services. The next day, it was reported to be a no man's land, but "no longer a threat to Lydda or Ramleh," both of which were in Israeli hands.

The Israelis occupied Barfiliya, Bir Ma'in, al-Burj, and Salbit on 15 July 1948. The following day, the Arab Legion tried to regain control of Barfiliya, al-Burj, and Salbit with two infantry platoons and an armored column of ten tanks, as related by the History of the War of Independence. That account reads:

The tanks approached el Burj and our men let them advance towards the village's houses and then opened fire with anti-tank weapons. After a four-hour long battle, the enemy withdrew, taking some killed and wounded and leaving on the battlefield 4 armoured vehicles and a number of their dead. Meanwhile, our mortars and heavy machineguns opened fire on the enemy infantry, but they withdrew before we could complete their encirclement.

Palestinian historian Aref al-Aref states that the attempt to recapture al-Burj blocked the advance of Israeli forces along this axis. Estimates of the number of casualties for the battle diverge considerably. According to the History of the War of Independence, thirty Arabs were killed and fifty wounded, with three Jews killed and another seven wounded. But al-Aref states that seven Arabs were killed and six were missing and presumed dead, while three were wounded. The Associated Press reported that, on the following day, Israeli forces quartered in Bir Ma'in and al-Burj put the al-Latrun-Ramallah highway under small arms fire.

As the second truce drew near and forces in the area were demarched to other fronts, the operation's commander decided to isolate al-Latrun from its hinterland and attack it from the east. The force assigned to isolate the village failed, sustaining nineteen casualties in a confrontation with the Arab Legion, according to the official Israel version. The sixth and final attempt to take al-Latrun, just before the second truce on 18 July, involved a direct frontal assault by units of the Yiftach Brigade. The Yiftach forces were equipped with a number of armored vehicles, including two Cromwell tanks, just dispatched from the northern sector. But this effort also failed due to technical difficulties with one of the tanks.


Selected bibliography

The New York Times. 11 July 1948, 13 July 1948, 14 July 1948, 15 July 1948, 17 July 1948, 18 July 1948, 19 July 1948, 21 July 1948, 11 August 1948.

al-Aref, Aref. Al-Nakba [The Catastrophe]. 6 Volumes. Beirut and Sidon: al-Maktaba al-Asriyya. 1956-1960, p. 514.

Israeli Ministry of Defense. Toldot Milchemet ha-Qomemiyyut [The History of the War of Independence]. Tel Aviv: Marakhot, 1959, p. 254 ff., 255-56, 260-63, 370.

Morris, Benny. The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem 1947-1949. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978, p. xvi, xvii, 75, 165, 166, 203.