Operation Hiram


Operation Hiram was a military operation conducted by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.[6][7] It was led by General Moshe Carmel, and aimed at capturing the Upper Galilee region from the Arab Liberation Army (ALA) forces led by Fawzi al-Qawuqji and a Syrian battalion.[8] The operation, which lasted 60 hours (October 29–31),[9] was marked by heavy fighting between Arabs and Jews, and ended just before the ceasefire with the neighboring Arab countries went into effect.

Operation Hiram
Part of 1948 Arab–Israeli War
Saasaa 1948.jpg
IDF soldiers in Sa'sa', 30 October 1948
DateOctober 29, 1948 – October 31, 1948
Result Israel captures the Upper Galilee and part of Southern Lebanon


Arab Liberation Army (bw).svg Arab Liberation Army
Syria Syria
Commanders and leaders
Israel Moshe Carmel Arab Liberation Army (bw).svg Fawzi al-Qawuqji
6,000 2,000–4,000[1][2]
Casualties and losses
Unknown, light[3] 400 killed
550 captured[4][5]
50,000 Palestinian refugees

As a result of the operation, the Upper Galilee, originally slated by the United Nations partition plan to be part of an Arab state, would be controlled by the newly formed state of Israel, and more than 50,000 new Palestinian refugees were expelled from their homes.[10]


Villages captured during Operation Hiram. Grid = 10km

On 18 July, the second truce of the conflict went into effect. On September 26, 1948, David Ben-Gurion told his cabinet that if fighting should be renewed in the north, then the Galilee would become "clean" [naki] and "empty" [reik] of Arabs, and implied that he had been assured of this by his generals.[11]

A Palmach unit attacks Sa'sa
Israeli machine gun position during an assault on Sa'sa

Before dawn on 22 October ALA violated the truce when it stormed the IDF hilltop position of Sheikh Abd, overlooking kibbutz Manara from the north. During the 24–25 October, ALA troops regularly sniped at Manara and at traffic along the main road. Fawzi al-Qawuqji demanded that Israel evacuate neighboring kibbutz Yiftah and thin out its forces in Manara. Israel, in turn, demanded the ALA’s withdrawal from the captured positions and, after a “no” from Qawuqji, informed the United Nations that it felt free to do as it pleased.[12]

The operation was launched on the night of 28–29 October 1948, fielding four IDF brigades, the Seventh, Carmeli Brigade, Golani, and the Oded Brigade.[13] The operational order was "to destroy the enemy in the central Galilee "pocket", to occupy the whole of the Galilee and to establish the defense line on the country´s northern border."[10] On October 29, Yosef Weitz, learning about the start of the operation, sent Yigael Yadin a note urging that the army should expel the "refugees" from the newly conquered areas.[14]

The Ground offensive was preceded by bombing raids[15] targeting Tarshiha, Jish and Sa'sa from the 22 October, using Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses and Douglas C-47 Skytrains (converted for bombing role).[16] The heaviest night of bombing was 29/30 October when 13 missions dropped 21 tons of bombs on the seven villages. The bombardment of Tarshiha triggered the mass flight after 24 of the inhabitants were killed and approximately 60 were buried under rubble.[17]

The initial thrust was carried out by the Seventh Brigade advancing from Safad. The Seventh Brigade occupied Qaddita on 29 October, Meirun and then Safsaf and Jish. In the 79th Battalion's report, the battles for Safsaf and Jish were described as "difficult" and "cruel" (achzari). One IDF report said "150–200" Arabs, "including a number of civilians" died in the battle for Jish.[18] Other accounts report that 200 bodies were found around Jish[19][20] and 80 at Meirum.[21] After Safsaf had been captured the Israeli troops committed a massacre.

From Jish, the 72nd and 79th battalions then turned west to take Sa'sa. After taking Sa'sa the Israeli forces then turned northwest taking Kfar Birem, Saliha and by the afternoon of the 30 October were at al Malikiya.[17]

Simultaneously, the Golani Brigade engaged in diversionary tactics in the direction of the village of Illaboun. The Carmeli Brigade, which was assigned to counter attacks from Syria and Lebanon, crossed the border into Lebanon, captured 15 villages, and reached the Litani River.[22][23][24][25] General Carmel had received direct permission from Prime Minister Ben Gurion to enter Lebanon, but only as far as the river. In the final hours of the offensive Carmel's second-in-command, General Makleff, met Ben Gurion in Tiberias and requested permission to advance and occupy Beirut which he claimed could be reached in twelve hours. Fearing international condemnation Ben Gurion refused.[26]

Ceasefire was scheduled to commence at 11:00 hours, October 31, 1948. The same day, at 7:30 in the morning, Major General Moshe Carmel ordered his brigades and district commanders "to continue the clearing operations inside the Galilee". In a cable dated 10:00 hours the same day Carmel ordered his brigades and district commanders: "Do all in your power for a quick and immediate clearing [tihur] of the conquered areas of all the hostile elements in line with the orders that have been issued[.] The inhabitants of the areas conquered should be assisted to leave." This order was apparently issued after Carmel had met with Ben-Gurion the same day.[27]

Villagers fleeing Galilee towards Lebanon, October/November 1948

On 31 October and 1 November 1948 the Hula massacre took place at Hula (Hule). The village had been captured on October 24 by the Carmeli Brigade without any resistance at all. Between 35 and 58 captured men were reportedly shot down in a house which was later blown up on top of them.[28]

At the end of this lightning attack, Israeli forces reached the Hiram Junction, north of Safed. The siege of Manara was lifted, Qawuqji's army fled to Lebanon, and the roads crossing the Upper Galilee were secured. With the Galilee under Israeli control, the IDF established a defensive line along the Litani before withdrawing to the Lebanese border under the terms of the 1949 Armistice Agreements.

The Israeli Air Force bombings caused considerable damage to the villages in the area. Ilan Pappe gives the example of the four villages: Rama, Suhmata, Malkiyya and Kfar Bir'im. He states that out of the four 'the only village to remain intact was Rama. The other three were occupied and destroyed'.[29] Very few villagers were allowed to stay in their homes and many were imprisoned or expelled to Lebanon and elsewhere. Ilan Pappe claims that the 'Hebrew noun tihur (cleansing) assumed new meanings' during this time period. He argues that although 'it still described, as before, the total expulsion and destruction of a village, it could now also represent other activities, such as selective search and expulsion operations'.[30]

One Israeli estimate gives a total of 400 Arabs killed during the offensive and 550 taken prisoner.[31]

The name is a reference to Hiram I, the Biblical king of Tyre. He was instrumental in the construction of the First Temple of Jerusalem.


Around 10 massacres occurred during this two-day operation which coincided with another mass killing south east of Tel Aviv.[citation needed]

According to Morris, the atrocities committed during Operation Hiram clearly embarrassed the IDF and Israeli officials who were soon forced to respond to Arab and United Nations charges in various forums. The main official Israeli response was a flat or qualified denial that atrocities had taken place.[32]

Arab communities captured in Operation HiramEdit

Name Population
1945 census[33]
Dates Resistance Brigade Notes
Al-Nabi Rubin 1000[34][35] Early October none n/a Hamlet depopulated and destroyed
Mirun 290 October 29 militia 'company' 7th Brigade
Carmeli Brigade
Village depopulated and destroyed. 80 defenders killed.[36]
Safsaf 910 October 29 ALA 2nd Battalion 7th Brigade[37] see Safsaf massacre. Village depopulated and destroyed.
Jish 1,090[38] October 29 Syrian battalion 7th Brigade[37] 10 POWs + "a number of" civilians executed.[37] Inhabitants, majority Muslim, expelled. The town later re-populated with Christian refugees from neighbouring villages. 200 defenders killed.[36]
Tarshiha 3,840 October 29 Villagers and members of ALA Oded Brigade By December around 700 villagers had returned to their homes, over 100 of whom were deported January 1949. Buildings re-populated with Jewish immigrants.
Sa'sa 1,130 October 30 none 7th Brigade
Druze unit
Alleged killings of civilians. However, the relevant files remain closed to historians.[39] Town depopulated and destroyed.
Suhmata 1,130[35][34] October 30 none Golani Brigade Village depopulated and destroyed.
Dayr al-Qassi 2,300 including Fassuta and al-Mansura October 30 none n/a Town depopulated and destroyed.
Dayshum 590 October 30 N/A 7th Brigade Village depopulated and destroyed.
Eilabun 550[40] October 30 ALA force Golani see Eilabun massacre. Town's population expelled but negotiated permission to return during summer 1949.
Fara 320 October 30 N/A 7th Brigade Village depopulated and destroyed.
al-Farradiyya 670 October 30 N/A Golani Brigade Village depopulated and destroyed.
Fassuta 2,300 including Dayr al-Qasi and al-Mansura October 30 Population allowed to remain in their homes,
Ghabbatiyya 60 October 30 Arab Liberation Army N/A Hamlet depopulated and destroyed.
Kafr 'Inan 360 October 30 none Golani Brigade Village depopulated and destroyed
Marus 80 October 30 none 7th Brigade Village depopulated and destroyed.
al Ras al Ahmar 620 October 30 'empty' 7th Brigade Village depopulated and destroyed.
Sabalan, Safad 70 October 30 N/A Golani Brigade, 1st Battalion Hamlet depopulated and destroyed.
Saliha 1,070 October 30 none 7th Brigade[37] Documented 60–94 killed.[41] Village depopulated and destroyed.
Kafr Bir'im 710 October 31 'surrendered' N/A Village depopulated and destroyed.
Arab al-Samniyya 200 October 30–31 none 7th, Carmeli, Golani, Oded Village depopulated and destroyed.
Iqrit 490 October 31 none Oded Brigade Village depopulated and destroyed.
Iribbin, Khirbat 360 October 31 none Oded Brigade Village depopulated and destroyed.
Hula October 31 Village in Lebanon. See Hula massacre
Mi'ilya 900 October 31 On 1 November the local IDF commander allowed the villagers to return to their homes. In March 1949 25 persons deported for passing information to the enemy.
Al-Mansura, Acre 2,300 including Fassuta and Dayr al-Qasi October 29–31 n/a n/a Town depopulated and destroyed.
Hurfeish Druze October 29–31 Town's population allowed to remain in their homes.
Tarbikha 1,000 October 29–31 none Oded Brigade Town depopulated and destroyed.
Suruh 1,000[35][34] October 29–31 none n/a Village depopulated and destroyed.
Al Bi'na 830 October 29–31 n/a Some villagers remained after the war. Town exists today.
Kuakab 490 October 29–31 n/a Villagers surrender and remained after the war. Town exists today.
Kafr Manda 1,260 October 29–31 n/a Some villagers remained after the war. Town exists today.
Sakhnin 1,891 (1931 census) October 29–31 n/a Some villagers remained after the war. Town exists today.
Arraba 1,800 October 29–31 n/a Some villagers remained after the war. Town exists today.
Deir Hanna 750 October 29–31 n/a Some villagers remained after the war. Town exists today.
Maghar 2,140 October 29–31 n/a Some inhabitants remained after the war. Town exists today.
Rihaniya n/a Circassian October 29–31 n/a Some villagers remained after the war. Town exists today.
Alma 950 October 29–31 n/a Villagers expelled and buildings demolished.

Brigades participating in Operation HiramEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Herzog, Chaim (1982) The Arab-Israeli Wars. War and Peace in the Middle East. Arms and Armour Press. ISBN 0-85368-367-0. p. 88
  2. ^ O'Ballance, Edgar (1956) The Arab-Israeli War. 1948. Faber & Faber, London. p. 191. ALA
  3. ^ O'Balance. p. 191
  4. ^ Karsh (2002), p. 68
  5. ^ Herzog. p. 91
  6. ^ Herzog. pp. 88–91
  7. ^ O'Ballance. pp. 184–92
  8. ^ Institute for Palestine Studies[permanent dead link] Morris, Benny "Operation Hiram Revisited: A Correction" in 28, no. 2 (Win. 99): 68–76.
  9. ^ Cohen, Aharon (1970) Israel and the Arab World. W.H. Allen. ISBN 0-491-00003-0. p. 439
  10. ^ a b Morris (2004), p. 473
  11. ^ Morris (2004), p. 463
  12. ^ Benny Morris – 1948: a history of the first Arab-Israeli war. Yale University Press, p. 339
  13. ^ Kurzman, Dan (1970) Genesis 1948. The First Arab-Israeli War. An Nal Book, New York. Library of Congress number 77-96925. p. 611 Kurzman describes the operation as a "tank led blitzkrieg attack" which began with air raids.
  14. ^ Morris (2004), pp. 463–64
  15. ^ Allon, Yigal (1970) Shield of David. The Story of Israel's Armed Forces. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 978-0297001331. p. 222
  16. ^ O'Ballance. p. 188. "ample close air support."
  17. ^ a b Morris (2004) p. 473
  18. ^ Morris (2004) pp. 473–74
  19. ^ Kurzman. p. 611
  20. ^ O'Balance. p. 189. "Syrians".
  21. ^ Herzog, p. 90
  22. ^ Morris (2004) p. 474
  23. ^ Cohen. p. 439. But only 14 villages captured.
  24. ^ Allon, Yigal (1970) The Making of Israel's Army. Vallentine, Mitchell: London. ISBN 0-853-03027-8. p. 40
  25. ^ Allon, Shield of David. p. 222
  26. ^ Kurzman. p. 684
  27. ^ Morris (2004), p. 464
  28. ^ Morris (2004), pp. 481, 487, 501, 502.
  29. ^ Pappe (2006), p. 181
  30. ^ Pappe (2006), p. 182
  31. ^ Herzog, Chaim (1982) The Arab-Israeli Wars. War and Peace in the Middle East. Arms and Armour Press. ISBN 0-85368-367-0. p. 91
  32. ^ For examples, see Spector to Baruck, 12 Nov. 1948, in which the IDF liaison officer, Spector, reports to his commander: "In relation to the 13 killed [in the Eilabun massacre ], I proved [sic] that the army was not in the village at the time...." Cited in Morris (2004), pp. 481, 501
  33. ^ 'All That Remains'. ISBN 0-88728-224-5. (1992).
  34. ^ a b c http://users.cecs.anu.edu.au/~bdm/yabber/census/VSpages/VS1945_p05.jpg. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  35. ^ a b c http://www.palestineremembered.com/download/VillageStatistics/Table%20I/Acre/Page-041.jpg. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  36. ^ a b Herzog. p. 90
  37. ^ a b c d Morris (2004), p. 481
  38. ^ http://users.cecs.anu.edu.au/~bdm/yabber/census/VSpages/VS1945_p09.jpg. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  39. ^ Morris (2004), pp. 481, 501, 503.
  40. ^ http://users.cecs.anu.edu.au/~bdm/yabber/census/VSpages/VS1945_p12.jpg. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  41. ^ Morris, p. 487


  • Walid Khalidi (editor), All that remains: the Palestinian villages occupied and depopulated by Israel in 1948. (1992). Institute of Palestine Studies. ISBN 0-88728-224-5.
  • Benvenisti, Meron (2000). Sacred Landscape: The Buried History of the Holy Land Since 1948. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-21154-5,
  • Morris, Benny (2004). The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-00967-7
  • Nazzal, Nafez (1978): The Palestinian Exodus from Galilee 1948, The Institute for Palestine Studies, (Safsaf, p. 93–96, 107)
  • Ilan Pappé (2006) The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine Oneworld publications ISBN 978-1-85168-467-0

External linksEdit

  • The sons of Eilaboun tells the story of the human toll that Operation Hiram claimed on in the village Eilaboun.