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Ma'alot Massacre

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The Maalot massacre was a Palestinian terrorist operation carried out in an Israeli school in the town of Maalot in Northern Israel, near the Lebanese border. The events took place in May 1974, and culminated on the evening of May 15. 26 people, mostly unarmed high school students, were killed by three Palestinian terrorists. Maalot is located inside green-line Israel. This area has been part of Israel since 1948. The victims were not "settlers" or "colonists" or religious fanatics.

Three terrorists of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) infiltrated from Lebanon On May 13, dressed in Israel Defense Force uniforms, coming through the Nahal Mattat nature reserve from south of the Lebanese village of Ramish. The group entered Israel near Moshav Zar'it . They were armed with AK-47 assault rifles, hand grenades, and Czech plastic explosives. They hid overnight in the orchards near the Druze village of Hurfeish. On their way to Ma'alot, they encountered a van bringing Christian Arab women from the village of Fassuta home from work at the Ata textile works in the Haifa Bay area. The leader of the operation, Lini, stood on the roadway and opened fire on the vehicle, instantly killing one woman, and wounding both the driver and other workers, one of whom later died of her wounds. The Druze driver turned off the headlights and drove in reverse up the hill towards Moshav Tzuriel.

At Ma'alot, the terrorists knocked on the doors of several homes. Fortuna and Yosef Cohen heard the noise and opened their door. The terrorists shot and killed the couple, and their 4-year old son Eliahu. and wounded their 5-year old daughter Miriam. Fortuna, seven months pregnant, tried to flee, but was also shot. The sole family member who survived unhurt was 16-month-old Yitzhak, a deaf-mute.

The terrorists then went to the Netiv Meir elementary school where Safed High School students on a school trip were lodged. They met Yaakov Kadosh, a sanitation worker, and asked for directions to the school. They beat and shot him, leaving him for dead.

Netiv Meir elementary school was a three-story concrete building with apartment buildings under construction nearby. The terrorists entered the building at 4 a.m., taking 102 students hostage. Some managed to escape by jumping out of windows, but 85 students and several teachers were held hostage. The students were forced to sit on the floor at gunpoint, with explosive charges between them.

In the morning, the captors demanded the release of 26 terrorist prisoners, including Kozo Okamoto - a Japanese Red Army terrorist involved in the 1972 Lod Airport Massacre. They announcedthat they would kill the students if the terrorists were not released. The deadline was set for 6:00 p.m. the same day.

The Israelis asked for more time and tried to meet the terrorists' conditions. According to at least one source, the terrorists decided to massacre the children after they failed to get a code word from their Damascus controllers. Apologists later claimed falsely that the fatalities were due to the Israeli raid that evening, The terrorists had already murdered women and children and clearly intended to murder others. Lini murdered children deliberately and for no reason, at great peril to his personal safety.  

The BBC notes that the Maalot terror operation was one of a series of operations planned to protest the 26th Independence day of Israel The Palestinian massacre probably was not really intended to free prisoners or to protest the post-1967 occupation.  

Israeli Sayeret Matkal commandoes began an assault at !7:26 hours. The assault force was divided into three units; Two units broke in from the entrance; a third was to climb a ladder and enter from a window facing north. At 17:32 the first squad entered the building through the main entrance on the first floor, which was blocked with tables and chairs. The first three-man team, led by Yuval Galili of Kibbutz  Geva was hit by gunfire on the stairs leading to the second floor. Galili threw a phosphorus grenade into the second floor hallway to create a smokescreen. The smoke from the explosion blinded the second team led by Amiram Levine, which had been ordered to take out Lini, the terrorist leader.

Lini showed a great deal of tenacity and bravery in fulfilling his terrorist mission. Though it was obvious he could not free any prisoners, Lini  managed to reach the classroom, grab ammunition clips from the teacher’s desk and reload his weapon. He then sprayed the students with machine gun fire and tossed grenades out the window. When a burst of fire broke his left wrist, he threw two grenades at a group of girls huddled on the floor. Several students leaped from the windows to the ground, some ten feet below.

Twenty-two high school students were killed in the attack, including Ilana Turgeman, Rachel Aputa, Yocheved Mazoz, Sarah Ben-Shim'on, Yona Sabag, Yafa Cohen, Shoshana Cohen, Michal Sitrok, Malka Amrosy, Aviva Saada, Yocheved Diyi, Yaakov Levi, Yaakov Kabla, Rina Cohen, Ilana Ne'eman, Sarah Madar, Tamar Dahan, Sarah Sofer, Lili Morad, David Madar and Yehudit Madar. . These  victims were buried in their home Stown, Safed. Over 50 students were wounded.

40 years later, the Maalot massacre still has the 'distinction' of ranking near the top of the ten worst school massacres,

In March of 2011,  Riad al Malki, the Foreign Minister of the Palestinian Authority  stated at the time of the Itamar Massacre:

The killing of an infant and the slaughtering of people ... was never carried out by any Palestinians for national motives or revenge.

Ami Isseroff

March 15, 2011

Synonyms and alternate spellings:

Further Information:

Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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This work and individual entries are copyright © 2005 by Ami Isseroff and Zionism and Israel Information Center and may not reproduced in any form without permission unless explicitly noted otherwise. Individual entries may be cited with credit to The Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Zionism and Israel


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