Operation Hiram: (Mivza Hiram) -
IDF operation in
Israel War of Independence to break the siege on Israeli communities by
troops of the Arab Liberation Army (ALA) led by Fawzi el Kaukji, and in particular to
bring succor to Manara. The operation began October 28 1948 and was spearheaded by
Kaukji's forces had
entered Palestine illegally during the mandate. By this time they had been reduced to about 3,100 troops,
by one estimate
ref , or perhaps about 1,500 - 2,000 in rather poor condition
(Gelber 2006, page 221) and divided into
3 reduced brigades. Yarmuk brigade included Lebanese and other volunteers and operated
in the hills south of the Acco-Safed road. Yarmuk 2 was deployed against Safed
between Miron and Sasa, and Yarmuk 3 held the western side of the pocket, based
in Tarshicha. Additionally, there were about 900 Palestinian irregular troops.
Kaukji did not feel bound by the UN imposed cease fires and continued to carry
out local attacks during the months of the cease fire.
On October 22, Kaukji began a surprise
attack with his reorganized forces on Kibbutz Manara, located on the western
hills overlooking the "finger" of the Galilee. They took the strongpoint of
Sheikh Abed between Manara and Misgav Am and repelled attacks of local IDF
units and ambushed reinforcements rushed to the aid of Manara. Notably, the
Carmeli brigade lost 33 dead and 40 wounded (Gelber, 2006, p 223). Manara and Misgav
Am were cut off, and there was a fear that the situation would deteriorate
further. Israel's protests in the UN were futile and did not change the
On the night of October 28, IDF
launched operation Hiram, named after the king of Tyre who had been an ally of
king David and king Solomon. The mission was defined as "Destroy the enemy in
the central Galilee pocket, gain control of the entire Galilee and put in place
a defense line at the northern border of the country.
The operation had been meticulously
planned in August of 1948 by the staff of the northern front under the command
of Moshe Carmel.
Instead of attacking the point of
attack chosen by Kaukji, operation Hiram was carried out as a pincer movement,
with the pincers meeting at Sasa close to the Lebanese border, and enclosing the
Arab pocket in the Galilee. The operation was carried out by four brigades
(these were not full strength brigades but probably included about three
battalions at this time):
Seventh brigade commanded by the Canadian MACHAL
volunteer Ben Dunkleman, including an armored brigade, Oded brigade, Golani and Carmeli. In
addition a unit of Haifa militia or "guard" were included. Oded
included a platoon of Druze and Seventh brigade included a platoon of
Circassians. These two brigades carried the brunt of the attack, with secondary
tasks for the others, who were deployed against the possibility of a Syrian or
Map of Operation Hiram
The main thrust was carried out by
Seventh brigade, which operated out of Safed and conquered Mt. Meiron and Meiron
junction. The advance of the armored battalion of Seventh brigade into
the depths of the mountainous Galilee following up on the first successful
attack, was decisive for the success of the operation. On October 29 the
brigade conquered Safsaf, (today the Safsufa Moshav) and Jish (considered to be
the site of Gush Halav described by Josephus Flavius)
and on the following day the village of Sasa was conquered by Seventh brigade
and Oded brigade. The battle that took place nearby was the most important in
the operation, and it the course of the battle the battalion sent as
reinforcements by the Syrian army was destroyed. The village of Sasa itself
surrendered without resistance, though later rumors spread of
Israeli atrocities in Sasa, Eilaboun and some other villages.
Golani brigade forces initially moved
out of Ilaniya (Sejera) northwest to Eilabun as a diversionary move, but were
stopped before reaching the village, which they captured only on October 30 at
dawn. Kaukji ordered delaying tactics, which became a general retreat after the
conquest of Miron junction by the IDF.
The ALA escaped north to Lebanon by a route that was evidently unknown to the IDF
and got its entire force to Lebanese territory in the course of two days.
|Preparing for attack on Safsufa
||Commander Moshe Carmel
Golani moved north from Eilabun to
capture Maghar and later Ar-Rama, and from there continued west to Majd el Krum,
where they met the Haifa guard forces who had arrive from the west. Additional Golani forces captured Peki'in in the same day.
Oded brigade that had been originally stalled in the Tarshicha area, captured
the village without a fight on the 30th of October, and then moved east
following the ALA. The next day, they took control of the entire northern road
between Kibbutz Eilon and Sasa, and reached Ras an Naqoura without a fight. On
October 31, Seventh brigade captured Malkiyeh and continued north of the
Carmeli brigade's mission was initially
holding back the Syrian army in the Mishmar Hayarden region and defense of
Manara. However, with the withdrawal of Kaukji, central command decided to
exploit the success, and Carmeli attacked from the region of Manara and Misgav
Am beyond the Lebanese border, with the help of the Seventh Brigade. During this
coordinated attack, both brigades reached the Litani river, conquering 14
Lebanese villages that were evacuated as part of the Israeli Lebanese armistice
in March of 1949.
Attack on Sasa
After October 31 the entire Galilee was
under the control of the IDF, save for the Mishmar Hayarden pocket held by
Syria. The entire operation was complete in 60 hours. The Arab dead in operation
Hiram are estimated at
about 400, half of whom belonged to the Syrian battalion that was ambushed.
About 550 prisoners were captured as well as a lot of equipment. Israeli
casualties were apparently negligible and are not given. The ALA finally began
to disintegrate and its troops deserted and returned home. Operation Hiram was
the last and largest of the IDF initiatives in the northern front during the
First Arab-Israel war.
In the framework of Operation Hiram, IDF
forces conquered the villages of Ikrit and Birim among others, and after taking
over, the security authorities required the villagers to leave their homes "for
security reasons" with the promise that they could return when quiet returned to
the north. However, the promise was not fulfilled, and the fight of these
villagers to return to their lands continues to this day. They were offered, but
refused, alternative compensation.
Controversy over Ethnic Cleansing in
A large number of Arabs left or were
expelled during operation Hiram. Arabs have claimed that there were massacres
and rapes in several villages and Benny Morris (1999, 2004) has claimed that
there were two somewhat contradictory telegrams from Operational Commander
Carmeli calling for ethnic cleansing. The telegrams however, were both sent on
October 31, after all the alleged massacres and the flight of the Arabs had
taken place. Morris admits that in fact there was no systematic ethnic cleansing
and many of the villages remained intact.
ref Villages like Jish, Maghar, Tarshihah and Majdl
Krum among others, remained more or less intact. Had there been a general order
to expel Arabs, that would have been impossible. Moreover, Israel was making
allies among the non-Jewish population, including the Druze
and Circassians. A policy of random violence would not have been conducive to
Numerous massacres are alleged by
Morris, some "documented" by testimony of Arab witnesses. He told journalist Ari
About half of the
acts of massacre were part of Operation Hiram [in the north, in October
1948]: at Safsaf, Saliha, Jish, Eilaboun, Arab al Muwasi, Deir al Asad,
Majdal Krum, Sasa. In Operation Hiram there was a unusually high
concentration of executions of people against a wall or next to a well in an
"That can't be chance. It's a pattern. Apparently, various officers who took
part in the operation understood that the expulsion order they received
permitted them to do these deeds in order to encourage the population to
take to the roads. The fact is that no one was punished for these acts of
murder. Ben-Gurion silenced the matter. He covered up for the officers who
did the massacres."
What you are telling me here, as though by the way, is that in Operation
Hiram there was a comprehensive and explicit expulsion order. Is that right?
"Yes. One of the revelations in the book is that on October 31, 1948, the
commander of the Northern Front, Moshe Carmel, issued an order in writing to
his units to expedite the removal of the Arab population. Carmel took this
action immediately after a visit by Ben-Gurion to the Northern Command in
Nazareth. There is no doubt in my mind that this order originated with
Morris does not explain how an order
issued on October 31 could have been responsible for massacres that allegedly
took place on October 29.
Ralph Lowenstein, an American
volunteer in '48, and now a professor of Journalism at the University of Florida
tells a different story. Prof. Lowenstein was a young half-track driver in the
79th Battalion of the 7th Brigade, the formation that spearheaded Operation
“I never saw anything like this, either while it was allegedly going on
or after it had transpired. After the mixed Christian/Muslim town of Jish,
the first place we attacked, I did see virtually every Arab village on a
line between Safad and Kadesh on the Lebanese border during Operation Hiram,
and the pattern was: villages occupied by Christian Arabs unharmed; Muslim
villages deserted, long before any Israeli troops got there.
There were rumors at the time that a massacre had occurred in one
village, and a week after we had returned from combat a directive in English
and Hebrew was distributed to each army post mentioning such rumors and
warning of the dire consequences to any enlisted person or officer who could
be convicted of engaging in such incidents. There were no rumors of rape or
ethnic cleansing, only of one isolated massacre committed in the heat of
This is not proof positive that there
were no massacres, but it is indicative of the attitude of at least some of the Israeli forces.
Indeed, a force of four brigades would have had no trouble expelling all
civilians in an orderly manner had they been ordered to do so, so there was no
rationale for allowing massacres. The Seventh brigade was commanded by
Ben Dunkleman. Dunkleman had also commanded the Seventh brigade in Operation
Dekel, in July when orders were given, apparently by Carmel, to expel the
population of Nazareth. Dunkleman allegedly refused and was eventually backed by
Most of the alleged massacres occurred in the area conquered by Seventh brigade.
It is hardly credible that having refused expulsion orders in Nazareth,
Dunkleman would have permitted massacres in Operation Hiram.
But we must accept that there at least
some massacres nonetheless. Historian Yoav Gelber wrote:
Amidst arbitrary handling of the civilian population's affairs, several
massacres occurred during the HIRAM campain in Galilee and in south Lebanon,
accompanied by raping and looting. Returning from his visit to the region, [Ya'akov]
Shimoni ascribed them to the absence of policy and clear directives.32
Unlike previous ocacasions, soldiers in various units protested against
their comrades' behaviour and, sometimes, against conduct of their
superiors. The officers on the spot took immediate steps to stop the
outrages and prevent their recurrence, threatening perpetrators with court
martial if similar cases would occur in the future.33
Word of HIRAM's atrocities spread
rapidly among the troops and reached the General Staff and the Provisional
Government. Initially, the stories ascribed the outrages to the Druze unit
and a certain company composed of former IZL members. These
allegations...were false. Several sub-units of two brigades were involved in
these killings, and none of them had any unique social or political
Updated Aug 28, 2009
References and bibliography
Palestine 1948: War, Escape And The Emergence Of The Palestinian Refugee
Problem, Sussex Academic Press, 2006
IDF, Operation Hiram (Hebrew)
Morris, Benny (1999)
"Operation Hiram Revisited: A Correction" Institute for Palestine Studies V. 28,
no. 2 (Win. 99): 68-76.
Morris, Benny (2004) The Birth of the
Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Shavit, Ari, Survival of the Fittest: interview with Benny Morris, Haaretz,
Encylopedia, Operation Hiram (Hebrew)
Synonyms and alternate spellings:
Further Information: See also
Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:
'H - ('het
) . 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.
chh - (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
'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
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