First Onslaught on Beit Daras Village – An Eyewitness Account

Palestinian intellectual Ahmad al-Haaj tells the story of Beit Daras. (Photo: Palestine Chronicle)

By Ahmad Alhaaj – Gaza

This extract is part of a book titled Palestine 1948/1949: Willful Savage Displacement: A Personal Experience By Ahmad Khaleel Al-Haaj.

Two days later, during the evening, a foreign Jewish Settler force from Bir tibia attacked, without any provocation, the village of Beit Daras, presumably to commit a savage massacre which would imitiate that carried out in Deir Yasin.

Contrary to the people of the Deir Yasin village the inhabitants of this village and neighboring villages anticipated such an attack. They were defended themselves ardently. They even used knives and hayforks in the process. Armed men from the various adjacent villages came to assist them in repelling the Settlers and encircled the attacking FJS force.

Northern as-Sawafeer was the closest to village to the south. Next were ours and western as-Sawafeer. My father was one of those who rushed to help them repel the aggressive attack. By dawn the attacking force was beaten and forced back, leaving behind 79 corpses in and around the village. However, many of the village houses were ablaze due to mortar and incendiary bombs; 54 of the village men, women and infants were killed; and more than this number were injured or badly burnt.

Although the Arab peasant folk of Beit Daras and surrounding villages celebrated that great victory, they could not think of more than a dozen other villages. They knew that they had not the least amount of sufficient arms and ammunition, nor the necessary military organization, discipline and unified command to do that. They knew that Bir tibia was strongly fortified. In 1936’s , an Arabs revolt attacked a small and unprepared FJS settlement. During that former time the British Occupation Administration forces besieged all these villages for many days, killed many of its young activists, arrested and court-martial many others who participated in that attack, and served most of them with life sentences. Only One activist fled to Misr province with a bullet wound in the middle of his palm. He lived there for the rest of his life.

The British forces erected a police station and a British military camp close to Bir tibia. It was then rebuilt very quickly, and stronger than before. The foreign Jewish Settlers had the backing of the World Jewish National Fund and the World National Jewish Appeal, assisting them with whatever funds and other needs to evict us from Palestine.

The  primary objective behind installing the British Mandatory/Occupation Administration over the Arab region of Palestine, i.e. the so-called Government Of Palestine, was to establish a Jewish National Homeland, which meant evicting all Palestinians from the region.

When the aforementioned victory happened, many curious people from the surrounding villages, especially young boys, ran over to Beit Daras to witness the scene of battle and help its people in extinguishing fires. I was one of them. I saw the glorious scene. Soon a group of IRCC workers came to the village in three Jeeps and a truck raising their well-known flag, to collect the corpses left by the attacking force. The elders of the village did not object. I saw that those scattered corpses were all of soldiers in one specific uniform. Inside a village house, right at the open door I saw a corpse of a very fair young boy of about 20 with his head cut completely with a butcher’s chopper. Atiya Dawoud, the villages butcher, was famed with this desperately achieved defensive feat, and won the aggressor’s sub-machine-gun as prize.

During this battle father exhausted 12 of his twenty bullets and had to buy some more bullets from an occasional visiting arms contraband dealer. The next day was Friday and he sent me to al-Majdal with a sack full of Norse breed wheat grains in the box of our one-mule field cart, to sell it in its market. The primary objective of this sale was to buy bullets for his old Mouser rifle. He said that the sack weighed 42 Shami pounds; (equivalent to approximately 345 English pounds); and that the price of that very fine sort of wheat was higher than the two Piasters for each Shami Pound one would get for dobby or brown wheat. Before showing the kind of wheat to prospective buyers in the market place, I should know first at what price the sellers of other two sorts were requesting. After my sale, I was instructed to go to the cart wheel mender to have him mend the axle cask of the rear right wheel.

Ahmad Alhaaj experienced the mass exodus of Palestinians in 1947-8. He is based in Gaza and is originally form Alsawafeer Alshraqiah village. He contributed this article to

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