Part of 1948 Palestine War
Arab Legion attacking the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, May 1948.
December 1947 – 18 July 1948
Israel captures West Jerusalem
Jordan captures East Jerusalem, including the Old City
Before May 1948
Jewish militias: (Haganah, Irgun, Lehi, Palmach)
After May 1948
Army of the Holy War
Arab Liberation Army
British officers seconded to Transjordan
Commanders and leaders
Abdullah el Tell
Abd al-Qader al-Husseini
John Bagot Glubb
John Bagot Glubb Pasha
6,000 Jordanian troops
2,000 Egyptian troops
500 Palestinian militia
Casualties and losses
700 military dead, up to 600 civilians
The Battle for
Jerusalem occurred from December 1947 to 18 July 1948,
during the 1947–1948 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine. The Jewish
and Arab populations of Mandatory Palestine and later the Israeli and
Jordanian armies fought for control of Jerusalem.
Under the UN Partition Plan,
Jerusalem was to be placed under
international rule in a corpus separatum. Fighting nevertheless
immediately broke out in the city between Jewish and Arab militias,
with bombings and attacks by both sides. Starting in February 1948,
Arab militia under
Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni
Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni blockaded the road from Tel
Aviv to Jerusalem, preventing the supply of the Jewish population.
This blockade was broken in mid-April by
Operation Nachshon and
Operation Maccabee. On 14 May and the following days, Etzioni and
Harel brigades supported by
Irgun troops launched several operations
aiming to take over the Arab side of the city. In the meantime, the
Arab Legion had deployed in the area of Palestine dedicated to the
Arab state, not entering the Corpus separatum but massively
Latrun to blockade the Jewish city once again. Israeli
victories against the Arab militias in the city pushed Abdallah of
Jordan to order the
Arab Legion to intervene. It deployed in East
Jerusalem, fought the Israelis and took the Jewish quarter of the Old
City. The population was expelled and the fighters taken prisoners to
Jordan. The Israeli forces launched three assaults on
Latrun to free
the road to the city but without success. Israeli forces built an
alternative road to
Jerusalem before the truce imposed by UN on 11
June, breaking the blockade. During the period called the First Truce
the Jewish city was supplied with food, ammunition, weapons and
troops. Fighting didn't resume during the remaining months of the 1948
war. The city was split between
Jordan after the war,
Israel ruling West
Jordan ruling East
Jerusalem with the
2.1 Food rationing
2.2 End of the siege and truces
3 United Nations position
4 Associated military operations
7 External links
Arabs attack the commercial center 2.12.1947
Bomb attack by
Irgun on 29.12.1947
Palmach soldiers attack the San Simon monastery in Katamon, Jerusalem,
April 1948 (battle reconstruction)
Arab plundering of the Jewish Quarter after its inhabitants' expulsion
Following the outbreak of disturbances at the end of 1947 the road
Tel Aviv and Jewish
Jerusalem became increasingly difficult
for Jewish vehicles. Ambushes by Palestinian Arab irregulars became
more frequent and more sophisticated. The intention of the besieging
forces was to isolate the 100,000 Jewish residents of the city from
the rest of the Jewish inhabitants of Palestine and, in the case of
the Jordanian forces, to conquer East
Jerusalem (including the Old
City). Aside from the large Jewish population,
special importance to the
Yishuv for "religious and nationalist"
reasons. In particular, the Arab forces tried to cut off the road
Jerusalem from the coastal plain, where the majority of the Jewish
population resided. The Arabs blocked access to
Jerusalem "at Latrun
and Bab al-Wad," a narrow valley surrounded by Arab villages on hills
on both sides. The breaking of the siege of
Jerusalem and the
annexation of the captured areas to the Jewish state became primary
goals for the Israelis in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.
In December 1947 the
Jewish Agency set up the
Committee, headed by Dov Yosef, which stockpiled food and fuel. In
January the Committee estimated 4,500 tons a month was needed. They
were given 50,000 Palestine pounds credit with the Histadrut's
Hamashbir Hamerkazi. In January 1948 the number of
trucks supplying Jewish
Jerusalem had fallen to thirty per day. By
March the daily average number of trucks reaching
Jerusalem was six.
By the end of March it was clear that food supplies for civilians in
Jerusalem would run out. On 1 April
The Times estimated that
the Jewish population of
Jerusalem required a minimum of 50 truckloads
per week. On 3 April,
The Scotsman reported that a spokesman at a
meeting of Arab military leaders in Damascus had announced that
Jerusalem would be "strangled" by a blockade.
One estimate of the size of the opposing forces at the beginning of
March 1948 gives the Arabs 5,300 men in
Jerusalem and surrounding
district, including 300 Iraqi irregulars and 60 Yugoslav Moslems.
Jewish forces included the Haganah's
Etzioni Brigade of 1,200 with
another 1,200 second line troops, commanded by David Shaltiel. In
addition there was a Jewish Home Guard of 2,500, and 500 members of
the dissident organisations,
Irgun and Lehi.
In a tactical change from defensive to offensive action, in early
Haganah was ordered to launch Operation Nachshon, an
offensive to clear the strategic hilltop villages along the last few
miles of the road to Jerusalem. At the same time a series of massive
armoured convoys, involving hundreds of vehicles, forced their way
The fighting led to the evacuation of the Jewish villages of Atarot
(17 May) and
Neve Yaakov (18 May) near Jerusalem, and
Kalya and Beit
HaArava near the
Dead Sea (both on 20 May), as well as the expulsion
of the Jewish inhabitants of the Old City of Jerusalem. The
defenders of the Jewish Quarter surrendered to the
Arab Legion on 28
May 1948, this leading to the forced evacuation of all Jewish
inhabitants. Before the war, the Jews of the Old City had friendly
relations with their Arab neighbors and were sorry to have to
leave.[dubious – discuss]
View of the road to
Bab al-Wad seen from the Arab
Legion positions at Latrun
Dov Yosef listed the problems faced in relieving Jewish
The lack of heavy war equipment such as planes and artillery.
The nature of the terrain.
The density of Arab population.
No Jewish settlements in the area.
In addition there was the British ban on the carrying of weapons. On
17 March six members of the
Palmach accompanying a convoy were killed
in a clash with the British Army. At the end of March the decision was
taken to resist arms searches.
On 17 March a 16-vehicle convoy reached the city without incident.
But the following week a two-mile long, 80-vehicle convoy came under
attack, and five passengers were killed.
Dov Yosef refers to a
convoy being "wiped out", 27 March, but gives no details. Two days
later a 60-vehicle convoy came under attack at Hulda and was forced to
turn back with 17 Jews and 5 Arabs killed. Five captured vehicles
were driven to Ramle. A food convoy escorted by the Palmach
reached the city on 6 April without casualties despite being ambushed
at Dir Muhsein by a force of "150 Arabs ... joined by 80 Arabs from
Abu Shushe." It also survived a second road block at
six hours to reach its destination.
To coincide with Nachshon,
Dov Yosef was given £100,000 and Haganah
authority to conscript as many men and trucks as he needed. He
proceeded to assemble three large convoys at Bilu Camp with a
stockpile of 10,000 tons of supplies. He obtained 150 trucks from the
Solel Boneh - Shelev Transport Co-operative. A
Haganah field force
requisitioned a further 150 trucks with their drivers and conscripted
1,000 men as labourers. On 15 April 131 trucks with 550 tons of
food reached the city without being attacked. The supplies included
230 tons of flour and 800 pounds of chocolate. Two days later 300
trucks arrived in the Jewish enclave with 1,000 tons of supplies, also
without incident. The third convoy on 20 April had a harder time.
Consisting of 300 trucks with 2,000
Irgun troops, the
convoy battled all day to get through. Twenty trucks were knocked out,
ten Jews were killed and 30 wounded.
Convoy arriving in Jerusalem, 23 April 1948, Erev Pesach
Also, during Nachshon, there was a secret convoy that brought 1,500
Palmach soldiers into the city. After this Jewish
cut off from the outside world for seven weeks, with the exception of
a dozen trucks which brought army supplies on 17 May.
Mathematics professor Michael Fekete, the Provost of the Hebrew
University of Jerusalem, with his water quota, during the siege.
Starting in early 1948, the Arab forces had severed the supply line to
Jewish Jerusalem. On 31 March,
Dov Yosef introduced a draconian system
of food rationing. The bread ration was 200 grams per
person. The April Passover week ration per person was 2 lb
potatoes, 2 eggs, 0.5 lb fish, 4 lb matzoth, 1.5 oz
dried fruit, 0.5 lb meat and 0.5 lb matza flour. The meat
cost one Palestine pound per pound. On 12 May, water rationing was
introduced. The ration was two gallons/person/day, of which four pints
was drinking water. In June the weekly ration per person was
100 grams of wheat, 100 g beans, 40 g cheese, 100 g coffee or 100 g
powdered milk, 160 g bread per day, 50 g margarine with one or two
eggs for the sick. The mallow plant played an important role in
Jerusalem history at this time. When convoys bearing foodstuffs could
not reach the city, the residents of
Jerusalem went out to the fields
to pick mallow leaves, which are rich in iron and vitamins. The
Jerusalem radio station, Kol Hamagen, broadcast instructions for
cooking mallow. When the broadcasts were picked up in Jordan, they
sparked victory celebrations. Radio Amman announced that the fact that
the Jews were eating leaves, which was food for donkeys and cattle,
was a sign that they were dying of starvation and would soon
End of the siege and truces
Convoy bringing food and supplies to besieged
Jerusalem passing Lifta
On 27 March an attack on a convoy returning from the Gush Etzion
settlement block south of
Jerusalem left 15 Jews dead. In April,
shortly after the Jewish attack on the Arab village of Deir Yassin
Jerusalem which caused many civilian casualties, Arab forces
attacked a Jewish medical convoy on its way to Hadassah Hospital on
Mount Scopus. The British had provided no escort (as they had in
previous months) and both they and
Palmach forces were slow to
intervene during the attack and help the ambushed Jews. After seven
hours of fighting, the British put an end to the standoff; by then 78
Jews (mostly unarmed medical personnel) had been killed, as was one
Dov Yosef the turning point of
Operation Nachshon was the
Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni
Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni on 8 April. 30,000 people attended
his funeral at the
Haram al-Sharif and subsequently the morale of his
forces collapsed. The end of the siege came with the opening of
the "Burma Road" in June. In Yosef's words, "by the time the first
truce (11 June 1948) came it had already broken the siege." This
alternative route had been conceived in April after the failure of
Nachshon to secure the entrance to the road to
Jerusalem at Latrun.
Work started on 18 May using bulldozers and several hundred quarrymen
from Jerusalem. The major problem was a very steep section at the
beginning of the ascent. After two weeks some supplies came through
using mules and 200 men from the Home Guard (Mishmar Ha'am) to cover
the three miles which were impassable to vehicles. These men, mostly
conscripts in their fifties, each carried a 45-pound load and made the
trip twice a night. This effort lasted for five nights. Three weeks
later, 10 June, the steepest section was opened to vehicles, though
they needed assistance from tractors to get up it. By the end of June
the usual nightly convoy delivered 100 tons of supplies a night.
Harry Levin in his diary entry, 7 June, says that 12 tons a night were
getting through and he estimated that the city needed 17 tons daily.
On 28 July he notes that during the first truce, 11 June to 8 July,
8,000 truckloads arrived. This remained the sole supply route for
several months until the opening of the Valor Road (Kvish
In late May and early June the Israelis launched several assaults on
Latrun salient but without success. During
Operation Dani they
launched two other attacks on Latrun, again without success and
attacked several Arab villages to widen
Jerusalem corridor that was
2 km wide in the area of Latrun.
United Nations position
Part of the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, which the
Jews of Mandatory Palestine accepted and the Arabs of Mandatory
Palestine and neighboring states rejected, was that
Jerusalem would be
a corpus separatum, under United Nations control and not part of
either the proposed Arab or Jewish states.
Israel argued that the
partition plan regarding
Jerusalem was "null and void" due to the UN's
"active relinquishing of responsibility in a critical hour" when the
UN did not act to protect the city. The Arabs, who had
been against Jerusalem's internationalization all along, felt
similarly. The appointment of
Dov Yosef as "Military
Governor of the Occupied Area of Jerusalem" on 2 August closed the
door on the possibility of
Jerusalem being internationalized.
Associated military operations
^ Emmanuel Sivan (1993). "To Remember Is to Forget: Israel's 1948
War". Journal of Contemporary History. 28 (2): 341–359.
^ a b See Morris, Chapter 5, "The Pan-Arab Invasion, 15 May—11 June
1948," pp. 180-263
^ a b c d Gold, 48-51.
^ a b Morris, 197
^ Morris, 218
^ Yosef, page 26.
^ Yosef, page 80.
^ Yosef, page 153: 20 April 4 weeks supplies. Levin, page 22:
beginning of March "only three weeks".
^ Yosef, page 98.
^ Kimche, Jon and David. (1960) A Clash of Destinies. The Arab-Jewish
War and the Founding of the State of Israel. Frederick A. Praeger.
Library of Congress number 60-6996. Pages 132, 133. Quoting a report
by Shaltiel to
Benny Morris (2008). 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War.
Yale University Press. p. 116. Retrieved 13 July 2013. At the
time, Ben-Gurion and the HGS believed that they had initiated a
one-shot affair, albeit with the implication of a change of tactics
and strategy on the
Jerusalem front. In fact, they had set in motion a
strategic transformation of
Haganah policy. Nachshon heralded a shift
from the defensive to the offensive and marked the beginning of the
implementation of tochnit dalet (Plan D)—without Ben-Gurion or the
HGS ever taking an in principle decision to embark on its
^ Levenberg, Haim (1993). Military Preparations of the Arab Community
in Palestine: 1945–1948. London: Routledge. p. 187
^ a b Morris, 217
^ Yosef, Dov. The Faithful City: The Siege of
Jerusalem 1948. Simon
and Schuster, 1960. Congress # 60 10976. Page 99.
^ Levin, Harry.
Jerusalem Embattled. A diary of the city under siege.
Cassel 1997, ISBN 9780304337651. Page 49. "If we had 10 Jewish
rural settlements protecting it, instead of only three, the road would
never have been closed."
^ Yosef, pages 98-99.
^ Rose, Pauline. The Siege of Jerusalem. Patmos Publishers, London. No
date. Introduction dated June 1949. Page 31.
^ Levin, Page 20.
^ Yosef. Page 98.
^ "records seventeen names". Palmach.org.il. Retrieved
^ Yosef, page 98. The Times. 1 & 2 April 1948.
^ Levin, pages 49,52. Yosef, page 100, says 'a few convoys' got
through between 3 and 9 April during the battle for Kastel.
^ Yosef, pages 40-41.
^ Yosef, page 101.
^ Yosef, page 101.
The Times reported that 178 trucks reached
Jerusalem 13 April. This appears to be inaccurate.
^ Yosef, page 101. Levin, page 77.
^ The Times, 21 April.
^ Yosef, page 102. 3 killed and six trucks destroyed. "Can still be
^ Levin, page 83. "294 trucks."
^ Yosef, page 132.
^ Yosef, page 102, 105.
^ Yosef, page 34
^ "Food rationing". Zionism-israel.com. 1947-11-29. Retrieved
^ Levin, page 34.
^ Levin, page 88 (ration for 22 April) and page 91.
^ Yosef, page 150.
^ Levin, Page 142.
^ Yosef, page 148. Ration issued 11 June.
^ Consumption of mallow
^ Morris, 128
^ Fighting Jack Churchill survived a wartime odyssey beyond compare,
Robert Barr Smith, World War II History, July 2005.
^ Hadassah marches on[permanent dead link]
^ Yosef, pages 100-101.
^ Yosef, pages 155-156.
^ Levin, pages 236, 273.
Jerusalem Day." The Knesset Website. 2003. 17 July 2011.
Abba Eban quoted in Gold, p. 51
^ Medzini, Meron quoted in Gold, p. 52
^ Tessler, Mark A. A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Indiana University Press. p. 323 retrieved 16 July 2011.
^ LIFE, 9 February 1953. page 20 retrieved 16 July 2011.
^ Yosef, page 319.
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Gold, Dore. Tower of Babble: How the United Nations Has Fueled Global
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Yosef, Dov (1960) The Faithful City. New York: Simon and Schuster
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Levi, Yitzhak, Nine Measures: The Battles for
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