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Operation Ben Ami was one of the last operations launched by the Haganah before the end of the British Mandate. The first phase of this operation was the capture of Acre. A week later four villages east and north of Acre were captured.


After the fall of Jaffa and Haifa the only remaining Arab towns with access to the Mediterranean Sea were Gaza and Acre. The population of Acre was swollen with refugees from Haifa which had been captured three weeks earlier. There was an outbreak of typhoid in Acre in the first week of May.

The operation

Air dropping supplies to Yehiam, 1948

The operation was carried out by the Carmeli Brigade, commanded by Moshe Carmel.[1] It took place in territory allocated to the Arab State in the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, which was rejected by the Arabs. It was launched on 13 May 1948 with the capture of villages east of Acre cutting the town off from the interior. On the night of 16/17 May, a mortar barrage was unleashed on the town and the following night it surrendered.[2] The second phase was launched on 20 May. Carmel's operational order of 19 May read: "To attack in order to conquer, to kill among the men, to destroy and burn the villages...".[3] One of the villages captured, al-Kabri, was singled out for particularly harsh treatment because of the villagers' involvement in the destruction of a convoy two months earlier.[4] The Carmeli Brigade was involved in one further operation in the area on 11 June when they captured the village of al-Birwa. Ten days later a group of around 200 villagers re-took the village and remained there for two days until, on advice from the Arab Liberation Army, they withdrew and the village was retaken by newly established Israeli Army.[5]


About 5,000-6,000 Palestinians remained in Acre after its conquest—more than were left in Haifa or Jaffa.[6] The inhabitants who remained in the villages, mostly old people or Christians, were gathered together at Mazra'a.[7] Most of the populations either fled to Lebanon or inland to Nazareth. Most buildings in the villages were systematically blown up.

Arab communities captured during Operation Ben-Ami

Name Date Defending forces Brigade Population
al-Zib 13 May 1948 militia (35-40 men) Carmeli Brigade 1,910
al-Bassa 14 May 1948 militia Haganah
landed from sea
al-Manshiyya 14 May 1948 militia Carmeli Brigade 810
al-Sumayriyya 14 May 1948 militia (35 men) Carmeli Brigade
by sea
al-Tall 20 May 1948 n/a n/a 300
Umm al-Faraj 20 May 1948 n/a Carmeli Brigade 800
al-Kabri 20 May 1948 n/a Carmeli Brigade 5,360
al-Ghabisiyya 20 May 1948 militia (20 men) Carmeli Brigade 1,240
al-Birwa 11 June 1948 villagers Carmeli Brigade 1,460

See also


  1. Morris, p.124:"The brigade was not ordered by Haganah General Staff or its commander to drive out the civilian population but it is probable that Moshe Carmel wanted the operation to end in both the conquest and evacuation by the Arabs of the area."
  2. Morris, p.109.
  3. Morris, p.125.
  4. 'All that remains.' p.20.
  5. 'All that remains', pp.9-10.
  6. Morris, p. 109.
  7. Morris, p.125.


Walid Khalidi, All That Remains, ISBN 0-88728-224-5.
Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian refugee problem, 1947-1949,ISBN 0-521-33028-9.

See also

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