Operation Gideon was a Haganah offensive launched in the closing days of the British Mandate in Palestine, as part of the 1947–1948 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine. Its objectives were to capture Beisan (Beit She'an), clear the surrounding villages and bedouin camps and block one of the possible entry routes for Transjordanian forces. It was part of Plan Dalet. The operation was carried out by the Golani brigade between 10–15 May 1948. Avraham Yoffe commanded the battalion that captured Beisan. The 1947 UN Partition Plan allocated Beisan and most of its district to the proposed Jewish state. It is possible that Irgun units were involved in parts of the operation. Following the operation, the town formally surrendered with most of its residents fleeing. Most Arab Christians relocated to Nazareth. A ma'abarah (refugee camp) inhabited mainly by North African immigrants was also erected in Beit She'an, and it later became a development town.
Beisan was a predominantly Muslim town in the centre of a fertile valley running into the River Jordan. The area has significant Ancient Egyptian, Greek, Samaritan, Jewish and Roman archeological remains. It was on the main road from 'Afula and Tiberias which was one of the ancient routes between Damascus and Egypt. During the British mandate a number of Jewish villages were established in the valley. By the end of the Second World war, Jews owned a third of the lands in the Beisan valley. The Beisan lands were awarded to the Jews under the 1947 UN Partition plan.
On the night of 10/11 May troops from the Golani brigade captured two villages close to Baysan and immediately commenced blowing up houses. The following night they launched a mortar bombardment on Baysan. Commander Yoffe telephoned local leaders in the town and threatened to level the town. The next day the town formally surrendered with most of its residents fleeing. Between 700 and 1,500 of those who remained in the town were expelled across the River Jordan on 14/15 May. There were left around 250 people, mainly Christians and they were trucked to Nazareth on 28 May.
Yosef Weitz of the JNF claimed he had David Ben-Gurion's approval for a program of systematic destruction of villages. But it appears that Ben Gurion was concerned by the destruction of Baysan. On 16 June he cabled Golani headquarters: "Ask Avraham Yoffe is it true that he burned the town of Beit Shean in whole or in part, and on whose instructions did he do this?"
This appears to have been as a result of Agriculture Minister, Aharon Zisling, raising the issue at the Provisinal Government's Cabinet meeting on the same day: "destruction during battle ... is one thing. But a month later in cold blood, out of political calculation is another thing altogether. This course will not reduce the number of Arabs who will return to the Land of Israel. It will increase the number of our enemies."
On 20 June Minority Affairs Minister, Bechor Shitrit also raised the issue of destruction of villages.
Most Arab Christians relocated to Nazareth. During the 1950s a ma'abarah (refugee camp) inhabited mainly by North African immigrants was erected in Beit She'an, and it later became a development town.
Arab communities captured during Operation Gideon
|Al-Ashrafiyya||10 May 1948||villagers fled||Golani brigade||230|
|Farwana||10 May 1948||villagers fled
|Baysan||12 May 1948||Arab Liberation Army
inc. 430 Christians
|Al-Sakhina||12 May 1948||n/a||Golani brigade||820|
inc. 290 Jews
|Al-Hamidiyya||12 May 1948||n/a||Golani brigade||320|
inc. 100 Jews
|Sirin||12 May 1948||n/a||Golani||810|
|Al-Ghazzawiyya||20 May 1948||n/a||Golani brigade
inc. 620 Jews
|Al-Fatur||20 May 1948||n/a||n/a||110|
|'Arab al-Safa||20 May 1948||n/a||Golani brigade||650|
|Kawkab al-Hawa||21 May 1948||n/a||Golani brigade
|Al-Samiriyya||27 May 1948||n/a||Golani brigade
|Danna||28 May 1948||n/a||Golani brigade||190|
Other Arab communities in Baysan district, 1948
inc 180 Jews
|Jabbul||7 June 1948||n/a||Barak||420|
inc. 170 Jews (Beyt Yosef)
- 'Gideon' is the name used for this operation by 'All that remains'. Morris does not name the operation but describes it in detail. pages 106-107.
- Morris page 334.
- prepared in December 1945 and January 1946 for the information of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry. (1991). A Survey of Palestine: Prepared in December, 1945 and January, 1946 for the Information of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry. 1. Institute for Palestine Studies. pp. 12–13. ISBN 0-88728-211-3.
- United Nations. Land Ownership of Palestine—Map prepared by the government of the British Mandate of Palestine on the instructions of the UN Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestine Question (Map). http://domino.un.org/maps/m0094.jpg. Retrieved 2008-10-20.
- 'All that remains', page 44. From a 14 May Irgun announcement that they had taken five villages in the North.
- Morris, page 106/107.
- Steimatzky's Palestine Guide, Jerusalem, 1942. pages 195-197. "If the garden of Eden is in Palestine then its gate is at Beit Shean." Quoting 'the sages of Israel'.
- The New encyclopedia of archaeological excavations in the Holy Land: Volume 1, p.224
- Samaritan Synagogue Uncovered near Beit She'an. CBN News, September 21, 2010
- 'Israel and the Occupied Territories' The Rough Guide, 1989. ISBN 0-7471-0105-1. Page 284.
- State lands and rural development in mandatory Palestine, 1920-1948 By Warwick P. N. Tyler. p. 78
- Morris, page 106/107. His sources are: 'Ilan Va'shelah Derekh Hakravot Shel Hativat Golani' (Tree and Sword, the route of battle of the Golani Brigade) Tel Aviv 1951. 'Hashomer Hatzair Archives, Aharon Cohen Papers.'
- Morris, page 161 and page 334.
- Morris, Page 162
- Morris's spelling, page 162.
- Morris Page 106. 'Haganah sappers began to blow up the village houses.'
- Morris Page 106
- Walid Khalidi, All That Remains, ISBN 0-88728-224-5. Uses 1945 census for population figures.
- Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian refugee problem, 1947–1949,ISBN 0-521-33028-9.
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