9 Killed in Raid on Arab Village
Deir Sharafat pictured in July 1948. Photo: Palmach Archive

February 6, 1951

Israeli soldiers launch an overnight raid across the Green Line to Sharafat, an Arab waqf village of about 200 residents south of the portion of Jerusalem controlled by Israel at the end of the War of Independence. Ordered by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, the attack comes in retaliation for a cross-border raid in which an Israeli man was killed, his wife was raped, and their home was ransacked. Israeli intelligence has found that the Arab raid used Sharafat as a base.

The Israeli troops surround and blow up two houses, one of which belongs to Sharafat’s mukhtar. The attack kills nine villagers, including five children ages 13 and younger, and injures at least eight others. Serene Husseini Shahid, whose influential family had a home in Sharafat when she was growing up, recalls in her 2000 autobiography, “Jerusalem Memories,” of hearing about the attack on the radio while in Beirut and learning that the fatalities in the mukhtar’s house include a childhood friend and that friend’s daughter.

Moshe Dayan, who heads the Israel Defense Forces’ Southern Command, says the raid is an example of Israel exacting “an eye for an eye,” and Mossad head Reuven Shiloah blames a pattern of Arab raiding and raping. By contrast, Prime Minister Samir Rifa’i of Jordan, which rules over Sharafat and the rest of the West Bank from 1948 until the June 1967 war, calls the attack “fiendish” and sees it as evidence that Israel does not want peace.

Historian Benny Morris writes in “Israel’s Border Wars: 1949-1956” that such retribution operations become a major IDF strategy in the 1950s amid repeated Palestinian infiltrations. In 1951 alone, Palestinian fedayeen (infiltrators) kill 118 Israelis, including 48 civilians, and the IDF reports killing an average of 36 fedayeen each month.