British Round Up Resistance Fighters
A 1940s British “Wanted” poster for Jewish resistance fighters. Photo: British Palestine Police Force Archive

June 29, 1946

The British military launches Operation Agatha, a two-week series of raids and arrests of Jewish resistance fighters, on a day that comes to be known as Black Sabbath. Involving some 17,000 soldiers, the operation is a response to the destruction June 17 of 10 bridges linking Palestine to its neighbors by the Palmach, the elite strike force of the Haganah, the military organization for the Yishuv.

The British target Jewish Agency leaders and occupy the Jewish Agency headquarters but fail to arrest David Ben-Gurion, who is in Paris. Major underground figures, such as Irgun leader Menachem Begin, also avoid capture. But the operation does seize three truckloads of Jewish Agency documents. That haul and other intelligence gained during Operation Agatha prove that the Haganah, Irgun and Lehi, despite being rivals, are cooperating in efforts to topple the British Mandate in Palestine. A raid at Kibbutz Yagur captures 300 rifles, 100 2-inch mortars, 78 handguns, 5,000 grenades and more than 400,000 bullets.

The British arrest some 2,700 Jews. Most are held at a special internment camp at Rafiah, although some are brought to a VIP camp at Latrun. Those arrested include Moshe Sharett, Dov Yosef and David Remez.

The Haganah leadership meets two days later and resolves not to let Operation Agatha deter military action. One operation launched in response to Black Sabbath is the bombing of the King David Hotel on July 22, 1946. Underground operations by the Irgun, Lehi and Haganah increase over the nearly two years remaining before Israel’s Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948.