Truck Bombs Explode on Ben Yehuda Street
Aftermath of the bombing. Photo: Public Domain

February 22, 1948

Arab militants disguised as British troops, joined by a pair of British deserters, detonate bombs in three British military trucks and an armored car in the morning along the shopping district of Ben Yehuda Street in downtown Jerusalem, killing as many as 58 Jewish civilians and wounding 140 to 200 others. The bombing, the first of a dozen targeting civilians on or near Ben Yehuda over the next 55 years, escalates the three-way fighting among Jews, Arabs and the British army in the six months between the approval of the U.N. partition plan for Palestine and the Israeli Declaration of Independence.

Abd al-Qadir, the founder of the Organization for Holy Struggle and a commander during the 1936-39 Arab Revolt, takes credit for the attack the next day and claims that it is a response to a bombing by the Irgun in Ramle on Feb. 19. 

Jewish residents of the Yishuv, however, largely blame the British. The Irgun issues an order to shoot British soldiers on sight, and eight soldiers are fatally shot the day of the Ben Yehuda bombing. An additional soldier is killed in a Jewish clinic where he is being treated for a wound.

David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency, visits the site of the Ben Yehuda carnage and puts some of the blame on groups such as the Irgun and Lehi, saying, “I could not forget that our thugs and murderers had opened the way.”

His statement does not stop the Jewish violence. An attack with mortars on the Arab village of Musrara kills seven people Feb. 23. On Feb. 29, Lehi blows up a train carrying British soldiers out of Rehovot, killing 27.