Friday, May 15, 2009
By Khalid Amayreh, IOL Correspondent
“When they came they started killing the civilian population en mass, men, women and children,” recalls Mohammed, now nearly 100-year-old.
“They killed anyone they saw. They broke the heads of children and cut open the bellies of women with bayonets. They even raped some women before murdering them.”
“It was Friday and many elderly people had already gone to the local mosque for the congregational prayer,” he remembers.
“About two hours before the prayers, around 10:00 or 10:30 a.m., a number of vehicles carrying gunmen arrived. They sprayed everyone with bullets, killing all the 75 elderly people. Not a single one survived,” he added with tears in his eyes.
“They then started going into the houses, killing entire families. The killings forced people to flee eastward. However, the Hagana men pursued the fleeing civilians, killing more people.”
In his book “All That Remains,” Walid al-Khalid, a Palestinian historian of impeccable credentials, wrote that al-Dawayema had a population of 3710 in 1945.
The world marks on May 15 the “Nakba Day,” when Israel was created on the rubble of their country.
On April 18, 1948, Palestinian Tiberius was captured by Menachem Begin’s Irgun militant group, putting its 5,500 Palestinian residents in flight. On April 22, Haifa fell to the Zionist militants and 70,000 Palestinians fled.
On April 25, Irgun began bombarding civilian sectors of Jaffa, terrifying the 750,000 inhabitants into panicky flight.
On May 14, the day before the creation of Israel, Jaffa completely surrendered to the much better-equipped Zionist militants and only about 4,500 of its population remained.
Mohammed, who now lives with his family at the small village of al-Majd, about 7 kilometers southwest of al-Dawayema, says dozens of families had sought shelter at a big cave called “Turel Zagh”.
“The Jews told them to come out and get into a row and start to walk. And when they started walking, they sprayed them with machinegun fire from two sides,” he adds.
“One woman, the wife of Mir’ie Freih, survived the massacre by pretending to be dead.”
Mohammed said the victims of the massacre were later buried inside the Bir al-Sahra and Bir al-Sil wells.
His testimony was corroborated by Israeli historians and researchers relying on the de-classified archives of the Israeli army and interviews with veteran soldiers.
Israeli historian Benny Morris had interviewed a participant in the massacre who told him that about 80 to 100 people, including women and children, were killed by “the first wave of conquerors.”
In 1984, an Israeli journalist interviewed the former Mukhtar (village notable) of al-Dawayema, Hasan Mahmoud Ihdeib, and took him back to the site for the first time since the massacre.
Ihdeib told him about the people killed in the mosque and the families
slaughtered at the cave, showing him the cistern where the bodies had been buried.
A few days later, the Israeli journalist brought workers who dug and discovered bones and skulls.
In 1955, the Jewish settlement of Amatzya was built on the ruins of al-Dawayema.
Aharon Zisling, Israel’s first agriculture minister, had likened the massacre, codenamed “Operation Yo’av”, to Nazi crimes.
A few years ago, Mohammed and his family visited the ruinous cite of his village where his father, mother, grandfather and their ancestors are buried.
“I stood their crying. I saw our home, badly dilapidated. I saw the chamber where my father used to receive guests. I saw the abandoned wells of water.”
The century-old Palestinian still hopes he would be allowed to live in his old home village.
“My wish has remained unchanged, it is to return to my village, to die and be buried there.”
Asked further if he would accept compensation for his lost property, he lapsed into a moment of silence before answering.
“It is not a matter of property and compensation,” he said.
“This is my country, my history, my home, my childhood memories. My forefathers and foremothers are buried there. Would you trade the grave of your father for all the money in the world?”
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