Israeli Researcher Uncovers 1948 Bloodbath

By Wafa Amr


http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20000119/wl/mideast_massacre_2.html

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - An Israeli historian said Wednesday that he had
uncovered credible evidence that troops massacred 200 Palestinians in a
single village on the day Israel came into being in 1948.

Teddy Katz, who researched events in the village of Tantura for a
masters
degree, said he had spoken to witnesses including soldiers who were
present to support his findings.

``It started at night and was over in a few hours,'' Katz said of the
attack on May 15, 1948.

``From testimonies and information I got from Jewish and Arab witnesses
and from soldiers who were there, at least 200 people from the village
of
Tantura were killed by Israeli troops

``From the numbers, this is definitely one of the biggest massacres,''
he
told Reuters.

When the British high commissioner for Palestine departed in mid-May
under
a U.N. partition plan envisaging Jewish and Arab states, the Jews
proclaimed the state of Israel. This prompted Arab armies to invade
Israeli territory, and long-running skirmishes became open warfare.

Katz said 14 Israeli soldiers were killed when they ambushed the
village.
The Israeli army commander who led the assault was quoted as saying the
villagers' deaths were a consequence of war and that reports of a
massacre
were ``just stories.''

Katz said the attack was mentioned in only a handful of Palestinian
history books and in the Israeli army archives.

Tantura, near Haifa in northern Israel, had 1,500 residents at the
time.
It was later demolished to make way for a parking lot for a nearby
beach
and the Nahsholim kibbutz, or cooperative farm.

Worse Than Deir Yassin

Katz said the killing spree in Tantura was more tragic and bigger than
in
the village of Deir Yassin just west of Jerusalem, where scores of
Palestinians were killed on April 9, 1948, in an assault by Jewish
armed
groups.

Reports just after the Deir Yassin killings spoke of some 240 deaths
though Israeli and Palestinian historians now accept that the number of
fatalities was probably no more than 120.

Deir Yassin has long stood as the defining symbol of what Palestinians
call al-Nakba (The Great Catastrophe).

They use the term to refer to their dispossession and exile when up to
700,000 Palestinians fled from their towns and villages or were driven
out
by Jewish troops in the conflict between Arab and Jew that surrounded
Israel's creation.

Fawzi Tanji, now 73 and a refugee at a camp in the West Bank, is from
Tantura and worked until May 1948 as a guard for the army in British
Mandate Palestine.

Lined Up And Shot

He told Reuters he had watched as Israeli troops took over the village,
lined men up against a cemetery wall and shot them. Katz said 95 men
were
killed at the cemetery.

``I was 21 years old then. They took a group of 10 men, lined them up
against the cemetery wall and killed them. Then they brought another
group, killed them, threw away the bodies and so on,'' Tanji said. ``I
was
waiting for my turn to die in cold blood as I saw the men drop in front
of
me.''

Tanji said the killing stopped when a Jew from the nearby settlement of
Zichron Yaacov arrived at the scene, took out a pistol and threatened
to
shoot himself unless the soldiers stopped the executions.

Katz said other Palestinians were killed inside their homes and in
other
parts of the village. At one point, he said, soldiers shot at anything
that moved. Villagers resisted with the few guns they had, but they
were
soon taken over.

The Israeli newspaper Maariv, which reported Katz's findings Wednesday,
quoted the commander of the Tantura attack as saying his troops had no
grounds to ask questions or spare lives.

``It was war ... When you see the enemy opposite you, he doesn't have a
note saying he doesn't mean to shoot you. When you see him, you shoot
him,'' retired colonel Bentz Pridan said.

``That's how we went, from street to street, and that explains why a
lot
of people were killed,'' he told Maariv. 






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