Red Cross Eye-Witness Report
On The Deir Yasin Massacre
April 9, 1948
"And in your throat we shall stay,
a piece of glass,
a cactus thorn,
and in your eyes,
a blazing fire."
Palestinian Poet: Tewfiq Zayad
On the night of April 9, 1948, the Irgun Zvei Leumi surrounded the village of Deir Yasin, located on the outskirts of Jerusalem. After giving the sleeping residents a 15 minute warning to evacuated, Menachem Begin's terrorists attacked the village of 700 people, killing 254 mostly old men, women and children and wounding 300 others. Begin's terrorists tossed many of the bodies in the village well, and paraded 150 captured women and children through the Jewish sectors of Jerusalem.
The Haganah and the Jewish Agency, which publicly denounced the atrocity after the details had become public several days later, did all they could to prevent the Red Cross from investigating the attack. It wasn't until three days after the attack that the Zionist armies permitted Jacques de Reynier, chief representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Jerusalem, to visit the village by the surrounding Zionist armies.
Ironically, the Deir Yasin villagers had signed a non aggression pact with the leaders of the adjacent Jewish Quarter, Giv'at Shaul and had even refused military personnel from the Arab Liberation Army from using the village as a base.
Deir Yasin is described as one of Begin's finest moments. Following is the translation from French of the report de Reynier filed with his office (Published in de Reynier's book `A Jerusalem Un Drapeau Flottait Sur La Ligne de Feu' 1950, Geneva:) Immediately after de Reyneir's account are two public statements made by an Haganah witness to the devastation, Col. Meir Pa'el (retired) and by Zvi Ankori, the Haganah commander who occupied Deit Yasin after the Irgun's evacuation.]
de Reynier's statement:
"On Saturday, April 10, in the afternoon, I received a telephone call from the Arabs begging me to go at once to Deir Yasin where the civilian population of the whole village has just been massacred.
"I learned that the Irgun extremists hold this sector, situated near Jerusalem. The Jewish Agency and the Haganah's General Headquarters say that they know nothing about this matter and furthermore it is impossible for anyone to penetrate an Irgun area.
"They advise me that I not become involved in this matter as my mission will run the risk of being permanently cut short if I go there. Not only can they not help me but they also refuse all responsibility for what will certainly happen to me. I answer that I intend to go there at once, that the notorious Jewish Agency exercises its authority over the territory in Jewish hands and that the agency is responsible for my freedom of action within the bounds of my mission.
"In fact, I do not know at all how to do it. Without Jewish support it is impossible to reach that village. After thinking I suddenly remember that a Jewish nurse from a hospital here had made me take her telephone number, saying with a strange look that if I ever were in a difficult situation I could call her. On a chance I call her late in the evening and tell her the situation. She tells me to be in a predetermined location the following day at 7 o'clock and to take in my car the person who will be there.
"The next day on the hour and in the location upon which we agreed, an individual in civilian clothes, but with pistols stuffed in his pockets, jumps into my car and tells me to drive without stopping. At my request, he agrees to show me the road to Deir Yasin, but he admits not being able to do to much more for me. We drive out of Jerusalem, leave the main road and the last regular army post and we turn in on a cross road. Very soon two soldiers stop us. They look alarming with machine guns in full view and larger cutlasses at the belt.
"I recognize the uniform of those I am looking for. I must leave the car and lend myself to bodily search. Then I understand that I am a prisoner. All seems lost when a very big fellow ... jostles his friends, takes my hand ... He understands neither English nor French, but in German we arrive at a perfect understanding. He tells me his joy at seeing an ICRC delegate, for having been a prisoner in a camp for Jews in Germany he owes his life to nothing else but our intervention and three reprieves. He says that I am more than a brother for him and that he will do anything I ask. ... We go to Deir Yasin.
"Having reached a ridge 500 meters from the village which we see below, we must wait a long time for permission to go ahead. The shooting from the Arab side starts every time somebody tries to cross the road and the Commander of the Irgun detachment does not seem willing to relieve me. Finally he arrives, young, distinguished, perfectly correct, but his eyes have a strange, cruel, cold look. I explain my mission to him which has nothing in common with that of a judge or arbiter. I want to help the wounded and bring back the dead.
"Moreover, the Jews have signed a pledge to respect the Geneva Convention and my mission is therefore an official one. This last statement provokes the anger of this officer who asks me to consider once and for all that here it is the Irgun who are in command and nobody else, not even the Jewish Agency with which they have nothing in common.
"My (guide) hearing the raised voices intervenes ... Suddenly the officer tells me I can act as I see fit but on my own responsibility. He tells me the story of this village populated by about 400 Arabs, disarmed since always and living on good terms with the Jews who encircled them. According to him, the Irgun arrived 24 hours previously and ordered by loudspeaker the whole population to evacuate all the buildings and surrender. There is a 15 minute delay in the execution of the command. Some of the unhappy people came forward and would have been taken prisoners and then turned loose shortly afterwards toward the Arab lines. The rest did not obey the order and suffered the fate they deserved. But one must not exaggerate for there are only a few dead who would be buried as soon as the `clean up' of the village is over. If I find a bodies, I can take them with me, but there are certainly no wounded.
"This tale gives me cold chills. "I return to Jerusalem to find an ambulance and a truck that I had alerted through the Red Shield ... I arrive with my convoy in the village and the Arab fire ceases. The (Jewish) troops are in campaign uniforms with helmets. All the young people and even the adolescents, men and women, are armed to their teeth: pistols, machine guns, grenades, and also big cutlasses, most of them still bloody, that they hold in their hands. A young girl with the eyes of a criminal, shows me hers still dripping. She carries it around like a trophy. Thisis the `clean up' team which certainly has accomplished its job very conscientiously.
"I try to enter a building. About 10 soldiers surround me with machine guns aimed at me. An officer forbids me to move from the spot. They are going to bring the dead that are there, he says. I then get as furious as ever before in my life and tell these criminals what I think about the way they act, menacing them with the thunder I can muster, then I roughly push aside those who surround me and enter the building.
"The first room is dark, completely in disorder, and empty. In the second, I find among smashed furniture covers and all sorts of debris, some cold bodies. There they have been cleaned up by machine guns then by grenades. They have been finished by knives.
"It is the same thing in the next room, but just as I am leaving, I hear something like a sigh. I search everywhere, move some bodies and finally find a small foot which is still warm. It is a little 10 year old girl, very injured by grenade, but still alive. I want to take her with me but the officer forbids it and blocks the door. I push him aside and leave with my precious cargo protected by the brave (guide).
"The loaded ambulances leaves with orders to return as soon as possible. And because these troops have not dared to attack me directly, it is possible to continue.
"I give orders to load the bodies from this house on the truck. Then I go on to the neighboring house and go on. Everywhere I encounter the same terrible sight. I only find two persons still alive, two women, one of whom is an old grandmother, hidden behind the firewood where she kept immobile for at least 24 hours.
"There were 400 persons in the village. About 50 had fled, three are still alive, but the rest have been massacred on orders, for as I have noticed, this troop is admirably disciplined and acts only on command.
...[De Reynier continues that he returns to Jerusalem where he confronts the Jewish Agency and scolds them for not exercising control over the 150 armed men and women responsible for the massacre.]...
"I then go to see the Arabs. I say nothing about what I have seen, but only that after a first quick visit to the spot there seems to be several dead and I ask what I shall do or where to bring them ... they ask me to see that a suitable burial be given them in a place which will be recognizable later on. I pledge to do so and on my return to Deir Yasin, I find the Irgun people in a very bad mood. They try to stop me from approaching the village and I understand when I see the number and above all the state of the bodies which have been lined up on the main street. I demand firmly that they proceed with the burial and insist on helping them. After some discussion, they begin actually to scoop out a big grave in a small garden. It is impossible to verify the identity of the dead, for they have no papers, but I wrote accurately their descriptions with approximate age.
"Two days later, the Irgun had disappeared from the spot and the Haganah had taken possession. We have discovered different places where the bodies have been piled up without either decency or respect in the open air.
"Back in my office I received two gentleman in civilian clothes, very well dressed who had waited for more than one hour. It is the commander of the Irgun detachment and his aide. They have prepared a text they ask me to sign. It is a statement according to which I have been received courteously by them, that I have obtained all the help needed to accomplish my mission and I thank them for the aide they gave me.
"As I hesitate, I begin to discuss the statement, and they tell me that if I care for my life I should sign immediately."
...[Calling the statement contrary to fact, de Reynier refuses to sign. Several days later in Tel Aviv, de Reynier says he approached by the same two men who ask the ICRC to assist some of their Irgun soldiers.]...
[Former Haganah officer, Col. Meir Pa'el, upon his retirement from the Israeli army in 1972, made the following public statement about Deir Yasin that was published by Yediot Ahronot (April 4, 1972):]
"In the exchange that followed four [Irgun] men were killed and a dozen were wounded ... by noon time the battle was over and the shooting had ceased. Although there was calm, the village had not yet surrendered. The Irgun and LEHI men came out of hiding and began to `clean' the houses. They shot whoever they saw, women and children included, the commanders did not try to stop the massacre .... I pleaded with the commander to order his men to cease fire, but to no avail. In the meantime, 25 Arabs had been loaded on a truck and driven through Mahne Yehuda and Zichron Yousef (like prisoners in a Roman `March of Triumph'). At the end of the drive, they were taken to the quarry between Deir Yasin and Giv'at Shaul, and murdered in cold blood ... The commanders also declined when asked to take their men and bury the 254 Arab bodies. This unpleasant task was performed by two Gadna units brought to the village from Jerusalem."
[Zvi Ankori, who commanded the Haganah unit that occupied Deir Yasin after the massacre, gave this statement in 1982 about the massacre, published by Davar on April 9, 1982:]
"I went into 6 to 7 houses. I saw cut off genitalia and women's crushed stomaches. According to the shooting signs on the bodies, it was direct murder."
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