Spiro Munayyer's account begins immediately after the United Nations General Assembly partition resolution of 29 November 1947 and culminates in the cataclysmic four days of Lydda's conquest by the Israeli army (10-14 July 1948) during which 49,000 of Lydda's 50,000 inhabitants ("swollen" with refugees) were forcefully expelled, the author himself being one of those few allowed to remain in his hometown. Although the author was not in a position of political or military responsibility, he was actively involved in Lydda's resistance movement both as the organizer of the telephone network linking up the various sectors of Lydda's front lines and as a volunteer paramedic, in which capacity he accompanied the city's defenders in most of the battles in which they took part. The result is one of the very few detailed eye-witness accounts that exists from the point of view of an ordinary Palestinian layman of one of the most important and tragic episodes of the 1948 war. The conquest of Lydda (and of its neighbor, Ramla, some five kilometers to the south) was the immediate objective of Operation Dani-the major offensive launched by the Israeli army at the order of Ben-Gurion during the so-called "Ten Days" of fighting (8-18 July 1948), between the First Truce (11 June-8 July) and the Second Truce (which started on 18 July and lasted, in theory, until the armistice agreements of 1949). The further objective of Operation Dani was to outflank the Transjordanian Arab Legion positions at Latrun (commanding the defile at Bab al-Wad, where the road from the coast starts climbing toward Jerusalem) in order to penetrate central Palestine and capture Rumallah and Nablus. Lydda and Ramla and the surrounding villages fell within the boundaries of the Arab state according to the UNGA partition resolution. Despite their proximity to Tel Aviv and the fall of many Palestinian towns since April (Tiberias, Haifa, Jaffa, Safad, Acre, and Baysan), they had held out until July even though little help had reached them from the Arab armies entering on 15 May. Their strategic importance was enormous because of their location at the intersection of the country's main north-south and west-east road and rail lines. Palestine's largest British army camp at Sarafand was a few kilometers west of Lydda, its main international airport an equal distance to the north, its central railway junction at Lydda itself. Ras al-Ayn, fifteen kilometers north of Lydda, was the main source of Jerusalem's water supply, while one of the largest British depots was at Bayt Nabala, seven kilometers to its northeast. The Israeli forces assembled for Operation Dani were put under the overall command of Yigal Allon, the Palmach commander. They consisted of the two Palmach brigades (Yiftach and Harel, the latter under the command of Yitzhak Rabin), the Eighth Armored Brigade composed of the Second Tank Battalion and the Ninth Commando Battalion (the former under the command of Yitzhak Sadeh, founder of the Palmach, the latter under that of Moshe Dayan), the Second Battalion Kiryati Brigade, the Third Battalion Alexandroni Brigade, and several units of the Kiryati Garrison Troops (Khayl Matzav). The Eighth Armored Brigade had a high proportion of World War II Jewish veterans volunteering from the United States, Britain, France, and South Africa (under the so-called MAHAL program), while its two battalions also included 700 members of the Irgun Zva'i Le'umi (IZL). The total strength of the Israeli attackers was about 8,000 men. The only regular Arab troops defending Lydda (and Ramla) was a minuscule force of 125 men-the Fifth Infantry Company of the Transjordanian Arab Legion. The defenders of Lydda (and Ramla) were volunteer civilian residents, like the author, under the command of a retired sergeant who had served in the Arab Legion. The reason for the virtual absence of Arab regular troops in the Lydda-Ramla sector was that the Arab armies closest to it (the Egyptian in the south, the Arab Legion in the east, and the Iraqi in the north) were already overstretched. The Egyptian northernmost post was at Isdud, thirty-two kilometers north of Gaza and a like distance southeast of Ramla-Lydda as the crow flies. The Iraqi southernmost post was at Ras al-Ayn, where they were weakest. And although the Arab Legion was in strength some fifteen kilometers due east at Latrun, the decision had been taken not to abandon its positions on the hills between Ras al-Ayn and Latrun for fear of being outflanked and cut off by the superior Israeli forces in the plains where Lydda and Ramla were situated. Indeed, as General Glubb, commander of the Arab Legion, informs us, he had told King Abdallah and the Transjordanian prime minister Tawfiq Abu Huda even before the end of the Mandate on 15 May that the Legion did not have the forces to hold and defend Lydda and Ramla against Israeli attacks despite the fact that these towns were in the area assigned to the Arabs by the UNGA partition resolution. This explains the token force of the Arab Legion-the Fifth Infantry Company. Thus, the fate of Lydda (and Ramla) was sealed the moment Operation Dani was launched. The Israeli forces did not attack Lydda from the west (where Lydda's defenses facing Tel Aviv were strongest), as the garrison commander Sergeant Hamza Subh expected. Instead, they split into two main forces, northern and southern, which were to rendezvous at the Jewish colony of Ben Shemen east of Lydda and then advance on Lydda from there. After capturing Lydda from the east they were to advance on Ramla, attacking it from the north while making feints against it from the west. Operation Dani began on the night of 9-10 July. Simultaneously with the advance of the ground troops, Lydda and Ramla were bombed from the air. In spite of the surprise factor, the defenders in the eastern sector of Lydda put up stout resistance throughout the 10th against vastly superior forces attacking from Ben Shemen in the north and the Arab village of Jimzu to the south. In the afternoon, Dayan rode with his Commando Battalion of jeeps and half-tracks through Lydda in a hit-and-run raid lasting under one hour "shooting up the town and creating confusion and a degree of terror among the population," as the Jewish brothers Jon and David Kimche put it. This discombobulated the defenders, some of whom surrendered. But the following morning (11 July) a small force of three Arab Legion armored cars entered Lydda, their mission being to help in the evacuation of the beleaguered Fifth Infantry Company. Their sudden appearance both panicked the Israeli troops and rallied the defenders who had not surrendered. The Israeli army put down what it subsequently described as the city's "uprising" with utmost brutality, leaving in a matter of hours in the city's streets about 250 civilian dead in an orgy of indiscriminate killing. Resistance continued sporadically during the 12th and 13th of July, its focus being Lydda's police station, which was finally overrun. As of 11 July, the Israeli army began the systematic expulsion of the residents of Lydda and Ramla (the latter having fallen on 12 July) toward the Arab Legion lines in the east. Also expelled were the populations of some twenty-five villages conquered during Operation Dani, making a total of some 80,000 expellees-the largest single instance of deliberate mass expulsion during the 1948 war. Most of the expellees were women, children, and elderly men, most of the able-bodied men having been taken prisoner. Memories of the trek of the Lydda and Ramla refugees is branded in the collective consciousness of the Palestinians. The Palestinian historian Aref al-Aref, who interviewed survivors at the time, estimates that 350 died of thirst and exhaustion in the blazing July sun, when the temperature was one hundred degrees in the shade. The reaction of public opinion in Ramallah and East Jerusalem at the sight of the new arrivals was to turn against the Arab Legion for its failure to help Lydda and Ramla. Arab Legion officers and men were stoned, loudly hissed at and cursed, a not unintended outcome by the person who gave the expulsion order, David Ben-Gurion, and the man who carried it out, Yitzhak Rabin, director of operations for Operation Dani.

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