Hadassah medical convoy massacre

From Academic Kids

The Hadassah medical convoy massacre was an event that took place in 1948 during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, approximately one month before Israel's declaration of independence and a few days after the Deir Yassin massacre. At the time, the area was still part of the British mandate of Palestine.


The Blockade of Mount Scopus

The Hadassah Hospital on the Hebrew University campus on Mount Scopus, Jerusalem was connected to Jerusalem only by a narrow access road that travelled through surrounding Arab vilages, and traffic between the hospital and the city came under occasional attacks since the outbreak of hostilities a few months earlier. In early March, Abdul Kader Husseini, leader of the Palestinian forces in Jerusalem, threatened to blow up the hospital. Though he did not carry through on his threat, the Arab militias began to use armor-piercing weapons and mines to attack traffic on the road. Through there was a brief lull at the end of March, attacks on road traffic had become almost constant by early April. Food and supplies had begun to run out, and fears grew that the hospital, which treated the majority of the Jewish residents of Jerusalem, might need to be abandoned.

Plans were made for a large convoy, carrying patients, equipment, doctors, and supllies, to travel the mile and a half from Jerusalem to the besieged hospital. Although the British commander of Jerusalem assured the Jews that the road was safe, commanders of the Jerusalem sector of the Haganah, the irregular Jewish armed force, strongly advised a postponement due to the high tensions in the area, following the Deir Yassin massacre. However, the hospital staff decided to continue on with the convoy plans.

The Attack

On April 13, a convoy of 10 vehicles, mostly consisting of unarmed Jewish doctors, nurses, medical students and lecturers set off for the hospital in the early morning. At approximately 9:45, the leading vehicle was hit by a mine and the convoy came under attack by Arab irregular forces. Five of the vehicles were able to flee, but five others, including two buses and an ambulance, were unable to escape the ambush and were subject to constant machine gun fire from the surrounding Arabs, despite passangers waving a white flag. After the buses began to leak gasoline, they were set on fire by Molotov cocktails (petrol bombs) thrown by the irregulars, their inhabitants still inside.

For nearly seven hours, the British refused to intervene, and failed to even bring Jaques de Reynier, the Red Cross representative in Jerusalem, to the scene to negotiate a cease-fire. The British also attempted to stop the Haganah from mounting a rescue operation, and the eventual attempts by the Palmach (an arm of the Haganah) to rescue the convoy were unsuccessful. The attack continued for over six hours before the British finally stopped it at arround 4:30. Altogether approximately 77 Jews were killed by gunfire or were burnt when several vehicles were set alight.


Among those killed was Dr. Haim Yassky, the Director of the hospital and Dr. Moshe Ben-David, who was to be the Director a new medical school at the hospital (the medical school would eventually be built at Hebrew University in the 1950s).

After the attack, no convoys were able to reach the hospital for a week due to continued attacks on the road, and despite British assurances of assistance. The situation in the compound became grim, and the decision was made to evacuate the hospital in early May, leaving a staff of a couple hundred to run at a reduced 50 beds. The hospital was effectively closed by the end of May, as no supplies could reach it, though a small number of doctors and students remained. In July, a deal was worked out where Mount Scopus became a UN area, with 84 Jewish policemen assigned to guard the now shuttered hospital. In the armistice agreement with Jordan, signed on April 3, 1949, the hospital became a demilitarized Israeli enclave, but only resumed medical services when the area was captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Further Reading

  • Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, O Jerusalem!, History Book Club, 1972, ISBN 0671662414.
  • Jacques de Reynier, A Jerusalem un drapeau flottait sur la ligne de feu.

External Links

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