Ma’an News Agency | – –
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Palestinians on Saturday marked the 68th anniversary of the massacre of more than 100 Palestinians civilians carried out by Zionist paramilitary groups in the village of Deir Yassin in 1948 prior to the establishment of Israel.
Deir Yassin has long been a symbol of Israeli violence for Palestinians because of the particularly gruesome nature of the slaughter, which targeted men, women, children, and the elderly in the small village west of Jerusalem.
The number of victims is generally believed to be around 107, though figures given at the time reached up to 254, out of a village that numbered around 600 at the time.
The Deir Yassin massacre was led by the Irgun group, whose head was future Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, with support from other paramilitary groups Haganah and Lehi whose primary aim was to push Palestinians out through force.
Records of the massacre describe Palestinian homes blown up with residents inside, and families shot down as they attempted to flee.
The massacre came in spite of Deir Yassin resident’s efforts to maintain positive relations with new Jewish neighbors, including the signing of pact that was approved by Haganah, a main Zionist paramilitary organization during the British Mandate of Palestine.
An Israeli psychiatric hospital now lies on the ruins of Deir Yassin, the remainder of which was reportedly bulldozed in the 1980s to make way for Jewish housing and incorporated as a neighborhood of Jerusalem. Streets of the neighborhood hold names of Irgun militiamen who carried out the massacre.
The massacre was one of the first in what would become a long line of attacks on countless Palestinian villages, part of a broader strategy called Plan Dalet by Zionist groups to strike fear into local Palestinians in hopes that the ensuing terror would lead to an Arab exodus, to ensure only Jews were left in the “Jewish state.”
Thus the attack on Deir Yassin took place a month before the UN Partition Plan was expected to be carried out, and was part of reasons later given by neighboring Arab states for their intervention in Palestine.
The combination of forced expulsion and flight that the massacres — what would later become known among Palestinians as the Nakba, or catastrophe — precipitated left around 750,000 Palestinians as refugees abroad. Today their descendants number more than five million, and their right to return to Palestine is a central political demand.
The anniversary of the deadly razing of the village comes as modern day Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank continue to fight for their livelihood in the face of illegal Israeli settlement expansion, widespread detention campaigns, extrajudicial executions by Israeli forces, and a surge in housing demolitions — most recently leaving 124 Palestinians homeless in a single day.
Related video added by Juan Cole: