Survivors' accountsThe following survivor accounts of Deir Yassin appeared in the Dossier 179/110/17/GS and were labeled "Secret" and were the result of an investigation about 4 days after the capture of the village. They were not made generally available for 25 years so it is difficult to assume it was made for anti-Irgun propaganda purposes at the time. If anything keeping it secret indicates the British protecting the reputation of the Irgun.
Journalists Larry Collins (UPI/Newsweek) and Dominique Lapierre (Paris-Match) [authors of the celebrated Is Paris Burning?] reviewed the contents of the reports for their bestseller O Jerusalem! (1972). They noted that the dossier "contain[ed] the interrogation reports of the massacre's survivors by a team of British police officers together with corroborating physical evidence obtained through medical examination of the survivors by a doctor and nurse from Government Hospital in Jerusalem." (p. 276)
Direct statements of survivors will follow. In any event, CID Deputy Inspector General Catling concluded:
"The recording of statements is hampered also by the hysterical state of the women who often break down many times whilst the statement is being recorded. There is, however, no doubt that many sexual atrocities were committed by the attacking Jews. Many young schoolgirls were raped and later slaughtered. Old women were also molested. One story is current concerning a case in which a young girl was literally torn in two. Many infants were also butchered and killed. I also saw one old woman . . . who had been severely beaten about the head with rifle butts. Women had bracelets torn from their arms and rings from their fingers and parts of some of the women's ears were severed in order to remove earrings."
Survivor statements from the reports are below. Collins and Lapierre refused to use later Arab sources of atrocities so as to avoid the risk of "any Arab tendency to magnify the events in retrospect." (p. 276) In conducting their own journalistic investigation, however, the authors met with survivors and noted that "their accounts in 1969 amply confirmed the details of the [secret] British report." (P. 584)
SURVIVOR RECOLLECTIONS FROM DEIR YASSIN
Mr. Fahimi Zeidan, 12: "The Jews ordered all our family to line up against the wall and they started shooting us. I was hit in the side, but most of us children were saved because we hid behind our parents. The bullets hit my sister Kadri [four] in the head, my sister Sameh [eight] in the cheek, my brother Mohammed [seven] in the chest. But all the others with us against the wall were killed: my father, my mother, my grandfather and grandmother, my uncles and aunts and some of their children."
Ms. Haleem Eid, 30: "A man [shot] a bullet into the neck of my sister Salhiyeh who was nine months pregnant. Then he cut her stomach open with a butcher's knife."
Ms. Naaneh Khalil, 16, saw a man: "take a kind of sword and slash my neighbor Jamil Hish from head to toe then do the same thing on the steps to my house to my cousin Fathi."
Ms. Safiyeh Attiyah, 41: "I screamed but around me other women were being raped too. Some of the men were so anxious to get our earrings they ripped our ears to pull them off faster."
Mr. Mohamed Jaber, student, "The Jews [broke] in, [drove] everybody outside, put them against the wall and shot them. One of the women was carrying a three month old baby."
Survivors' testimoniesSource: alnakba site. 3 eyewitness testimonies of the Deir Yassin massacre as told to journalist Elias Zananiri, previously published in 9.4.1997 in "Gulf News". On the eve of April 9th 1948, armed members of Jewish underground groups attacked the village, a strategic site towering Jerusalem from the West. After the fall of Al Qastal a few days earlier and the killing of Palestinian guerrilla leader Abdul Qader Al Husseini, Deir Yassin became the most important point on the road to Jerusalem.
TESTIMONY I: M.A.R. Al Y. (Abu Mahmud) 70, currently lives in the Old City of Jerusalem, below are excerpts from his testimony: "I was in the village when the Jews attacked. I and my colleagues were on the western side of the village, opposite Al Qastal. We had our guns on us. All villagers, mainly the youths, were ready for whatever may happen after the Qastal battle was over."
"By 1630 on Thursday 8 April 1948, Abdul Qader Husseini was killed as we were watching the battle from a distance. After his death, we took precautionary measures in case anything would happen: We guarded the village until 0230 the next morning when the Jews started entering the village with the use of spot and search lights looking for our fighters."
"The Jews closed on the village amid exchanges of fire with us. Once they entered the village, fighting became very heavy in the eastern side and later it spread to other parts, to the quarry, to the village center until it reached the western edge. The battle was on three fronts, east, south and north. The Jews used all sorts of automatic weapons, tanks, missiles, cannons. They used to enter houses and kill women and children indiscriminately. The youths in the village fought bravely against them and the fighting continued until it was around 1530 afternoon. We had no aid or support from any party."
"They took about 40 prisoners from the village. But after the battle was over, they took them to the quarry where they shot them dead and threw their bodies in the quarry. After they removed their dead and wounded, they took the prisoners and killed them. They took the elderly prisoners, women and men and took them out of the village, yet they killed the youths."
"They called on us to surrender, to throw our weapons and to save ourselves. But we did not imagine them breaking into the village. We expected the fighting to last one or two hours, after which they would retreat. But they continued the fighting (...)."
"We had trenches. The Jews filled one of those trenches with sand and rocks in order for their tanks to cross. When we hit the tank, it started firing from its machine-guns at our positions in the western edge of the village.(...)"
"I remember, from what my uncle’s wife told me, that an uncle of mine who was a schoolmaster, had killed the commander of the invading gangs on the staircase of one of the houses and later he disappeared for three days. Then, they found him with his mother, originally from Latakia in Syria, they saw him with her, his name was Ribhi Atiyyeh. She disguised him in women's clothes to make sure that she could get him out of the village. They identified that he was a man; they opened fire and killed him. That is what I heard from my uncle’s wife, but I did not see it happening before my eyes.(...)"
"After the June 1967 war, I met a Jewish eyewitness, Ibrahim Najjar (Israeli of Arab extraction), who lived in Givat Shaul and whom I had known before 1948. He took me to visit the village, as we arrived, I stood by the well and read some verses from the Koran. He told me not to do that. "There isn’t anybody here. Come with me and I will show you were they were all buried." He took me to the quarry where he said: "Here is where you should read the Koran." Two Jews held a body of an Arab dead and threw it down in the valley, some 20 meters in depth. That is were they threw bodies of the 14 martyrs who were killed there."
TESTIMONY II: Um Mahmud, wife of Abu Mahmud, was 15 years old at the time. "We were inside the house. We heard shooting outside. My mother woke us up. We knew the Jews had attacked us. My cousin and his sister came running and said the Jews were already in our garden. In the meantime, fighting became heavier and we heard lots of gunshots outside. A bomb was thrown at us and it exploded close to where we were in the yard. (...) My sister- in-law did not want to leave. She was frightened. The girl was two months old and the boy about three. I took the two and my mother said we should go to my uncle’s house. I saw how Hilweh Zeidan was killed, along with her husband, her son, her brother and Khumayyes. Hilweh Zeidan went out to collect the body of her husband. They shot her and she fell over his body (...). I also saw Hayat Bilbeissi, a nurse from Jerusalem serving in the village, as she was shot before the house door of Musa Hassan. The daughter of Abu El Abed was shot dead as she held her niece, a baby. The baby was shot too (...). Whoever tried to run away was shot dead."
TESTIMONY III: A.Y.J., Abu Yousef, also 70 years old. He lives in Am’ari refugee camp near Ramallah. "(...) After the battle, the Jews took elderly men and women and youths, including 4 of my cousins and a nephew. They took them all. Women, who had on them gold and money, were stripped of their gold. After the Jews removed their dead and wounded, they took the men to the quarry and sprayed them all with bullets. (...) One woman had her son taken some 40 to 60 meters away from where she and the rest of the women stood by, and shot him dead. Then they brought Jewish kids to throw stones at his body. They later poured kerosene on his body and set it ablaze while the women watched from a distance. We later collected ourselves, & checked who was missing. At Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem, we were gathered by the Arab Supreme Committee. Each of us was looking for a son, a daughter, a sister or a mother. All men were busy fighting. Eyewitnesses were only women. The elderly men were told to remove the dead, both Arabs and Jews. They took the bodies of the Jews and left the Arab bodies until they later were thrown in a well in the village center."
Click here to see Deir Yassin Remembered's recent op-ed in the New York Times.
NEW on the main DYR web site: "Semitic Blood Feud" by Gregory M. DeSylva