Early on the morning of Friday April 9th 1948, commandos of the Irgun (headed by Menachem Begin) and the Stern Gang attacked Deir Yassin, a beautiful Arab village with cut stone houses located on the west side of Jerusalem. It was several weeks before the end of the British Mandate and the declaration of the State of Israel.
Peace and innocence destroyed
The village lay outside the area to be assigned by the United Nations to the Jewish state. It had a peaceful reputation and was even said by a Jewish newspaper to have driven out some Arab militants.
But it was located on high ground in the corridor between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem,
and with the knowledge of the mainstream Jewish defence force, the Haganah, it
was to be conquered and held.
In spite of being better armed, the two Jewish gangs were at first unable to conquer
the village. But after they elicited the help of a small band of Palmach troops (the
elite fighters of the Haganah), Deir Yassin soon fell.
The Palmach soldiers left and the massacre began. That evening, over tea and cookies
in the neighbouring Jewish settlement of Givat Shaul, gang members told foreign
correspondents that more than 200 Arabs had been killed and forty taken prisoner.
This was reported in the New York Times the very next day.
The terrorists claimed to have lost four of their own forces. They boasted of the “battle” but made no mention of the male Palestinians whom they had loaded onto trucks, paraded through some Jewish sections of Jerusalem, and taken back to a stone quarry between Givat Shaul and Deir Yassin where they were shot to death.
On April 13th the New York Times reported that 254 Arab men, women and children had been killed at Deir Yassin; there was no mention of prisoners.