Dayr Yasin


Dayr Yasin ديرياسين was a small village, just west of Jerusalem, with a population of about 750. Around dawn on Friday, April 9, 1948, units of Irgun (or Etzel) and Lehi attacked the village from the northeast and southeast.1 The village men resisted with what weapons they had, but could only hold out against the well armed paramilitary groups until mid-morning. Atrocities committed by the Jewish attackers began during the battle, and continued for many hours.2

One villager recounts how the attackers used hand grenades and machine guns to kill the inhabitants of houses. In one house a young boy was killed while clinging to the knee of his mother. In another a whole family, including the very old and children under four, raised their hands to surrender, and were killed with machine guns and hand grenades.3

Fahimah Zaidan, who was twelve at the time, tells how her family tried to hide, but the cries of a three month old baby sister betrayed their hiding place. At about 9:00 in the morning the family was put into a line, and shot at with machine guns. Some ran to hide in the house a second time, and were retrieved by the Jewish soldiers, who took them to the edge of the village, and forced them to stand until five in the afternoon. Her mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, two brothers, and the baby sister were all killed that day, and she herself suffered a grenade wound.4

Fahimah later recounted what happened to those girls and women of the village left alive later in the day. They were driven to a main road, circled by armed Jewish paramilitaries, and Jewish women stripped off their clothes and took their jewelry. They were photographed while they were naked, and then given back their clothes, and told to walk to Jerusalem.5

This was verified by Shaykh Mahmud, an inhabitant of neigboring Ayn Karam, who said he saw women from Dayr Yasin, that day, lying under trees in his village, about a mile and a half southwest of Dayr Yasin. Many were without clothing or shoes.6

Remains of the monastery at Dayr Yasin
© Courtesy Deir Yassin Remembered

Much of the village of Dayr Yasin still exists. Shown here are the remains of the monastery.

Issam Shawwa was in Jerusalem when he heard about the massacre, and later went to Dayr Yasin with a police officer friend. They found the bodies of people of all ages. He told Thames Television:

There was someone uncovering something which turned out to be the body of the woman whose abdomen was opened with a bayonet and next to her was a little embryo dead and bloody...7

The British, although at an advanced stage of their evacuation of Palestine, and unable to intervene in the events at Dayr Yasin, were still present in the area, and quickly learned what had happened. Undersecretary Sir John Fletcher-Cooke eventually told a United Nations commission: "Women and children were stripped, lined up, photographed, and then slaughtered by automatic firing..." and "survivors told of even more incredible bestialities."

Fletcher-Cooke also confirmed that the assault had taken place with the foreknowledge and covering fire of Haganah.8

1 McGowan and Ellis, Remembering Deir Yassin, 35, quoted in Rosemarie M. Esber, Under the Cover of War , (Alexandria, VA: Arabicus Books & Media, 2008), 187
2 Esber, 187-188
3 Thames Television interview with an unnamed interviewee, quoted in Esber, 188
4 "Key Fortress of Arabs Again in Jewish Hands," Chicago Daily Tribune, April 13, 1948, quoted in Esber, 188
5 Chicago Daily Tribune
6 Shaykh Mahmud, Interviewed by Rosemarie Esber, Esber, 189-190
7 Thames Television interview with Issam Shawwa, quoted in Esber, 191
8 UN 0453-0004, U.N. Palestine Commission, IV, Communications from the U.K. Delegation, March-July 1948, Fletcher-Cooke to Bunche, April 20, 1948, quoted in Esber, 190