HC Deb 26 February 1935 vol 298 cc966-8W
Lieut.-Colonel TODD

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement as to the circumstances in which certain Zubeidat Arabs have recently been evicted by force from their lands and an Arab was killed; and will he say what were the numbers wounded?


I have received the following information from the High Commissioner for Palestine:

On 30th January, the execution officer at Haifa proceeded to execute an order of the courts issued in favour of the Palestine Land Development Company, giving the latter possession of lands known as the Hartieh Lands, which were formerly cultivated by the Arab El Zubeidat. In view of threatened opposition by the Arab El Zubeidat, he requested police protection and a strong force of police was detailed to accompany hime, namely:

2 Assistant Superintendent of Police,
1 British Inspector,
3 Palestinian Inspectors,
2 Non-Commissioned Officers.
10 British Foot Constables,
2 Mounted British Constables,
3 Mounted Non-Commissioned Officers,
20 Mounted Palestinian Constables.

The technical procedure of walking round the boundaries was commenced by the execution officer at 10 a.m., but he and his escort had only travelled some 200 yards when they were forced to retreat under a hail of stones flung by hand and from slings by Arabs distributed among the hills. Two Palestinian constables and two horses were injured by stones. The situation was reported by telephone to the district superintendent of police at 11.5 a.m. by the assistant superintendents. The district superintendent issued instructions that in no circumstances must the police resort to fire unless the lives of the escort and the execution officer were in danger, and that no further action should be taken pending the arrival of the district superintendent.

The district superintendent and his deputy arrived at 11.30 a.m. and were quickly convinced that a very serious situation confronted the police. The land to be handed over consisted chiefly of steep hills and deep "wadis." The hillsides were occupied by parties of Arabs, whose numbers it was impossible to estimate, as many were under cover of high scrub and bushes. The execution officer and his escort again advanced, but, on entering a "wadi," they were met with showers of stones. It was found impossible to dislodge the attackers on the left flank of the "wadi," since neither foot nor mounted police could reach them. Stone-throwing was incessant and well-directed and stones were flung by the aid of slings. Having made several vain attempts to clear the Arabs on the left flank, estimated at some 50 or 60 in number, the district superintendent blew his whistle and instructed one of the assistant superintendents to issue a clear warning in Arabic, calling on the attackers to desist and disperse. This warning and whistle-blowing was repeated several times, but without effect. The district superintendent then drew up three British constables armed with rifles and again blew his whistle and directed the assistant superintendent to give the order for dispersal in Arabic and to make the attackers understand that, if they did not, he would be compelled to open fire on them. This warning had no effect whatever and the district superintendent thereupon ordered one of the British constables to load and fire one round at the knees in the prescribed manner. He fired and hit one of the attackers on the right leg. This was the only shot fired. First aid was immediately rendered, and in very difficult circumstances the wounded Arab was carried down the steep hillside to the road. Two mounted constables were despatched for a police tender which arrived promptly, and the wounded man was removed in charge of a British non-commissioned officer qualified in first aid, but unfortunately he died on the way to the hospital. A sling was removed from the right hand of the victim.

The handing over of the land then proceeded without further incident, although it was found necessary to issue repeated warnings to the mobs assembled on the hillsides. Seven British police, five Palestinian police and five horses were injured by stones. In reporting this occurrence, the High Commissioner expresses his regret that the single round which was fired should have resulted in the death of one of the Arabs, but he is satisfied that in the circumstances no other coarse was open to the district superintendent. He considers that the district superintendent acted with restraint and good judgment and the police with great forbearance, and I have informed him that I concur in that view.