HC Deb 06 December 1944 vol 406 cc557-61W
Earl Winterton

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he can state the number and give details of the outrages committed in Palestine by terrorists since 1st January last.

Colonel Stanley

The following is a summary of terrorist outrages in Palestine since 1st January, 1944(All the incidents recorded have been reported in the Press and the majority of them have also been mentioned in replies to Questions in Parliament.) 29th January. Explosions which occurred at the Government Transport Agency Car Park at Jaffa wrecked one lorry and damaged others. A Jew arrested near the scene admitted to being a member of the Irgun. The Irgun openly accepted the responsibility in a letter to the Hebrew Press. 3rd February. An Arab taxi-driver surprised two Jews tampering with a wall near the entrance to St. George's Cathedral, Jerusalem, and warned a Police patrol who pursued the Jews; the latter opened fire fatally wounding an Arab civilian. The lows escaped. Subsequent examination of the Cathedral wall indicated preparations to plant an electrically-operated infernal machine in the wall. 12th, 13th February. Bomb outrages were perpetrated at Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel-Aviv against Immigration Offices causing damage to buildings and to archives at Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv. There were no casualties. The Irgun openly admitted responsibility for the outrages in a letter to the Hebrew Press. 14th, 15th February. In Haifa two Jews carrying a suspicious parcel were challenged by a British Inspector and British Constable. The Jews opened fire, fatally wounding both Police Officers, and made good their escape. The parcel contained Stern Group literature. 24th February. A bomb placed in a runway outside the garage of a Deputy Superintendent of Police exploded under his car as he drove out. The car was wrecked, but the officer escaped with superficial injuries. A second bomb planted by the side of the road was exploded as a Police traffic car containing 4 Police Officers was passing. The car was damaged, but the occupants escaped serious injury. A third unexploded bomb was subsequently found concealed at the side of another road. These outrages were thought to be attributable to the Stern Group. 26th February. Explosions occurred at the Income Tax Offices at Tel-Aviv and Haifa causing extensive damage to buildings. An unexploded bomb was also found at the Income Tax Office, Jerusalem. There were no casualties. 2nd March. A British Constable saw two men posting pamphlets in a Tel-Aviv street. On approaching them he was shot in the back by a third man. The assailants escaped. Pamphlets were those issued by the Stern Group. 13th March. A Jewish Constable was murdered at Petah Tikvah. 16th March. The Police challenged a man in a Tel-Aviv street who drew a pistol and made off. The Police opened fire, whereupon the man threw away his pistol and a package he was carrying. The package contained three sticks of gelignite, a fuse detonator and rivets. The pistol was loaded. The man was captured and subsequently identified as a leading member of the Stern Group who had been wanted by the Police for over three years. 19th March. The Police saw a suspicious looking character carrying an attache case, standing at a street corner in Tel-Aviv. When the man saw that he was being watched he ran away and dashed into a house with the Police in pursuit. He tried to escape on to the roof but, finding the door locked, turned and fired at the Police. They returned fire and killed him. There were no Police casualties. The attache case contained ten rounds of revolver ammunition and Stern Group literature. 23rd March. At Tel-Aviv, three British police were killed and one slightly wounded in separate incidents in one street. At Haifa bombs were exploded at police headquarters. Three British constables were found dead when extricated from the wreckage, and three injured. At Jerusalem a number of men wearing articles of police uniform entered police headquarters by means of a ladder. They were disturbed by an assistant superintendent of police, who opened fire. The intruders returned fire and killed him. Bombs which the party had brought with them and deposited subsequently exploded causing serious damage but no further casualties. At Jaffa explosives were discovered in an air-raid shelter below police headquarters. The building was evacuated and shortly afterwards explosions occurred damaging the building but causing no casualties. 1st April. A British inspector, accompanied by a Palestinian police sergeant, acting on information received that a wounded man was lying in a house at Haifa, entered the House to find within four Jews, one of whom was wounded. Three men escaped through the window. The wounded Jew threw a hand grenade which fatally wounded the sergeant and slightly wounded the inspector. The Jew subsequently escaped but was afterwards found in a Jewish hospital in a dangerous condition. A search of the house revealed military uniforms, arms, electrical appliances and equipment for the production of Stern Group literature. 5th April. A mobile police patrol in Tel-Aviv approached a man in order to question him. The man opened fire and wounded a British constable. The assailant, who was wounded, was arrested. 6th April Acting on information received a police party surrounded a house in the Yavniel Jewish Colony near Tiberias where wounded men were reported to be hiding. Firing was opened from the house and after exchange of shots two Jews in the house were killed. Both were found to be armed with pistols. There were no police casualties. 9th April. Three unknown persons passing a British police billet in Northern Tel-Aviv fired shots at two British constables on duty outside the billet, simultaneously throwing a grenade. Two British constables and a Jewish constable were slightly wounded. The assailants made off before assistance arrived. 10th April. A determined, but unsuccessful, attempt was made on the life of a deputy superintendent of police, who was fired on when driving in Tel-Aviv on the way to divisional police headquarters. The officer, who returned fire, escaped injury. The assailants made off before assistance arrived. 10th May. A Jewish police constable of the C.I.D. was shot dead by an unknown assailant when leaving his house in Tel-Aviv. The assailant escaped. 17th May. On the night of the 17th May, three Arabs in a taxi were held up outside Ramallah by a road block consisting of boards studded with nails which punctured the tyres. When the taxi stopped an explosion occurred which blew it off the road. On extricating themselves the Arabs were surrounded by 30 Jews dressed in khaki shorts and shirts who ordered them to proceed on their way. When the Arabs walked away the Jews, who were armed with submachine guns, rifles and pistols, opened fire wounding two Arabs. A police party which turned out on hearing the shots found the taxi and the Arabs, but the assailants had made off. Immediately thereafter eight men dressed in khaki entered the Broadcasting Station at Ramallah overpowering and disarming the guard. After unsuccessfully questioning the operator in Hebrew as to the use of the transmitter and the best way of wrecking the building they fired a number of shots causing damage to apparatus and eventually left the building. There were no casualties. 18th May. A few hours later, a police ambush patrol on a road in the foothills north-east of Lydda was fired on by the occupants of a truck approaching from the Lydda direction. The patrol returned the fire, some of their bullets penetrating the windscreen. The vehicle stopped and about six persons alighted and disappeared in the darkness. Shortly afterwards two more trucks coming from the same direction pulled up some distance away and about 18 persons of both sexes got out and ran away. The three trucks were found to contain a small quantity of gelignite and boards studded with long nails. It was later learned that on the 17th May three truck-owners from Petah Tikvah were commissioned for work at a point outside Petah Tikvah. On arrival they were attacked, removed from their trucks and bound; they were released on the morning of the 18th May. 14th July. An attack was made by terrorists on a building in the centre of Jerusalem which houses the Jerusalem District Police Headquarters and the District of Jerusalem and Bethlehem Land Registry. The attack began with a number of minor explosions, accompanied by shooting and throwing of hand grenades. Three large explosions took place in succession doing extensive damage to buildings and starting a conflagration. The ground floor was completely gutted. Between 15 and 25 persons took part in the attack, some of them dressed in clothes resembling police uniforms. They used one or more taxis which had been seized from their drivers at the point of the pistol, and besides employing gelignite bombs and hand grenades appear to have been equipped with tommy-guns and automatic pistols. Responsibility for this outrage was afterwards acknowledged in pamphlets distributed by the Irgun. An Arab supernumerary constable and an Arab watchman lost their lives in the attack. A Jewish supernumerary constable was also dangerously wounded. Two British constables were detained in hospital suffering from shock and six other British police received superficial injuries. Jerusalem District Land Registry records were very extensively damaged by fire and from water used in fire brigade operations, and it was found necessary to close the Registry sine die. 8th August. The High Commissioner was motoring with Lady MacMichael to a farewell function when the car, under police escort, was ambushed just outside Jerusalem on the Jerusalem-Jaffa road and fire was opened with tommy-guns from the side of the road. The High Commissioner was slightly wounded in the hand and thigh and his A.D.C. was shot through the lung and seriously hurt. The police driver was also seriously wounded. The police subsequently discovered at the spot a quantity of hand grenades, two sub-machine guns, a sack containing bombs capable of being exploded electrically from a distance, and miscellaneous ammunition, explosives and equipment. Several men were seen running from the engagement and entering the Jewish Settlement of Givat Shaul; this was later confirmed by police dogs. Preparations at the scene of the crime had, apparently, been made under cover of bogus survey operations. The police cordoned the Settlement immediately, but no one there volunteered or gave any useful information. 22nd August. The Jaffa Divisional Police Headquarters and two police stations on the Jaffa-Tel-Aviv border were attacked by armed Jews. The attackers, in three separate parties each numbering about a dozen men, were armed with home-made bombs, grenades and submachine guns, and one party arrived and left in a truck. The way was prepared for the attack by mining of the roads and rail crossings in the neighbourhood and by laying booby-traps. A large ambush party lay near the Divisional Headquarters. Where road junctions were mined posters had been left bearing warnings by the Irgun. The attackers were driven off by small arms fire, except at one police station where the Palestinian personnel on guard were out-numbered. Fourteen rifles were taken from this station. Minor damage was done to the buildings by bombs. Casualties were one British constable wounded, one Arab constable and one Jewish temporary additional constable seriously injured. Six suspects were arrested, one of whom was wounded by police fire and was seen to throw away a bomb. 27th September. Attacks were made on four police stations by members of the Irgun. They were planned and executed by a force estimated to have been at least 150 strong, armed with bombs and automatic weapons. There were casualties among police and civilians, and considerable damage was caused to police buildings. Casualties were inflicted on the terrorists, and two men were arrested, one of whom had been wounded. Quantities of ammunition, two bombs and Irgun flags were seized. 29th September. A senior British police officer of C.I.D. was assassinated while walking to his office in Jerusalem. The assailants escaped. 5th, 6th October. The Tel-Aviv offices and stores of the Department of Light Industries were raided by 50 persons, some of whom were armed, and textiles valued at £100,000 were removed. The raiders announced themselves as being members of the Irgun.