Fedayeen attacks on Israel in the 1950s

What happened during the period of the fedayeen attacks on Israel in the 1950s?

A separate country for the Palestinian Arabs was envisioned by the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan, but that plan (in fact, any plan that included a State of Israel) was rejected by the Palestinian Arab leaders and the neighboring Arab countries. They went to war against the new State of Israel to destroy it in 1947-1949, but instead Palestinain Arabs lost even more ground when their armies were defeated by the Israelis.


Arab refugees from the 1948 War of Independence, located in camps in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, became a locusof anti-Israel activity. No Arab country would take them in and no Arab country would help them, so they became the responsibility of the United Nations. These angry Arabs began to make one-night raids against Israelis, killing one here, raping one there. They were encouraged by the Arab states to do so. In fact, Egypt's military recruited and trained them and Egypt even offered a fixed price for Jewish heads.

This wave of attacks on Israel became more organized in the form of Palestinian Arab terrorist groups, called "fedayeen" (peasants who were deemed "Men of Sacrifice" or "Suicide Fighters"), who began to conduct raids against the Israeli civilian population by 1951. The fedayeen operated from bases in the territories surrounding Israel: Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan. They were trained and equipped, primarily by Egyptian Intelligence, to engage in hostile action on the border and infiltrate Israel to commit acts of sabotage and murder. The fedayeen operated mainly from locations in Jordan, so that Jordan would bear the brunt of Israel's retaliation, which inevitably followed.

In the period 1951-1956, hundreds of fedayeen attacks were carried out against Israel; over 400 Israelis were killed and 900 injured. The IDF reacted in a series of "Reprisal Operations" many of which were carried out by infantry units, paratroopers and the special anti-terrorism Unit 101.

The fedayeen acts of terror, supported by the Arab countries led, eventually, to the outbreak of the Sinai Campaign.

The fedayeen terrorist attacks violated provision of the UN-brokered 1949 Armistice Agreement that prohibited the initiation of hostilities by paramilitary forces. The Arab countries were never condemmed by the UN for their acts -- it was onlyIsrael that was condemned by the UN Security Council for its counterattacks.

In her statement to the UN General Assembly on January 17, 1957, Golda Meir,then Foreign Minister Of Israel, recited the many violations and acts of bad faithby the Egyptians that led to the Sinai Campaign and its aftermath. Speaking of the fedayeen, she said:

  • A similar fate has befallen the injunction of the General Assembly in its 2 November resolution "to desist from raids across the armistice lines in the neighbouring territory." Fedayeen gangs, operating in neighbouring countries under Egyptian direction, continue to spread death and havoc throughout our countryside. Since 3 December when the Cairo radio announced the intention of the Nasser regime to conduct raids into Israel throughout the winter, some 30 assaults have been committed. The official media of information in Egypt have reported these attacks in boastful communiques. It is evident that in this respect, too, Egypt claims the fulfillment of Assembly resolutions by others, without any parallel acts of compliance on her part.

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