What happened at Khan Yunis November 3, 1956?
Anti-Israel sources often cite a “massacre” at Khan Yunis as an example of Israeli atrocities committed against Palestinian Arabs. Here are two typical claims:
- During the short invasion of Sinai and Gaza October 29, 1956, the Israelis committed atrocities against the refugees of Khan Yunis camp. They lined hundreds of civilians against the walls and killed a great number in cold blood.
- November 3, 1956 before Israel withdrawal following its invasion of the Sinai, the Israeli army commits a massacre in Khan Yunis, killing scores of Palestinian men, women and children. The massacre occurs while the camp was still under curfew.
The Gaza area was occupied and controlled by Egypt between the 1949 armistice that ended the 1948 War of Independence and the 1967 war. Therefore dates outside that period are highly suspect. However, between early November 1956 and March 1957 Israel was in administrative control of Gaza due to operations of the Sinai Campaign.
On November 3, 1956 Israeli troops entered Khan Yunis and took control. Reports differ about exactly what happened but there were civilian casualties. One reasonably objective on-line source is the report of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for the period, referenced in the Sources below. Paragraph 23 of that report states:
- The town of Khan Yunis and the Agency's camp adjacent thereto were occupied by Israel troops on the morning of 3 November. A large number of civilians were killed at that time, but there is some conflict in the accounts given as to the causes of the casualties. The Israel authorities state that there was resistance to their occupation and that the Palestinian refugees formed part of the resistance. On the other hand, the refugees state that all resistance had ceased at the time of the incident and that many unarmed civilians were killed as the Israel troops went through the town and camp, seeking men in possession of arms. The exact number of dead and wounded is not known, but the Director has received from sources he considers trustworthy lists of names of persons allegedly killed on 3 November, numbering 275 individuals, of whom 140 were refugees and 135 local residents of Khan Yunis.