Every year since June 1967, Israelis celebrate Jerusalem Day. To Palestinians, it is a day to commemorate, to unite, and continue the fight for a free Palestine and a free Jerusalem. To Palestinians, Al Quds is not only the holy sites, the ancient houses and the beautifully old streets and alleys, it’s the land and the people. The Zionists are not ashamed of celebrating a “state” that is built on the bodies of Palestinians and on the ruins of their homes and villages. Speeches and articles on such occasions often talk of how proud they are of their army, those “courageous men” fighting for their state: a state that is watered with the blood of its innocent victims, not the blood of its “courageous” men, for there is no courage in fighting an unarmed civilian population, in killing little children and walking on the bodies of raped women and bullet-riddled elderly to reach a state. They are only courageous as long as they are heavily armed, take away from them their machine guns, tanks and apaches and not one soldier of this “courageous army” would dare stand against a small unarmed Palestinian child. In the internet there’s a countless number of videos and photos that show just how “courageous” they soldiers are: heavily armed they shoot at little school children, beat women and elderly, and take photos near the bodies of slain Palestinians as souvenirs of their “trophies”. But when their weapons are taken away from them, they start crying and are faster than the wind. Yes, the Zionists, with their ideology and history, have a number of things to “celebrate” and be “proud of”: a listing of all the “courageous” acts of the Zionists and their army and their “state”, towards Palestinians and other nations, would be too long, thus a few keywords: Ethnic cleansing, massacres, theft (land theft, theft of property, cultural theft, etc…). As with the Nakba of 1948, during the Nakba of 1967 the Israeli army, the “courageous and most moral army in the world”, carried out organized and wide-scale ethnic cleansing and destruction, particularly in East Jerusalem and the area surrounding it.
The Latroun area, well-known for its ample water resources and fertile land, is located northwest of Jerusalem and close to the Green Line. Before 1948, this area consisted of a number of picturesque villages: Latroun, Imwas, Yalu and Beit Nouba. Imwas alone had a population of 1450 inhabitants and owned some 55,000 dunums of agricultural land. During the Nakba of 1948, the Zionist terrorists tried occupying Imwas several times, but were defeated. As a result of the truce-agreements signed at the time, Imwas lost some 50,000 dunums of its land, some of which becoming a No-Man’s land. The village Latroun, ethnically cleansed of its residents who were forced to move to nearby Imwas, fell within this assigned No-Man’s land. During the 1967 war and with the withdrawal of the Jordanian army, the Israeli army was able to occupy the Latroun area. The three Latroun villages: Imwas, Yalu and Beit Nouba, were ethnically cleansed before being completely wiped off the map. Zionist propaganda claims that the 3 villages were already empty when the Israeli army arrived. But the testimonies of the residents of the 3 villages, in addition to testimonies of some of the Israeli soldiers who were present at the time, speak of a premeditated forced expulsion. Israeli photographer Yosef Hochman, who accompanied the soldiers at the time, reported that when he asked Major General Uzi Narkiss, who was Commanding General of the Central Command in 1967 and gave the orders for the destruction of the villages, why the 3 Latroun villages were destroyed, “Narkiss answered that it was revenge for what happened there in 1948.” In his memories of the 1967 war, Moshe Dayan wrote about the destruction of the Latroun villages and half of Qalqilya: “[houses were destroyed] not in the battle, but as punishment … and in order to chase away the inhabitants.”
On the morning of the 6th of June, Unit 4 of the Israeli army entered the 3 villages accompanied with tanks and bulldozers, yet another proof that the destruction was pre-planned. The majority of the inhabitants had stayed in their homes, because they feared a repetition of the 1948 expulsion and because they had nowhere else to go. Some had left the day before in fear of massacres similar to those committed during the Nakba. Others found refuge in nearby Imwas Monastery. In Imwas, under the orders of Yitzhak Rabin, armoured military jeeps wandered the streets and with loudspeakers ordered the villagers to leave, giving them only 3 hours to gather their possessions. Many refused to leave, so they were forced out under the threat of gun before the bulldozers started razing the houses. The Israeli soldiers told the residents to go to nearby villages such as Yalu and Beit Nouba, which were also being ethnically cleansed. As the villagers made their way out of the 3 villages in groups, the soldiers shot over their heads to hurry them and as warning not to come back. Zahda Abu Qtaish from Imwas remembers:”They told us to come with the children to the Mukhtar’s (community-leader) home. I replied that I couldn’t; I had bread baking in the oven, the closets were open, the house was not tidy, the chickens were hungry. The Jew said it was not important, that later I could come back and fix everything. I took the children. One was holding my hand, one was on my shoulder, one was holding my dress. When we got the Mukhtar’s house, the Israelis said to keep walking, to go to Yula. I pleaded that the house was open, that the bread was in the oven. We left everything, our clothes, our money, everything. When I reached Yula, my legs gave up. Everybody from Imwas was there. We were told to keep walking. We walked for three days to Ramallah (north of Jerusalem). A lot of people died on the road. My feet were bleeding. For the next two months we slept under trees. We had no tents, no blankets. We slept on dirt. My family was thirsty and hungry.”
Even those who found refugee in the nearby Latroun monastery were also expelled by the Israeli army. In a testimony made by Al-Haq, Nihad Thaher from Imwas recalled: “At the dawn the following morning, 6 June 1967, some of the nuns went outside to inform the Israeli soldiers that several residents of Imwas village were present inside the monastery. The soldiers asked us all to get out. After we had done so, we were told by one of the Israeli captains to walk along the road to the city of Ramallah. He told us not to return to our houses and threatened to kill us if we did… thus, we were expelled on Thursday 6 June 1967. The Israeli soldiers were lined up on both sides of the road and would admonish anyone who asked for permission to go to their house to bring milk or food for their children. I was one of those who asked as I had my wife and three children to look after. My eldest child was five years old, the second was 3 years old and the youngest was 8 months old. My children were barefoot and half-naked. We walked on foot between the Israeli jeeps and tanks towards Beit Nouba, and then to Beit Liqya. There, the Israeli soldiers found a Jordanian soldier attempting to surrender. They started to beat him in front of everybody and then shot and beheaded him.” Ahmad Abu Ghoush from Imwas recalled:”Some families went to the Latroun Ministry believing they would be safe there because it was a Christian place but they were not. My family first went to Yalu, then Beit Nouba, then onto Beit Ur before finally being forced to walk all the way to Ramallah. The soldiers emptied all the houses in the villages and forced everyone out onto the streets. The only way open was to Ramallah and they told us to go there. Other soldiers were saying `Go to Jedah, all the land before there is ours and if you stop before Jedah we will kill you!`… people took keys, small things, some were forced to go with no shoes or real clothes, they were forced out in just their nightclothes, I saw people walking barefoot. We walked all the way to Ramallah, 32 km with no food or water, it took us about nine or ten hours. Four people from the village died during this journey.” ‘Aysha Hammad, who lived on the outskirts of Yalu testified to Al-Haq: “On the fourth day, I believe it was 9 June 1967, several people who had fled the village returned. In the evening, my husband came home and said: the Israelis are in the village and they are calling through loudspeakers.” The Israelis were saying “all residents of Yalu must leave to Ramallah. Those who don’t will be in danger.” I got my 3 children ready, but couldn’t carry anything, as I was six months pregnant. We walked to the nearby village of Beit Nouba, only one kilometer from Yalu. As I entered Beit Nouba, I saw several bulldozers guarded by Israeli soldiers razing houses in the village to the ground.” In the documentary Film “Memory of the Cactus”, directed by Hanna Musleh, Hochman comments on a photo he took at the time of an elderly couple forced to leave their home: “I took pictures of a couple trying to put everything onto a donkey and it fell off. With a soldier waiting for them to try again, and it fell off again.” The glee on the soldier’s face shows how much these criminals enjoyed what they were doing.
The first days of the occupation, bulldozers were used to flatten the houses, later with the arrival of the engineering unit of the Israeli army, explosives were used to blast the houses and wipe out the 3 villages completely. Houses, schools and mosques were destroyed. This wide-scale destruction of property, accompanied by looting, took place during and after the war. Few days later, the Israeli army announced in radios that the residents of the villages could come back. But when they did come back, not only did they find their villages destroyed, but were also shot at by Israeli soldiers, killing a number of them (it was reported that at least 5 Palestinians were killed this way). Amos Kenan, a journalist who served as a soldier during the 1967 war, recalled the story of Beit Nouba:
“We were told it was our job to search the village houses; that if we found any armed men there, they were to be taken prisoners. Any unarmed persons should be given time to pack their belongings and then told to get moving – get moving to Beit Sira, a village not far away. We were also told to take up positions around the approaches to the villages, in order to prevent those villagers who had heard the Israeli assurances over the radio that they could return to their homes in peace – from returning to their homes. The order was – shoot over their heads and tell them there is no access to the village. The homes in Beit Nouba are beautiful stone houses, some of them luxurious mansions. Each house stands in an orchid of olives, apricots and grapevines; there are also cypresses and other trees grown for their beauty and the shade they give. Each tree stands in its carefully watered bed. Between the trees, lie neatly hoed and weeded rows of vegetables. At noon the first bulldozer arrived, and ploughed under the house closest to the village edge. With one sweep of the bulldozer, the cypresses and the olive-trees were uprooted. Ten more minutes pass and the house, with its meagre furnishings and belongings, has become a mass of rubble. After three houses had been rowed down, the first convoy of refugees arrives, from the direction of Ramallah. We did not shoot into the air. We did take up positions for coverage, and those of us who spoke Arabic went up to them to give them the orders. There were old men hardly able to walk, old women mumbling to themselves, babies in their mother’s arms, small children weeping, begging for water. The convoy waved white flags. We told them to move on to Beit Sira. They said that wherever they went, they were driven away, that nowhere were they allowed to stay. They said they had been on the way for four days now – without food or water; some had perished on the way. They asked only to be allowed back into their own village; and said we would do better to kill them. Some had brought with them a goat, a sheep, a camel or a donkey. A father crunched grains of wheat in his hand to soften them so that his four children might have something to eat. On the horizon, we spotted the next line approaching. One man was carrying a 50 kg sack of flour on his back, and that was how he had walked mile after mile. More old men, more women, more babies. They flopped down exhausted at the spot where they were told to sit. Some had brought along a cow or two, or a calf – all their earthly possessions. We did not allow them to go into the village to pick up their belongings, for the order was that they must not be allowed to see their homes being destroyed. …. We asked the officers why the refugees were being sent back and forth and driven away from everywhere they went. The officers said it would do them good to walk and asked “why worry about them, they’re only Arabs”? …. More and more lines of refugees kept arriving. By this time there must have been hundreds of them. They couldn’t understand why they had been told to return, and now were not being allowed to return… The platoon commander decided to go to headquarters to find out whether there was any written order as to what should be done with them, where to send them and to try and arrange transportation for the women and children, and food supplies. He came back and said there was no written order; we were to drive them away. Like lost sheep they went on wandering along the roads. The exhausted were rescuing (In other testimonies, Kenan writes here: the weak die). Towards evening we learned that we had been told a falsehood – at Beit Sira too bulldozers had begun their work of destruction, and the refugees had not been allowed to enter. We also learned that it was not in our sector alone that areas were being “straightened out”; the same was going on in all sectors.”Part of them went to Ramallah, where they slept in the bus station for a week, but the majority walked all the way to the Bridge and crossed to Amman. During this second Nakba, some 400,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes. In 1988 Narkiss talked of the transfer operation in an interview:” I placed several buses in Jerusalem and in other cities (of the west bank), written on them: “to amman – free of charge” the bus used to carry them to the (partly) destroyed Allenby bridge and then they would cross it (to Jordan).” He also mentioned the daily telephone calls of Pinhas Sapir, Finance Minister at the time: “Pinhas Sapir used to phone me twice a day, to ask: how many [Arabs] got out today? Is the number of the inhabitants of the West bank diminishing? The number [of those being transported by the buses] began with 600 and 700 persons a day, and then it began to decline until it reached a few scores, and after two or three months the [bus] operation stopped.”
Although often denied by Israel, some houses were destroyed on the heads of their inhabitants, those being mostly elderly and handicapped, who either refused to leave or didn’t have enough time to leave before the destruction began. Some died on the way to Ramallah and other places after being expelled by the Israeli army, and others were shot dead by the Israeli army as they tried to return to their villages. The Latroun monks went to Imwas days after the village had been occupied. “Father Tournay, Catholic priest who has lived in East Jerusalem since 1945 and was head of the Ecole Biblique there, said the Latroun monks “smelled bodies” rotting inside the demolished homes.”In testimonies collected by Al-Haq, a number of eye witnesses, who snuck into the 3 villages immediately after the destruction, mention bodies under the ruins of houses or decomposed bodies in the area. In Beit Nouba, at least 18 residents were found dead under the rubbles of their houses. Ahmad Isa from Beit Nouba testified: “We tried to enter the village from several locations, but we were prohibited from doing so by the soldiers. Accordingly, we were forced to take refuge in Beit Sira, which is close to our village. My father and I snuck to our house in Beit Nouba in order to bring back food, oil and mattresses. We saw horrible things along the way, namely several men and women who had been killed: Lutfi Mahmoud Hassan Abu Rahhal, Mahmoud Ali Baker, who was blind and who appeared to have been killed as a result of his house being demolished while he was inside it … the bodies of another 3 men who were also dead had been thrown amongst the trees: Al Abed Ayyad, Isa Muhammad and Abdallah Zuhdi.” Dr. Ismail Zayid from Beit Nouba recalled:” In the course of the Israel army’s occupation and destruction of my village of Beit Nouba in June 1967, 18 people died under the rubble of their demolished homes because they were too old or disabled to get out of their houses in time, before the Israeli explosives were effected to destroy the houses…. One of those killed was Mohammad Ali Bakr, an uncle of my mother. He was old and infirm, and was buried alive under the rubble of his home in Beit Nouba, not far from ours. My mother also told me that when the Israeli army came to blow up our house, they told my uncle Hussain Zayid, an elderly and arthritic man whose ability to move was severely limited, that they would first blow up the western part of our house, which was in a walled quadrangle. They said they would then move to destroy the eastern part of the house, and should he still be there, he would not be given the opportunity to leave.” In Imwas, at least 10 residents who were not able to leave their homes because they were either elderly or handicapped, are till today unaccounted for, suspected to have been killed inside their houses when the Israeli army destroyed these houses. A further 5 at least died on the way to Ramallah or were killed by landmines. Ahmad Abu Ghoush remembered:” There were ten elders in the village including one disabled man. They didn’t leave. We know they didn’t leave because they couldn’t, but nobody ever saw any of them again after that night. One soldier has written a testimony which said he ´saw another telling one of these old men to leave his house, but the man refused saying `I can’t walk and I won’t leave! You can kill me but I will not leave!`”Dr. Musa Abu Ghosh from Imwas remembered: “In spite of all the difficulties, some of the younger people managed to infiltrate back to their homes to pick up some belongings, and when they dug into the rubble, some found bodies. A relative of mine was found this way – Hasan Shukri, the son of my cousin. He was 19, an invalid, paralyzed from polio. They found his body underneath his house.”Ali Salma from Yalu said: “After 20 days (towards the end of June), I, together with another resident of my village, went to Yalu through the valleys, mountains and fields. As we reached the Beit Nouba fields, I saw 4 corpses laid out beside each other. They were: Ibrahim Shuebi, Al Abed Tayeh, Zuheir Zuhdi and Isa Abu Isa. All of them were from Yalu. I didn’t examine the corpses because they were swollen. We entered the village at around midnight. We first went to the demolished home of Abu Wasim where we saw the body of Isa Ziyada and more demolished houses. We were both very scared. We both took some stuff from the rubble of his house and left to go back towards Kharbatha.”
When the Israeli soldiers were done with their “duty”, more than 10,000 people had been forcibly expelled, no less than 39 residents were reported killed or are till today unaccounted for. In his article “Outrage at Emwas”, John Goddard writes: “I collected 39 names of people said to have been killed in the villages, 17 from Imwas, 11 from Beit Nouba, and 11 from Yalo.”Some 1464 houses were destroyed: 375 in Imwas houses, 539 in Yalu and 550 in Beit Nouba. A couple of months later, the villagers were allowed back to the Latroun, but only to collect their harvest. “my brother drove our truck. We saw everything destroyed, just the mosque was still standing. People were crying and weeping, some were just standing, looking, speechless … some had lost all their land in 1948 but had tried to rebuild their lives and now it had all happened again. People needed anything so took whatever they could find and put in into trucks. Some people found a sheep or a goat but the houses were totally destroyed. We found our `cawasheen` (a big box containing important documents such as deeds to property and land) but couldn’t get any clothes or anything else. We knew there was nothing left but we wanted to see what had happened to our village …”The British reporter Michael Adams visited Imwas in 1968, wrote: “When my companion and I came to Beit Nouba 6 months after Kenan, much had changed. Most significantly, the rubble had disappeared. It had taken the Israelis 6 months to clear it, in great secrecy; while relays of volunteers were engaged in this macabre task, the authorities closed the approach road to Latroun…. Without a guide, I should probably have driven straight through without realising that there had been villages here at all. The demolition squads had been thorough. But when we stopped the car and got out to look, there were plenty of tell-tale signs; it isn’t easy, even in 6 months, to wipe out a thousand years of history without leaving a trace. There were a few pieces of masonry, a broken tile, a twisted rod of steel from some concrete extension and – a sure sign that people had once lived here – the cactus hedges, which the Palestinians use to protect their gardens and orchards against marauders, were starting to grow back. They are very hard to eradicate.”1970, the illegal settlement “Mevo Horon” was built on the lands of Beit Nouba. Three years later, the Jewish National Fund of Canada funded the establishment of a recreational park, the Canada Park, on the ruins of Imwas and Yalu. Zahda Abu Qtaish from Imwas remarked when she first visited the Canada Park: “I couldn’t believe it …My home was down to the ground. They had turned the village into a park. They called it Canada Park. I cried and cried.” Ahmad Abu Ghoush from Imwas talked of his visit to the park: “When returning to the park I had mixed feelings. It’s very hard, standing on the ruins of where you used to live while seeing people laughing, eating and enjoying themselves.”
The ethnic cleansing of the 3 Latroun villages is only one example of the on-going ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the Judization of Jerusalem. In 1948, Israel occupied 85% of Jerusalem (the west part), 4 % were declared No-Man’s land, and the remaining 11% (including with the Old City) fell under Jordanian rule. Up to 80,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes in West Jerusalem and 40 surrounding villages. The villages were wiped off the face of the earth and the homes, lands and property confiscated. In June 1967, during and after the war, Palestinians were expelled from East Jerusalem and the surrounding villages, like the Latroun villages. The war was officially over on the 10th of June, 1967 and on the night of 10/11th of June, Israel began with its first measures to Judize East Jerusalem: the ethnic cleansing and destruction of the Magharbeh Quarter and the Al-Sharaf neighbourhood of the Old City. Given only 3 hours notice, the residents of the Magharbeh Quarter were ordered to pack their belongings and leave. The Quarter was then destroyed to make place for a plaza in front of the Western Wall. Palestinians living in Al-Sharaf neighbourhood were also expelled to enlarge the Jewish Quarter. Among others, Ben-Gurion, Dayan, Kollek and Lahat were responsible for the destruction of these Palestinian neighbourhoods. The eviction and destruction was carried out rapidly to avoid international attention and criticism. The residents were removed by force from their houses by Israeli soldiers. The bulldozers were ready, and the orders were to finish the eviction and destruction that very same night. Al Sharaf neighbourhood and the Magharbeh Quarter were emptied of their residents: over 6000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes and an estimated 135 houses were destroyed in the Old City. The boundaries of Jerusalem were redrawn by central command chief at the time, Rahavan Ze’evi. “The line he drew “took in not only the 5 km² of Arab east Jerusalem – but also 65 km² of surrounding open country and villages, most of which never had any municipal link to Jerusalem. Overnight they became part of Israel’s eternal and indivisible capital.”In 1980, East Jerusalem was annexed to Israel.
Major General Narkiss, who was Commanding General of the Central Command in 1967 and had approved the destruction of the Magharbeh Quarter, recalled before his death in 1997 that a few hours after the capture of East Jerusalem, he was urged by Rabbi Goren to blow up the Aqsa mosque. Although Rabbi Goren’s wish was not fulfilled, it was the first of many future attempts by fanatic Jews and the Israeli government to destroy the Aqsa, whether directly by attempts to burn it or indirectly by building tunnels underneath it. Excavations beneath the Aqsa mosque and the area surrounding it continue, and the several tunnels dug beneath it weaken its foundations. At the same time, much needed renovations to the Aqsa and its surroundings are not permitted. Today, there is almost no Palestinian neighbourhood in Jerusalem that is not threatened with destruction, demolition and ethnic cleansing. Despite international criticism, Israel goes on in its Judization of Jerusalem. While illegal Jewish settlers from all around the world are allowed to buy property in Jerusalem and settle in it, and illegal settlements are rapidly expanding with ring after ring of settlements suffocating the city and the surrounding Palestinian villages and towns, Palestinian Jerusalemites are losing their homes and their lands and their birth right in their city Jerusalem. While Israel continues its brutal military occupation and the destruction of Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Palestinians have two “prime ministers” and two sets of “cabinets” and a “legislative council” whose building is off-limits to Palestinians and where the “representatives of this so-called authority” are either locked up in Israeli jails, in the Gaza open-air prison or the West Bank ghettos or need Israeli permits to move between the Zones A, B or C, D, E and F and all the rest. Maybe while they fight over who gets to be the next president, they might want to stop for a minute and remember that the state they are fighting to rule is STILL under military occupation and that “their” people are either being massacred or expelled by this brutal occupation.
Today, the original inhabitants of the Latrun villages and their descendants are scattered around the world, some live in the Ramallah area, others in Jordan. Adams found it difficult to convince editors to publish articles about the Latroun villages. “The Israeli government and whoever in the army command gave the order to destroy the villages, must have thought that it was possible to rearrange both history and geography in this way: that if they carted away the rubble and raked over the ground and planted seedlings where the homes of 9000 people had been, all of which they did, they would be able to get away with it. Why? Because of the Holocaust, and because Western newspaper editors don’t like to be called anti-Semitic.”When Israel offered money to the inhabitants of the Latroun as compensation for their stolen lands and destroyed houses, they refused. Ahmad Abu Ghoush from Imwas remembers: “My father was on the committee that negotiated with Israel. They were offering money as compensation for our land and homes. My father told them `we will not accept all the money in the world for one dunum of Imwas, and we will not accept one dunum in heaven for one dunum in Imwas!`. The Israeli’s told him that he had three choices `…one, you can go the same way as Abdul Hameed (an exiled Palestinian activist for the Right of Return); two – prison; three – put something sweet in your mouth and keep quiet!” For Zahda Abu Qtaish and all those expelled from the Latroun, things are clear: “I see everything; I remember everything; I will never forget.”
Names of Latroun inhabitants killed under the rubble of their houses destroyed by the Israeli army, or on the road when they were expelled by the Israeli army:
Zaynab Hasan Khalil
Yamna Abu Rayalah
Fatmah Al Qbeibah
Hadia Al Qbeibah
Hasan Nimer Abu Khalil
Hasan Shukri Abu Ghosh
Amnah Al Sheikh Hussain
Ahmad Hassan Al Saed
Ali Ismael Abdullah
Muhammad Abu Illas
Zaynab Ahmad Musa
Abdel Rahim Tayeh
Abdel Karim Nimer
Hassan Abu Rahhal
Mahmoud Ali Baker
Al Abed Ayyad
Bakr Hasan Shukri
Isa Abu Isa
The one year old daughter of Ahmad Atiyah
John Reynolds: Where Villages Stood, (Al-Haq) 2007. www.alhaq.org/pdfs/Where%20Villages%20Stood.pdf
John Reynolds: Where Villages Stood, (Al-Haq) 2007. www.alhaq.org/pdfs/Where%20Villages%20Stood.pdf
John Reynolds: Where Villages Stood, (Al-Haq) 2007. www.alhaq.org/pdfs/Where%20Villages%20Stood.pdf
John Reynolds: Where Villages Stood, (Al-Haq) 2007. www.alhaq.org/pdfs/Where%20Villages%20Stood.pdf
 Names collected from several sources: S. Sources.
Reham Alhelsi is a Jerusalem-born Palestinian. She has worked extensively in the Palestinian Broadcasting Company and since 2000, when she moved to Germany, has trained at various radio and TV networks including Deutsche Welle, SWR and WDR. She is currently writing her PhD in Regional Planning with a focus on Palestinian Land Management and local government.
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