From the archive, 26 April 1948: Irgun fails to seize Jaffa
Originally published in the Manchester Guardian on 26 April 1948
Irgun, the Jewish terrorist organisation, yesterday morning assembled a strong force on the “frontier” of the Jewish city of Tel Aviv and began an attack on the Arab port of Jaffa. The attack was not authorised by Hagana, the Jewish Army, and its members on the spot stood by and watched.
Irgun put down a heavy mortar fire on the Arab side of the frontier and then claimed to have advanced. Exactly what happened is not clear, as the only statement made last evening by any party concerned in the fighting was one broadcast by Hagana, over its radio from Tel Aviv. This said that Irgun’s claim to have advanced was “fictitious”. The Jews may have met Arab resistance or, as one report says, the British forces may have threatened resistance.
The only thing certain is that the firing died down last evening and that the Arabs still hold Jaffa, although it is said they suffered casualties from Irgun’s mortar fire. Many Arabs left the port during the day by sea and road. The terrorists are said to have concentrated more men than they have ever used for one operation. To do this they stole about eighty buses and private cars.
Hagana and Irgun cooperated in the attack on Haifa, a port awarded to the Jews by the United Nations Commissioners. Jaffa, however, was given to the Arabs.
An illegal immigrant ship carrying some 700 Jews without visas, which was intercepted off the Palestine coast, was expected to reach Haifa some time yesterday.
Lydda airport was either evacuated by the British yesterday or will be to-day. Communication with the airport was sabotaged yesterday and correspondents in Jerusalem were unable to confirm the many reports circulated. Jewish staff apparently left yesterday. The “Times” and “Manchester Guardian” special correspondent in Jerusalem reports that the last Dakota leaves to-day and will take all B.O.A.C. employees away. Yesterday a company of the Argylls was still on the aerodrome. Jewish reports that the Arabs are in occupation are denied in Jerusalem. A stern conflict, he says, between the Arabs and the Jews for the airport seems likely. Messages to the airlines speak of “dangerous circumstances” at Lydda.
The British have also withdrawn from Wilhelma Camp, just across the road from the airport and controlling its entrance. The Arabs are said to have occupied the camp at once.
A small military airfield called Ein Shemer, midway between Tel Aviv and Haifa, meanwhile fell into Jewish hands when the British left it yesterday.