Documents Reveal Israeli Army Poisoned Water Wells in Palestinian Towns During 1948 War

A group of Israeli hikers walk on the hills near the Jordan River where the steam pours into the Dead Sea, near the West Bank city of Jericho, on October 14, 2022. (AFP)
A group of Israeli hikers walk on the hills near the Jordan River where the steam pours into the Dead Sea, near the West Bank city of Jericho, on October 14, 2022. (AFP)
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Documents Reveal Israeli Army Poisoned Water Wells in Palestinian Towns During 1948 War

A group of Israeli hikers walk on the hills near the Jordan River where the steam pours into the Dead Sea, near the West Bank city of Jericho, on October 14, 2022. (AFP)
A group of Israeli hikers walk on the hills near the Jordan River where the steam pours into the Dead Sea, near the West Bank city of Jericho, on October 14, 2022. (AFP)

The Israeli army used chemical and biological weapons during the 1948 war, including poisoning water wells in several Palestinian towns, original documents stored in the Israel State Archive, as well as other archives revealed.

The documents showed that Israeli political and military leaders and some scholars were partners in the decision, and had even planned to poison the waters in Cairo and Beirut, but changed their mind at the last minute.

Haaretz reporter Ofer Aderet wrote on Friday that the poisoning was partially exposed decades ago by Arab sources when rumors and oral testimonies were reported in newspapers and books about an attempt by the army in 1948 to poison wells in Acre and Gaza by adding bacteria to the drinking water.

However, the details of Israel’s secret use of biological weapons and poison against Palestinians during the 1948 war was revealed in a recent article by historians Benny Morris and Benjamin Kedar.

Published by Middle Eastern Studies, Morris and Kedar’s research is a rarity because it was researched and published against the wishes of the Israeli security establishment, which has tried for years to block any embarrassing historical documents that expose war crimes against Arabs, such as murdering prisoners, ethnic cleansing and destroying villages, Haaretz wrote.

The poisoning targeted dozens of Palestinian water wells, including the Acre and the Galilee village of Ilabun in the north.

Aderet wrote that the plan was to poison wells in abandoned Arab villages, as well as in Jewish locales that were due to be evacuated by the state-in-the-making.

The goal wasn’t mass poisoning, but rather an act of deterrence that would prevent Palestinians from returning to areas where the water is poisonous.

Morris and Kedar said that the substance used in the poisoning was causing mass infections of dysentery and typhoid, adding that such diseases spread in Acre.

The poisoning started on April 1, 1948 with the knowledge and supervision of several officials, including then Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, the documents revealed.

The two researchers also said some Israelis objected against the poisoning, most notably archaeologist Shmarya Gutman, who in 1988 testimonies, said he vehemently opposed the operation on moral grounds and warned that poisoning the water could also harm Jews.

As for Beirut and Cairo, Morris and Kedar revealed that the plan aimed to poison their waters in retaliation against the Arab armies that tried to invade the country to expel the Jews.

However, the Israeli operatives who would be tasked with traveling to both capitals received sudden orders to stop the operation.

Apparently, the operation was exposed in May 1948 when Egyptian authorities arrested in Gaza two Israeli soldiers, posing as Arabs, with tubes containing typhoid germs in their possession.



Food Piles Up at Gaza Crossing as Aid Agencies Say Unable to Work

Humanitarian aid for Gaza has piled up at a crucial border crossing - AFP
Humanitarian aid for Gaza has piled up at a crucial border crossing - AFP
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Food Piles Up at Gaza Crossing as Aid Agencies Say Unable to Work

Humanitarian aid for Gaza has piled up at a crucial border crossing - AFP
Humanitarian aid for Gaza has piled up at a crucial border crossing - AFP

Days after Israel announced a daily pause in fighting on a key route to allow more aid into Gaza, chaos in the besieged Palestinian territory has left vital supplies piled up and undistributed in the searing summer heat, AFP reported.

More than eight months of war, sparked by Hamas's unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip and repeated UN warnings of famine.

Desperation among Gaza's 2.4 million population has increased as fighting rages, sparking warnings from agencies that they are unable to deliver aid.

Israel says it has let supplies in and called on agencies to step up deliveries.

"The breakdown of public order and safety is increasingly endangering humanitarian workers and operations in Gaza," the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, said in a briefing late Friday.

"Alongside the fighting, criminal activities and the risk of theft and robbery has effectively prevented humanitarian access to critical locations."

But Israel says it has allowed hundreds of trucks of aid into southern Gaza, trading blame with the United Nations over why the aid is stacking up.

It shared aerial footage of containers lined up on the Gazan side of the Kerem Shalom crossing and more trucks arriving to add to the stockpile.

With civil order breaking down in Gaza, the UN says it has been unable to pick up any supplies from Kerem Shalom since Tuesday, leaving crucial aid in limbo.

A deputy UN spokesman this week said the crossing "is operating with limited functionality, including because of fighting in the area".

William Schomburg, International Committee of the Red Cross chief in Rafah, said arranging lorries from the Egyptian side in particular was complicated.

"It's not just a question of civil order, but also the fact that you often have to cross battlefields," he said in an online briefing, adding that the area near Kerem Shalom had been hostile.

"There were even rockets fired nearby. So this whole area is particularly complicated to navigate for reasons linked to the hostilities and for reasons linked to general security."

Israel's coordinator for civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories, known as COGAT, said Thursday "the content of 1,200 aid trucks awaits collection by UN aid agencies", saying a lack of distribution was responsible.

Earlier in the week, COGAT spokesman Shimon Freedman told reporters at the crossing the daily pause on a southern road into Gaza was designed to allow the UN "to collect and distribute more aid" alongside an Israeli military presence.

He said most of the aid had not moved because "organizations have not taken sufficient steps to improve their distribution capacity".

Aid agencies have instead pointed to Israel's offensive on the southern city of Rafah, which pushed out more than a million people and closed a border crossing with Egypt, as a deepening humanitarian crisis hampered relief efforts.

Schomburg described Rafah City as a "ghost town".

"It is a ghost town in the sense that you see very few people, high levels of destruction, and really just another symbol of the unfolding tragedy that has become Gaza over the last nine months," he said.

The UN food agency has said its aid convoys have been looted inside Gaza by "desperate people".

As both sides stall, it is the civilians in Gaza who are paying the price.

"We don't see any aid. Everything we get to eat comes from our own money and it's all very expensive," said Umm Mohammad Zamlat, 66, from northern Gaza but now living in Khan Yunis in the south.

"Even agencies specialized in aid deliveries are not able to provide anything to us," she added.