On this day October 14, 1953
Israeli military commander Ariel Sharon and his Unit 101 special forces attacked the village of Qibya on the West Bank, destroying 45 buildings, killing 42 villagers, and wounding 15 others.
According to the Mixed Armistice Commission report, approved on the afternoon immediately following the operation, and delivered by Major General Vagn Bennike to the UN Security Council, the raid at Qibya took place on the evening of October 14, 1953 at around 9.30 pm, and was taken by roughly half a battalion strength of soldiers from the Israeli regular army.
It began with a mortar barrage on the village until Israeli troops reached the outskirts of the village, where Bangalore torpedoes were employed to breach defences. Landmines were laid out on roads to prevent Jordanian troops from joining the fight. At the same time at least 25 mortar shells were fired into the neighbouring village of Budrus. In the assault, simultaneously from three sides, forty-one dwellings were blown up, plus the village school. 42 villagers were killed, and 15 wounded. At dawn the operation was considered complete and the Israeli troops returned home.
Ariel Sharon, who led the attack, later wrote in his diary that he had received orders to inflict heavy damage on the Arab Legion forces in Qibya: ‘The orders were utterly clear: Qibya was to be an example for everyone’. Sharon said that he had thought the houses were empty and that the unit had checked all houses before detonating the explosives. In his autobiography Warrior (1987) he wrote:
I couldn’t believe my ears. As I went back over each step of the operation, I began to understand what must have happened. For years Israeli reprisal raids had never succeeded in doing more than blowing up a few outlying buildings, if that. Expecting the same, some Arab families must have stayed in their houses rather than running away. In those big stone houses […] some could easily have hidden in the cellars and back rooms, keeping quiet when the paratroopers went in to check and yell out a warning. The result was this tragedy that had happened.
However, the UN observers who arrived shortly afterwards noted that:
Bullet-riddled bodies near the doorways and multiple bullet hits on the doors of the demolished houses indicated that the inhabitants had been forced to remain inside until their homes were blown up over them.
And original documents of the time showed that Sharon personally ordered his troops to achieve “maximal killing and damage to property”. Post-operational reports speak of breaking into houses and clearing them with grenades and shooting.