Balad al-Shaykh massacre

Deaths 21-70 Arabs, 2 Jews (Palmach)
Location Balad al-Sheikh
Injured 41 Arabs, 2 Jews (Palmach)
Date December 31, 1947 (1947-12-31) - January 1, 1948; 74 years ago (1948-01-01)
Criminal penalty Unknown


The Balad al-Shaykh massacre was the killing of a large number of Arab villagers by the Haganah in the Palestinian Arab village of Balad al-Shaykh during the early stages of the 1947–1948 civil war in Mandatory Palestine. It was one of the largest, and earliest, massacres during the 1948 Palestine war.

The massacre took place in the early morning – some of the men, women and children were killed in their beds. The killings had a significant effect on morale amongst Palestinian civilians in the Haifa region.


The incident was part of the 1947–1948 civil war between Jews and Arabs in Mandatory Palestine. It was preceded by a number of violent incidents, perpetrated one in retaliation for the other. The first major reprisal against the village of Balad al-Shaykh took place on the 12 December, following sporadic Arab firing at traffic through Wadi Rushmiya. Haganah forces killed 6 villagers.

The Haifa Oil Refinery massacre took place on 30 December 1947, the day before the second Balad al-Shaykh attack. In this case, it was the Zionist paramilitary group, the Irgun, which threw a number of grenades at a crowd of some 100 Arab day laborers who had gathered outside the main gate of the British-owned Haifa oil refinery looking for work, resulting in 6 deaths and 42 wounded. Arab refinery workers and others attacked Jewish workers, killing 39 of them.

The conclusion of a committee of inquiry established by the Jewish community of Haifa was that the Arab attack was unpremeditated, being a response to the Irgun assault. The Jewish Agency condemned the same group for what it called an 'act of madness' that was responsible for the catastrophic loss of Jewish lives. At the same time, it authorized the Haganah to undertake an operation of retaliation.


On the night of December 31, 1947, to January 1, 1948, the Palmach, an arm of the Haganah, attacked the town of Balad al-Shaykh while the residents were asleep, firing from the slopes of Mount Carmel.

Israeli historian Benny Morris writes:

The Haganah massively retaliated on the night of 31 December 1947 - 1 January 1948 raiding the villages of Balad al Sheikh and Hawassa, in which many of the refinery's workers lived. The raiding unit's orders were to 'kill maximum adult males'. The raiders penetrated to the center of Balad al Sheikh, fired into and blew up houses, and pulled out adult males, and shot them. According to the HGS, 'the penetrating units... were forced to deviate from the line agreed upon and in a few cases hit women and children' after being fired upon from inside houses. The Haganah suffered two dead and two injured. Haganah reports put Arab casualties variously at 'about 70 killed', and 21 killed ('including two women and five children') and 41 injured. (Morris, 2004, p. 101).

According to Zachary Lockman, about 60 men, women and children were killed and several dozen houses were blown up.


The land of the former village is today part of the Israeli town of Nesher.[citation needed]