1947–1948 civil war in Mandatory Palestine

Civil war in Palestine (1947–48)
Part of the Intercommunal conflict in Mandatory Palestine, 1948 Palestine War
Jewish militants at Katamon, Jerusalem.
Date30 November 1947 – 14 May 1948
(5 months and 2 weeks)

Jews of Palestine

Arabs of Palestine


 United Kingdom

Commanders and leaders
David Ben-Gurion
Yaakov Dori
Yigael Yadin
Yigal Allon
Menachem Begin
Fawzi al-Qawuqji
Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni 
Mandatory Palestine Gordon MacMillan
15,000 (start)[1]
35,000 (end)
A few thousand70,000
Casualties and losses
1 April:
15 May:
1 April:
125 killed
300 wounded[4]

The 1947–1948 civil war in Mandatory Palestine was the first phase of the 1948 Palestine war. It broke out after the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution on 29 November 1947 recommending the adoption of the Partition Plan for Palestine.[5]

During the civil war, the Jewish and Arab communities of Palestine clashed (the latter supported by the Arab Liberation Army) while the British, who had the obligation to maintain order,[6][7] organized their withdrawal and intervened only on an occasional basis.

When the British Mandate of Palestine expired on 14 May 1948, and with the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, the surrounding Arab states—Egypt, Transjordan, Iraq and Syria—invaded what had just ceased to be Mandatory Palestine,[8] and immediately attacked Israeli forces and several Jewish settlements.[9] The conflict thus escalated and became the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.


Under the control of a British administration since 1920, the area of Palestine found itself the object of a battle between Jewish Zionist nationalists and Palestinian Arab nationalists, who opposed one another just as much as they both opposed the British mandate.

The Palestinian Arab backlash culminated in the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine. Directed by Palestinian Arab nationalists, the rebels opposed Zionism, the British presence in Palestine and Palestinian Arab politicians who called for pan-Arabic nationalism at the same time. Both the British and the Zionist organizations of the time opposed the revolt; nonetheless, the Palestinian Arab nationalists did obtain from the British a drastic reduction of Jewish immigration, legislated by the 1939 White Paper. However, the consequences of the unsuccessful uprising were heavy. Nearly 5,000 Arabs and 500 Jews died; the various paramilitary Zionist organizations were reinforced, and the majority of the members of the Palestinian Arab political elite exiled themselves, such as Amin al-Husseini, leader of the Arab Higher Committee.

After World War II and The Holocaust, the Zionist movement gained attention and sympathy. In Mandatory Palestine, Zionist groups fought against the British occupation. In the two and a half years from 1945 to June 1947, British law enforcement forces lost 103 dead, and sustained 391 wounded from Jewish militants.[10] The Palestinian Arab nationalists reorganized themselves, but their organization remained inferior to that of the Zionists. Nevertheless, the weakening of the colonial British Empire reinforced Arab countries and the Arab League.

The Haganah, a Jewish paramilitary organization, was initially involved in the post-war attacks against the British in Palestine but withdrew following the outrage caused by the 1946 Irgun bombing of the British Army Headquarters in the King David Hotel. In May 1946, on the assumption of British neutrality in the future hostilities, a Plan C was formulated that envisaged guidelines for retaliation if and when Palestinian Arab attacks took place on the Yishuv. As the countdown ticked down, the Haganah implemented assaults involving the torching and demolition by explosives against economic infrastructures, the property of Palestinian politicians and military commanders, villages, town neighbourhoods, houses and farms that were deemed to be bases or used by inciters and their accomplices. The killing of armed irregulars and adult males was also foreseen. On 15 August 1947, on suspicion it was a terrorist headquarters, they blew up the house of the Abu Laban family, prosperous Palestinian orange growers, near Petah Tikva. Twelve occupants, including a woman and six children, were killed.[11] After November 1947, the dynamiting of houses formed a key component of most Haganah retaliatory strikes.[12]

Diplomacy failed to reconcile the different points of view concerning the future of Palestine. On 18 February 1947, the British announced their withdrawal from the region. Later that year, on 29 November, the General Assembly of the United Nations voted to recommend the adoption and implementation of the partition plan with the support of the big global powers, but not of Britain nor of the Arab States.