The other Side of the Coin
by Yahia Al Shaer
Killing POWs is against the UN Charta signed by all the states on this Earth. Killing innocent civilians by soldiers is disgraceful and nonhonorable. It is an act of terror which degrades its doers and places them to side with criminals. It does not comply to the military honore.
The courage to admit that it has happened, requires a great deal of civil courage. Many have denied that they took place - when they had the chance to do it.-, others have just done it, and simply committed the crime, thought that it will never come up,it will sink down in the forgotten minutes of history. But justice is holy, and the truth will always pop up and pervail.
We have heard in Port Said about some of the atrocities committed during this war. We have been talking in Egypt and propagating, that innocent civilians and soldiers have been killed either in cold blood, or at point blank, or may be just for the sake of killing, cold blood killing of non-combatant civilians or military persons. We have either propagated the stories or waited for evidences, because such crimes were categorically denied from the Tripartite Alliances , that they never happened or were never committed from their soldiers. They argumented, that such war crimes never happened after 1945. The history proved that they are wrong and that we - who never thought it could be true -- are mistaken.
To document these crimes for history, I have
chosen the following (known and published) war crimes, genocide and atrocities
committed by all three Alliances of 1956 War against Egypt. Starting with Port Said and ending with Sinai referring to the sources of these information.
Drawing the line at Sharon
by Dave Himmelstein
Even the barest familiarity with Sharon's history casts a pall of bitter irony over his ongoing makeover to statesman. Unfortunately, except for his pivotal role in the 1982 massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, that history is little known in mainstream North America. If only a small percentage of the media attention given to the demonized Yassir Arafat had been directed towards the havoc and devastation wrought by Sharon since the middle of the last century, no one would have any difficulty understanding the revulsion he inspires—or would be naïve enough to take his word at face value.
His signature viciousness first brought him to public notice in 1953, when it drew the harshest criticism of Israel ever delivered by the United States. A shock paratroop unit under his command massacred scores of civilians (mostly women and children) and blew up dozens of houses in the Jordanian village of Qibya. Three years later, during Israel's Suez military campaign an over-eager Sharon defied instructions and sent paratroopers into an ambush in the Sinai desert's Mitla Pass. Later, troops under his command went on to execute over 200 Egyptian prisoners of war, as admitted decades later by a retired army general who had served under Sharon at the time.
Excerpt from Oren's Research Report
Excerpt from Oren's Research Report
They did not open fire from the air nor were they able, at that stage, to determine exactly who was there. Later it became clear.
They were civilians, Egyptian public works
employees, who happened to be at the place where the Israeli army commanders
decided to parachute their force. They were captured and taken
Two days later, after the awaited link-up was made with Division 202, Sharon assumed command in Mitla and Raful's battalion was ordered to move on to Ras Sudar. The Egyptian workers who had been captured on the first day of the parachuting were not loaded on the trucks and did not join the battalion which began to move to the south in a convoy, nor were they transferred to Sharon's soldiers. In fact, none of the soldiers of Battalion 890 can testify to having seen them alive after the force packed up and left.
Wolf: "There were 20 or 25 men. I
do not remember exactly how many. All were dressed in white jellabas. Road
workers, poor guys. It is an extremely hard work in the middle of the desert.
They whined from thirst and hunger. They could have been left there with some
food and water, theoretically, but the truth is that we did not have enough
water for ourselves. Don't get me wrong. I am not trying to find justifications
for what we did.
But the truth. any way you look at it, is that there was nothing we could do with them. We were about to move, we received an order to advance and they were stuck among us. Releasing them was inconceivable, because the last thing that any of us wanted to do, was to provide free information to the Egyptians about how to locate and screw us before the arrival of Sharon's force. The army had taken us and thrown us, Battalion 890, hundreds of Kilometers inside enemy territory, without reinforcements or anything. It was not a simple situation. I personally would not have shot those k workers in any case. Not even in our situation. But the people who did, shot."
Did you see with your own eyes that the Egyptian workers were shot dead?
"What do you mean, did I see it? About 300 people saw it, nearly the entire battalion. We stood on the hills when some officers took them one kilometer to the south, away from us. Then they started to mow them down. It was not a pleasant sight.
" What did they do?
"Some of them were frozen to the spot, some fell, some fled. Look, it was not a professional murder. I don't think that they all died. Perhaps some of them understood what was going on, got to their feet and ran to the desert. It is very likely that some of them survived."
"Aryeh Biro, the commander."
Who gave the order?
"Raful, the battalion commander."
General (reserves) Aryeh Biro, 68, was discharged from the Israeli army ten years ago. He was known as "the Prussian officer" and the nickname was given to him for his toughness. Biro, a typical product of the forests where the partisans fought and of the concentration camps in Europe, was Raful's right-hand man through the 1956 campaign. Biro was thought to be Raful's identical twin, to the point that people would confuse of the two. The same looks, the same countenance of an expressionless peasant, the same style of speech, the same blind courage. Those who argued against their world-view used to say that they turned Battalion 890 into a band of Cossacks.
Those who supported their values said that they had turned the men of 890 into courageous Jewish fighters.
For years, Biro did not speak about the events of the war. Now he has broken his silence, starting with what happened at the jump site.
Biro: "South of us, pretty close to the position we took, there was a quarry. There were exactly 49 people there, not 15, not 20 and not 30. All of them were road workers from the Egyptian public works department. Some were Bedouins and some were perhaps Egyptians. We tied their hands and led them to the quarry. They were frightened and shattered. Raful did not give us an explicit order and I did not ask for any. In any case, only an idiot would ask his commander for permission to do what was his duty to do.
In any event I can tell you that Raful did not grieve over the bodies of the workers killed by us. He also didn't punish whoever it was that finished the job there and got rid of them. They were a burden, a pain in the butt, and until we finished them off we could not find the time to deal with the other matters. The stories about us of letting them run and then massacring them are nonsense. They died and that is that. One of them really did manage to flee with bullets in his leg and chest, but he came back several hours later on all fours. We did not understand why. Very quickly we found that he was simply thirsty. Instead of getting to the radiator of some truck, emptying it into his belly and waiting for an Egyptian patrol to pass, the idiot came to me to ask for water.
I am not responsible for the stupidity of the enemy and he quickly found himself among his friends. As to the question who fired and who did not fire at the workers, why is it important? Between you and me, the main thing is that they did fire."
The battle of the Mitla began on the following morning, the third day of the war. Many from the battalion were wounded. But Battalion 890 was not destroyed or neutralised. On the fourth day of the campaign, with a smaller, hurt and angry force, they received the order to move forward into the desert, to Ras Sudar. From every aspect, that was an unexpected order. No one actually knew where the Egyptian divisions were located(2) and the intelligence reports and navigation maps were inaccurate.
Nor did anyone know how to reach the
destination and how to identify the place when they did arrive. In a convoy of
nine old vehicles, and several captured ones and four jeeps, with Biro at the
head, they went to seek the location of Ras Sudar. Like all those who went
through the campaign, their feeling was that they were going to their death,
venturing forward without any possibility of withdrawal. With this feeling and
the pain over the loss of their comrades, the next massacre was only a
The Egyptians, who smelled the "red feet"--the nickname of Raful's paratroopers--did not want to conduct a battle with them and simply fled. The feeling that battalion 890 was going towards its death was dispelled. They did not face organized Egyptian troops.
Ziv: "All in all, we were in a pretty good mood by the time we camped at Ras Sudar. The guys confiscated many booty vehicles from the Egyptian oil company and played around, driving wildly.
The fact that we did not confront any Egyptian commando unit, anyone willing to battle us, was a relief on one hand, but on the other hand, the tension, the anxiety of those who were living war for the first time, had not been vented by actual fighting. I remember that my unit settled on both sides of the road, when suddenly a truck loaded with people appeared from a bend on the road. At first no one paid any attention to them.
In fact, when I think about it today, if they had continued driving towards us without making a provocation, they would have passed us without our noticing them. But, apparently, they were frightened. They did not expect to find us in the middle of Sinai. One of them fired, out of hysteria, a few aimless bullets. Even before the truck came into our range of fire, it was obvious that we had to eliminate it. Whoever fires, as far as we are concerned, is the enemy from any aspect.
The truck, I remember as though it were today, was open in the back, was hit in the driver's compartment by my rifle-fired anti-tank grenade, swung to the side of the road and halted. The people who were hanging on it, holding on to the doors or sitting on the hood, flew several meters in the air and were thrown onto the sand. My hit was right on target, and one minute later it was quiet. I looked at the truck and at the people in it.
They were stunned. They did not move. Already then I could see that they were Fedayin [Palestinian guerillas]. Possibly there were also Egyptian soldiers there but not in uniform. In any event, it was certainly not an organized Egyptian army unit.
I turned back to dismantle the grenade rifle and all at once I saw our unit assaulting them. It was a mad scene. Biro gave the order, and each person caught the gun closest to him and fired. It was a huge round of fire that shook the desert. I did not shoot, I only stood there and watched the truck and our guys, and did not grasp what was going on, why they were doing that. For me everything ended when my anti-tank grenade blew away the head of the truck driver. The cruel attack afterwards seemed totally uncalled for.
The people in the truck simply remained standing and they absorbed hundreds of our bullets without responding, without moving." Biro, the commander, does not deny the order given to attack the truck. He does not now even deny that the shooting was one-sided, but it is difficult to win over the impression that this changes the picture as far as he is concerned. He simply does not understand even now how they managed to load so many people in one truck.
"I have developed a feeling of keeping the finger on the trigger," Biro said, "when I shot someone and he is hit, I feel it in my hand, between the fingers. But that time a strange thing happened. As soon as I gave the order to fire, I myself started shooting from a Carl Gustav rifle I had taken as booty at the Mitla. I started emptying clips into the people on the truck and for some reason I felt as though I hit a person with each bullet I fired, but still, they remained standing as though the bullets had gone in one side and left through the other without leaving holes in their stomachs. I was stunned. That was a big mystery to me.
Only later, when I shouted to halt fire and went over to the truck, I understood what had happened. The truck was so crowded that the people inside did not have room to fall. Those who died, died standing up." Shaul Ziv claims that the affair of the truck at Ras Sudar did not end there. In fact, it did not even really begin.
Ziv: "Sometimes, in the kibbutz, you can see a wagon loaded with cans of milk being dragged from the barn, after the day's milking, and if a can overturns and spills, the whole wagon begins to drip from all sides, within seconds. I remembered that when I stood there, next to the Fedayin truck after the attack. It was simply horrifying.
Blood ran from every crevice in the truck in huge amounts. When the back door was opened, the bodies tumbled out one on top of the other, all at once. I estimate that there were 40-50 people there. It was difficult to count in the mess of flesh that formed there. They fell on each other, at the side of the road, next to the truck. All or most of them were dressed in white jellabas, which were not so white by then. I saw enough shocking scenes when I commanded the naval commando, but this was especially terrible.
Even if I had seen worse things in my lifetime, that case was especially enraging because I could not bear the thought that we shot people without a battle.
What was more terrible was that after we removed the dead bodies from the truck we found that there were about 20 people still living. Most of them were bleeding. One had a hole in the arm, another in the jaw but they were alive. I have no idea how they survived after that barrage of fire. Perhaps it was due to the huge mass of people in the truck who, with their bodies absorbing one bullet after another, shielded those who managed to push back into the center.
I don't know. In any case, I remember clearly
that when the truck was emptied of the bodies, our guys tied the hands of those
who were still alive. At that time I did not know what was going to be done with
them and I was already concerned with entirely different matters. I think that I
received an order
to move to Sharm al-Sheikh and was hurrying to get my gear in order. Suddenly I saw our storage manager, H., who was never considered to be a big hero, and K., Biro's deputy, running towards the truck, climbing into the driver's compartment and starting to fire barrages inside. I froze. They did not stop for a second, they did not take a rest to change clips in their guns.
They fired and fired and fired until their arms got tired. I do not remember whether any other guy joined them in that massacre, but I clearly remember the two of them standing in the driver's compartment and pounding the 20 prisoners tied in the truck.
A bullet didn't hit one of the prisoners right,
it went directly into the main artery in the neck and a fountain of blood spewed
on their clothes, drenching them. I
thought that it would never end. "
K. and H. were personal protégés of the commander, Biro. Everyone knew that he liked them, that he had raised them, and that they had returned his favor on the battleground. In any event, that was all that what Biro wanted from them.
"I never forced soldiers to use a knife when they could use guns," Biro explained, "but killing with a knife was always my hobby. I am good at that. What someone else does not do in a day with a hundred clips and 1,000 bullets I did at night with one commando knife. K., a golden boy would sometimes go out with me at night to help me with the holy work with the knife. I turned H., whom no one expected to amount so much because he was just a chicken storage manager who was even afraid to parachute, into a real killer(3) in that campaign.
I made a soldier out of him. Whether K., H. and others dealt with the Fedayin who were captured at Ras Sudar is not important, since no one is going to establish an inquiry committee against the shooters. But if you are talking about facts, then there were exactly 56 men in the truck when they ran into us. Only six, not 20, remained alive after the barrage of fire. And yes, they too, as the rest of the men in the truck, went to sleep after that."
On November 4, 1956, the paratroopers arrived at Al-Tur, after a lengthy drive from Ras Sudar. Only on the following evening, on the sixth day of the campaign, they began to move in a convoy south to Sharm al-Sheikh, to end the war. There is a huge controversy about what happened along those last 15 kilometers that separated them from Sharm al-Sheikh. Some people are prepared to swear that soldiers in Raful's unit gave the Egyptians a lesson in looting, taking booty and mass killing, all in broad daylight.
In contrast to former isolated events, such as
the affairs at Mitla or at Ras Sudar, which were then erased from the battle
history books, the journey of Battalion 890 to Sharm al-Sheikh forced the
Israeli army to construct a firm alibi for itself and even issue its own
version. The reason was simple. The road leading to Sharm al-Sheikh was so
strewn with dozens of dead bodies, one next to the other, sometimes even on top
of each other, all of them were bodies of Egyptian or Sudanese soldiers who were
killed without battle and then stripped of their possessions. It was a genuine
Besides, the paratroopers' conspiracy of silence was broken. The shocking scenes were seen by the soldiers of the 9th Division who arrived to the area at about the same time and they did not have to try hard to understand what had taken place.
The Israeli army version, as found in its various publications on the war, stated, "On its way to Sharm al-Sheikh, the Paratroopers' Unit confronted an Egyptian division, a small part of which began a battle with our troops and was eliminated in the course of exchange of fire. Most of the Egyptians were then taken prisoners and held until transferred to Israeli territory. If personal booty was taken, it was confiscated and burnt."
Testimony of Sharm al-Sheikh's
The following testimony of Sharm al-Sheikh's affair should be included, in order to understand what happened there. Colonel (reserves) Amos Ne'eman, who was Wolt's commander in that campaign said: "We were like a hurricane that absorbs power and then crushes everything that it takes hold of. Call it a spontaneous outburst, call it pulling out the plug. I don't know. I only admit that in those moments it did not occur to me even once to stop killing in order to take prisoners. I changed clips in my Uzi like a crazy man, without even feeling it, and chased the Egyptians into the dunes. We conducted manhunts and whoever managed to escape my barrages when he ran into the desert, was alive only by a miracle. If I try to understand why our fingers were so heavy on the trigger, my only explanation is the hatred for the enemy. I did not hate them in the Six Day War nor in the Yom Kippur War, but in the Suez War I wanted to break their bones, I wanted to slaughter them all.... #
"I was torn up inside. On one hand there were the values of Ha'shomer Ha'tzair, the Mapam youth movement. On the other hand there were Ratul and Biro, who taught us to despise the enemy. I went to war with a cup full of revenge and I emptied it completely. I remember that only three kilometers from Sharm al-Sheikh, I woke up, came to my senses and truly understood what I had done
in the last hours of the war. It happened on a bend on the main road. An Egyptian command car halted 40 meters away from me.
An Egyptian officer came out of it, stood there, sent a hand to his belt and took out his pistol. I raised my gun and within seconds
I had him in my sights. Suddenly I saw that instead of shooting at me he put his gun to his head and shot himself: When we advanced further, I stopped for a minute, got out of the armored vehicle, and took his gun as a souvenir.
"At al-Tur, one minute before we got on the planes to go home, Raful asked that a special unit inspection be organized. We did
not understand what was going on. Raful did not speak, he just laid out blankets on the ground, in silence and looked at us full
of rage. Biro came to his senses first and shouted, 'Everyone empty out the booty, now.' Raful was very sensitive about this issue. When he discovered that the guys had taken watches and money from the Egyptians, he thought he had only one of two choices. To shoot us all or to burn the stuff in Sinai and never mention the affair again. I think, incidentally, that it happened after someone told him that Areyeh Biro had fired at one of our soldiers, who was caught red-handed, emptying the pockets of a dead Egyptian soldier. Only by chance did Biro missed by a few inches and the man survived. The blankets that Raful laid out were full within minutes. There was everything in them. I went over to him and asked for permission to keep the pistol of the Egyptian officer as a souvenir. He nodded his assent, then tied the blankets into a huge bundle, poured gasoline over it and set it on fire."
Aryeh Biro, on a looted Egyptian vehicle with a flat front tire, drove back and forth on the Ras Sudar-Sharam al-Sheikh axis, to make sure that his unit had done the job properly. He remembers the inspection at al-Tur, although not exactly as Ne'eman did. Biro claimed that he allowed each soldier to take something home. Usually, two camel blankets, but no more. At the same opportunity, incidentally, he also graciously admitted that he shot at one of the unit's soldiers who was looting.
Biro: "A great shame. I have no idea how I missed him. I aimed directly at his stomach. He had more luck than brains. I told them
at once when the war began, 'No personal booty.' I also told them that if I wanted them to take booty, I would notify them in advance. Whoever did not listen, did not obey orders and was caught red-handed, would immediately be caught in the sights of
my gun. Besides looting, everything else was insignificant. For example, purity of arms. It is not true that Ratul and I do not respect this rule. We certainly consider it to be a supreme value and we were at pains to explain that to soldiers at every opportunity.
Purity of arms means that the gun should always be clean, polished, professionally handled and always prepared to shoot at anything that moves. In the same context, let me say that it is not true that Raful and I agreed to kill prisoners. Absolutely not. We gave an explicit order prohibiting that, but at the same time we said that battalion 890 will not take prisoners. Now everyone could understand whatever they need to understand.
"The truth is that I hate wars very much, and I have long ago reached the conclusion that nothing good ever comes from them. Neither for the winners nor for the losers. But when I go to war I go to kill. Then I don't bother with any stories about conscience or morality. War is not for amateurs. A paratrooper, who wants to ponder whether in this or that case it is permitted or prohibited to shoot should go and study philosophy.
"We found a cell, in which there were an Egyptian officer and two sergeants. I ordered that they be taken alive for questioning.
The old song was repeated. They begged for a drop of water and I wanted information from them about the size of their forces, waiting for me in Sharm al-Sheikh. My intelligence officer tried to make them talk, but they only repeated the same words again
and again, 'water, water, water.' I did not intervene at first, until I was fed up with that nonsense. I pushed the intelligence officer aside, took my canteen, opened it and slowly spilled the contents on the floor in front of the Egyptian officer's face. I told them
that whoever opened his mouth and began speaking would get what was left in the canteen. One of them broke down and talked.
I closed the canteen, put it back in my belt, took out my pistol and gave each one of the three a bullet in the head.
"I knew that I had given my guys terrific mental preparation. I do not know what my soldiers remember today, how clear their memories are, although they are younger than me. All in all, they were pretty scared. For some of them it was their first meeting, close up, with death. I suppose that many little things grew in their minds to huge proportions. Some of them, who later became senior and excellent commanders in the Israeli army, got hit with my stick in Sinai, because they did not always understand what
I wanted. On the other hand, I loved them with all my heart and I feel hurt for every scratch they got. Their conduct in Sharm El Sheikh, except for the looting, by the end of the war, turned them into full-blown fighters in my eyes. Incidentally, 20 years later,
I happened to command the Sharm al-Sheikh area again. Every time passed by the main road I would look aside to see between
the crevices in the rocks, very high up, the many skeletons of the Egyptians whom I shot. How did I know that those were my skeletons? Because only I was a good guy and let them throw down their weapons, and escape as far as they could before I mowed them down. I knew that if I shot them, they would stay there like a red banner, to remind the Egyptians for all time not to mess with us".
How Many Were Killed?
According to testimony from various sources, the paratroopers killed 273 Egyptians without a battle. As to Mitl, Lt. Colonel (res.) Ariyeh Biro says, "There were exactly 56 men in the truck when it ran into us. Only six, not 20, remained alive after the barrage of fire. And they too, as were the rest of the men in the truck, put to sleep." On the road to Sharm al-Sheikh the paratroopers counted 168 bodies. Some Egyptians were shot in their backs while fleeing, without a battle."(6) (Maariv, August 8, 1995)
1. The highest award in the Israeli army
2. In my view this is untrue. According to my sources, the French army told the Israeli army that all Egyptian units had already received an order to retreat to Egypt as quickly as they could.
3. A term of praise.
4. They were broken by the stupid order to retreat blindly
5. Regarded as a legendary hero
To the best of my information, at least 2,000 were murdered
You are my today's
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