Israeli forces 'poisoned wells in Palestinian villages' during 1948 Nakba, unearthed documents show

Israeli forces 'poisoned wells in Palestinian villages' during 1948 Nakba, unearthed documents show
Israeli historians have recovered official army documentation offering proof that soldiers poisoned wells to prevent Palestinians trying to return to their homes after the1948 Nakba.
2 min read
15 October, 2022
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven from their homes by the Israeli military during the 1948 Nakba [Getty]

Historians have recovered official documentation proving that Israeli soldiers poisoned wells to prevent expelled Palestinians from returning to their home villages during the 1948 Nakba.

Testimonies regarding the act of biological warfare have been heard and publicised for decades, but historians Benny Morris and Benjamin Z. Kedar have found Israeli military documentation that have cast any doubt over its occurence aside and provided new details regarding its scope, Haaretz reported on Friday.

The operation was codenamed 'Cast Thy Bread'.

"We uncovered a lot of new information. We deciphered how the operation developed through its various stages; we discovered who authorised, organised and controlled the operation, and how it was carried out in different areas," Morris told Haaretz. "We have a much fuller picture now."

The operation began in April 1948, when Israel, formally established as a state a month later, was in the process of expelling hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homeland and its army and associated militias committed a host of massacres.

This event later became known by Palestinians as the Nakba.

Initially focused on an area between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the poisoning operation expanded to include areas across Palestine.

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It was at first ordinary soldiers who were tasked with poisoning the wells, but the job was later given to the mista'arvim, an undercover force who disguised themselves as Palestinians and specialised in sabotage operations in enemy territory, according to the documents.

The poison was produced in a unit in the army's Science Corps that dealt with biological warfare.

It was even proposed that the operation be expanded to include Beirut and Cairo, to stop Arab armies from invading - but this part of the scheme did not materialise.

Dozens of people fell ill because of the poisoning, according to previous reports.

Much of the Israeli archives from the Nakba period remain classified - though many new historic details from the period are slowly resurfacing.