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The Hadassah medical convoy massacre took place on April 13, 1948, when a convoy, escorted by Haganah militia, bringing medical and fortification supplies and personnel to Hadassah Hospitalmarker on Mount Scopusmarker was ambushed by Arab forces.Seventy-nine Jewish residents of the British Mandate of Palestine, mostly doctors and nurses, were killed in the attack.
Aftermath of attack on convoy

Mount Scopus blockade

In 1948, following the UN Partition Plan and anticipating Israel's declaration of independence, access to Hadassah Hospital and the Hebrew Universitymarker campus on Mount Scopusmarker, Jerusalemmarker was blocked by the Arab troops. The only access was via a narrow road, a mile and a half long passing through the Arab neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrahmarker. The Haganah had used Mount Scopus as an outpost and a base for a raid on the village of Wadi al-Joz on February 26. On March 2, the operator at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem received a phone call from an Arab caller who warned that the hospital would be blown up within 90 minutes. Nothing happened that day, but the intentions of the Arabs were made clear.At a press conference on March 17, the leader of the Arab forces in Jerusalem, Abdul Kader Husseini, threatened that Hadassah Hospital and Hebrew University would be captured or destroyed "if the Jews continued to use them as bases for attacks". Arab sniper fire on vehicles moving along the access route became a regular occurrence, and road mines were laid. The Red Crossmarker had offered to put Mount Scopus under its flag on condition that the area be demilitarized, but the Haganah declined the proposal. When food and supplies at the hospital begun to dwindle, a large convoy carrying doctors and supplies set out for the besieged hospital. The British commander of Jerusalem assured the Jews that the road was safe. For the past month, a tacit truce had been in place and the passage of convoys had taken place without serious incident.

The Attack

On April 13, a convoy of two Haganah escort cars, two ambulances and two buses set off for the hospital in the early morning. At approximately 9:45, the leading vehicle was hit by a mine and the convoy came under attack by Arab forces spraying machine gun fire. British forces were slow to come to the convoy's assistance. One of the first men on the scene was Major Jack Churchill, who offered to evacuate members of the convoy in an APC. His offer was refused in the belief that the Haganah would come to their aid. When no relief arrived, Churchill and his 12 men provided what cover fire they could against hundreds of Arabs. The Army unit tried to arrange a cease fire between '11 and noon' and left the scene at 2.00pm returning at 3.00pm with heavier weapons. It was then that the first of the buses was set on fire. Dr Chaim Yassky was mortally wounded trying to escape from it. At 5.00pm the Army 'laid down smoke' and began retrieving the survivors, by which time one bus was burnt out and a second on fire. Following the massacre, Churchill oversaw the evacuation of 700 patients and staff from the hospital.

Two Irgun militants injured at Deir Yassin were among the patients being transported in the convoy.

On April 15 1948, the American Consul in Jerusalem, Thomas C. Wasson, reported that an "American correspondent eye witnessed removal from trucks large quantities of arms and ammuntion and speculated whether for escort or other purpose."On April 17 1948, he wrote " . . . queried as to whether convoy included armoured cars, Haganah guards, arms and ammunition in addition to doctors, nurses and patients, Kohn [of the Jewish Agency] replied in affirmative saying it was necessary to protect convoy."


Seventy-nine people were killed by gunfire during the fighting or were burnt when several vehicles were set alight. Twenty of them were women. Among the dead were Dr. Chaim Yassky, director of the hospital and Dr. Moshe Ben-David, slated to head the new medical school, (which was eventually established by the Hebrew Universitymarker in the 1950s).

The bodies were so badly burned that only 31 were identified. The unidentified remains were buried in a mass grave in Sanhedriamarker Cemetery. Twenty-two victims were declared missing. The family of one victim says it has evidence that some of the dead were buried in a Muslim cemetery near the Lions' Gatemarker. For many years the number of casualties was thought to be 78, but recently it was confirmed that there were 79.

One British soldier died in the attack.


The day after the attack a several thousand Orthodox Jews demonstrated in the Jewish Quartermarker, demanding a "cease fire". In a statement they claimed that the demonstration was broken up by the Haganah.

After the attack, no convoys were able to reach the hospital due to continued attacks on the road, despite British assurances of assistance. The situation in the compound became grim, and the decision was made to evacuate the hospital in early May, leaving a staff of 200 to run at a reduced 50 beds. The hospital was effectively closed by the end of May, as no supplies could reach it, though a small number of doctors and students remained. In July, a deal was worked out where Mount Scopus became a United Nations area, with 84 Jewish policemen assigned to guard the now shuttered hospital.

In the armistice agreement with Jordanmarker, signed on April 3, 1949, the hospital became a demilitarized Israeli enclave, with a small adjacent no-man's-land (containing a World War I Allied military cemetery under British supervision) and the rest of Mount Scopus and East Jerusalem becoming Jordanian. The Israeli government and Hadassah donors then re-founded the hospital in Israeli West Jerusalem, with the original hospital staff (Hadassah Ein Kerem hospitalmarker).

The Mt. Scopus hospital only resumed medical services after the Six-Day War.

On the sixtieth anniversary of the massacre, the city of Jerusalem named a street in honor of Dr. Chaim Yassky, who led the ill-fated convoy.


  1. Victims of Hadassah massacre to be memorialized, Judy Siegel-Itzkovich. April 7, 2008, The Jerusalem Post.
  2. Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, O Jerusalem!, 1972, pp.284-285, Simon & Schuster, New York ISBN 0-671-66241-4.
  3. Meir Avizohar, מוריה בירושלים בתש"ח (Moriah in Jerusalem, 1948), chapter 3, Mahbarot Lesafrut, 2002.[1]
  4. The Convoy, Hadassah.
  5. 'Husseini Threatens Hadassah', The Palestine Post, 18 March, 1948, p. 1.
  6. Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, O Jerusalem!, 1972, pp.284-285, Simon & Schuster, New York ISBN 0-671-66241-4.
  7. The Palestine Post 14 April 1948 reported that the convoy consisted of ten vehicles: the lead vehicle got through, and six cars escaped by turning back leaving two 'Hamkasher' buses, an ambulance, and an escort vehicle. Later in the report it mentions two trucks loaded with building materials for water cistern at the hospital.
  8. Dov Joseph, The Faithful City - The Siege of Jerusalem, 1948. Simon and Schuster, New York. 1960. Lib Congress: 60 10976. page 74: 'The convoy started at 9:30 A.M., made up of two ambulances, three armoured buses, three trucks with food and hospital supplies and two small escort cars.'
  9. Hadassah marches on
  10. Fighting Jack Churchill survived a wartime odyssey beyond compare, Robert Barr Smith, WWII History Magazine, July 2005.
  11. Bertha Spafford Vester (and Evelyn Wells), 'Our Jerusalem'. Printed in Lebanon, 1950. page 353:'about one hundred and fifty insurgents, armed with weapons varying from blunder-busses and old flintlocks to modern Sten and Bren guns, took cover behind a cactus patch in the grounds of the American Colony ... I went out and faced them.' page 376; 'About 250 rifle-men were on the edge of our property shooting at the convoy. ... I begged them to desist from using the grounds of the American Colony for such a dastardly purpose.'
  12. Palestine Post, April 14th. Front page.
  13. Harry Levin, 'Jerusalem Embattled - A diary of the city under siege.' Cassel, London. 1997 (text copyright 1950). ISBN 0 304 33765 X. page 68: States that there were 130 people in the convoy. 50 killed, 20 injured and 'many more missing or unidentified.' He blames the British for not intervening, mentions the 'Haganah rescue party.' The buses set on fire at 3.00 and the smoke screen at 4.30.
  14. Telegrams 439 & 455, Jerusalem Consular Files, Series 800 Palestine, Record Group 84, National Archives
  15. The Palestine Post states 35 killed and 30 wounded. It also says only seven out of a party of over sixty were unhurt. The Scotsman initially reported more than 35 killed, but on the 16th April reported 77 killed. The Times has 34 dead increasing to 39.
  16. Hadassah marches on
  17. Scotsman 15 April (Thursday) 1948. "A procession of several thousand Orthodox Jews marched through the streets of the Jewish Quarter with banners demanding peace and a "cease fire". The Orthodox Jews' statement said that Haganah troops tore down the banners and beat the demonstrators. Later a larger Haganah force, which arrived in buses, fired their guns in the air and "also beat the demonstrators without mercy, using their rifle buts.""

Further reading

  • Jacques de Reynier, A Jerusalem un drapeau flottait sur la ligne de feu.

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