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Haifa Oil Refinery massacre refers to an incident that took place on December 30, 1947. After operatives of the Zionist paramilitary, the Irgun, threw a number of grenades at a crowd of 100 Arab day labourers who had gathered outside the main gate of the Britishmarker-owned Haifa Oil refinery looking for work, 6 people were killed and 42 wounded. Minutes following this attack, Arab refinery workers and others began attacking the Jewish refinery workers, resulting in 39 deaths and 49 injuries, before British army and police units arrived to put an end to the violence. Haganah later retaliated by attacking two nearby Arab villages where the dead included women and children.


Relations between Jews and Arabs at the refinery were known to be good. However, tensions rose in 1947-48 in the wake of the 1947 UN Partition Plan. On December 30, 1947, Irgun militants hurled two bombs into a crowd of Arab workers from a passing vehicle. The Etzel (Irgun) who planned the attack on the day laborers said it was in retaliation for recent attacks elsewhere on Jews in Palestine. After 6 workers were killed and 42 wounded, Arab workers stormed the refinery armed with tools and metal rods, beating 39 Jewish workers to death and wounding 49. The Arab constabulary was accused of complicity, although some sources say Arab police helped to escort 30-40 Jews out of the building at the height of the violence. British forces arrived only an hour after the riot started. According to the Jewish Agency, some Arab workers helped their Jewish co-workers hide or escape.

The Haganah mounted a retaliatory raid on the villages of Balad al-Shaykh and Hawshamarker, where some of the Arab refinery workers lived. They fired into and blew up houses, and pulled out adult males and shot them. Some women and children were killed when, according to Haganah accounts, Arabs returned fire from the houses. Haganah estimates of the number of Arabs killed varied from 21 to 70. Two Haganah soldiers were also killed.


  1. Pappe, 1999, p. 119.
  2. Commission of enquiry report, Palestine Post, Feb 20, 1948.
  4. Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, p101.


External links

  • 'The British Withdrawal From Palestine: Possible Advance Of Date By Six Weeks, 17 Killed In Attack On Arab Village', The Times, Friday, January 2, 1948; pg. 4; Issue 50958; col A.

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