Sunday May 16, 1948

Declaration of State
David Ben Gurion reading the Declaration of Independence before the Provisional Government


(May 16) -- The first independent Jewish State in 19 centuries was born in Tel Aviv as the British Mandate over Palestine came to an end at midnight on Friday, and it was immediately subjected to the test of fire.

As "Medinat Yisrael" (State of Israel) was proclaimed, the battle for Jerusalem raged, with most of the city falling to the Jews. At the same time, President Truman announced that the United States would accord recognition to the new State. A few hours later, Palestine was invaded by Moslem armies from the south, east and north, and Tel Aviv was raided from the air. On Friday the United Nations Special Assembly adjourned after adopting a resolution to appoint a mediator but without taking any action on the Partition Resolution of November 29.

Yesterday the battle for the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv road was still under way, and two Arab villages were taken. In the north, Acre town was captured, and the Jewish Army consolidated its positions in Western Galilee.


Sunday May 16, 1948


Jewish forces engage the enemy from a secure position
Jewish forces engage the enemy from a secure position (photo David Rubringer)

Most Crowded Hours in Palestine's History

(May 16) -- Between Thursday night and this morning Palestine went through what by all standards must be among the most crowded hours in history.

For the Jewish population there was the anguish over the fate of the few hundred Haganah men and women in the Kfar Etzion bloc of settlements near Hebron. Their surrender to a fully equipped superior foreign force desperately in need of a victory was a foregone conclusion. What could not be known, with no communications since Thursday morning, was whether and to what extent the Red Cross and the Truce Consuls would secure civilized conditions for prisoners and wounded, and proper respect for the dead. Doubt on some of these anxious questions have now been resolved.

On Friday afternoon, from Tel Aviv, came the expected announcement of the Jewish State and its official naming at birth, "Medinat Yisrael" - State of Israel, with the swearing in of the first Council of Government. The proclamation of the State was made at midnight, coinciding with the sailing from Haifa of Britain's last High Commissioner. Within the hour, President Truman announced in Washington that the Government of the United States had decided to give de facto recognition to the Jewish State, with all that such recognition implied. The Assembly of the United Nations, meeting since the middle of April for "further study" of the Palestine problem was thus left, by one means or another, to ratify the Two-States decision of November last year, or dissolve with nothing concrete to its credit. The Assembly adjourned with the resolution to appoint a mediator between the Jew and Arabs, to cooperate with the Security Council's Truce Commission in Jerusalem.

Russian Recognition Awaited
Russia and her allies had given early assurance of their intention to recognize the Jewish State, whoever else did or did not. As a result of Washington's action and the Eastern Bloc's stand, other countries are expected to extend their recognition to the newly born state.

Nor did the Arab Bloc remain idle. True promises, or threats, the members of the Arab League completed their plans for a full-scale invasion of Palestine in what has been described as a Moslem "crusade" against the Jews. Tel Aviv was bombed twice yesterday by Egyptian war planes. One of the enemy planes was shot down by a Jewish fighter plane, and the pilot taken prisoner, showing that this move against the civilian population was not a surprise, and that the Jewish preparations include anti-aircraft defences.

A black-out has been ordered for the whole of Jewish Palestine. Tel Aviv itself having blacked out on Friday.

At the same time, the air was filled with reports of two Egyptian columns on the move from the south towards Gaza and Beer Sheba, and of intensified shelling from across the northern border of Jewish settlements in North Eastern Galilee.

The Security Council met yesterday in a special session to consider action on the invasion of Palestine by member states of the U.N.

In the afternoon, Jerusalem was subjected to shelling from the northwest.

Haganah forces throughout the country continued mopping up, and Jewish and Jewish sources claimed most of Western Galilee safe against attack. Naharayim, near Jist el Majamie, inside Trans-Jordan, where the Jordan river works of the Palestine Electric Corporation are, is claimed by the Arab Legion. The battle for the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Road at Bab el Wad is still on, Haganah taking two villages - Abu Shusha and Kubab - between Ramleh and Latrun.

Converging an Old City
In Jerusalem the "cease fire" observed on both sides for six days was broken on Friday, although the more strategic buildings in Princess Mary Avenue, the Russian Compound, and Jaffa Road passed to the Jews without a shot being fired, as did the David Building commanding the road to the German Colony and Railway Station. By yesterday evening, Jewish forces were approaching some of the gates of the Old City. The Police Training School on Mt. Scopus and Sheikh Harrah are in Jewish hands.

On Friday morning, the Truce Commission met at the French Consulate and invited Jewish and Arab representatives to confer with them. Jewish Agency delegates agreed that the "cease fire" be extended in Jerusalem for eight days. Arab representatives could not attend, they said, because of the firing in Julian's Way, and a two-hour respite was arranged from 5 to 7 in the evening. Whether they agreed or not, became academic as by that time the battle for Jerusalem had been renewed.

To Jerusalem's tension was added the aggravation of electric power failing in most parts of the city, as nearly all of the Electric Corporation's lines had been shot down. This meant, on top of the other heardships to a fuel-less city, no broadcast news yesterday, when there were no newspapers. For more than a week the city was also without piped water.



Sunday May 16, 1948

US President Harry Truman recognizes the State of Israel
US President Harry S. Truman
(file photo)

U.S. recognizes Jewish State

WASHINGTON (May 16) -- Ten minutes after the termination of the British Mandate on Friday, the White House released a formal statement by President Truman that the U.S. Government intended to recognize the Provisional Jewish Government as the de facto authority representing the Jewish State.


The U.S. is also considering lifting the arms embargo but it is not known whether to Palestine only or to the entire Middle East, and the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Jewish Provisional Government.

The White House press secretary, Mr. Charles Ross, told correspondents today that reaction so far to the recognition had been overwhelmingly favorable. He said this step had been discussed with Mr. Marshall and Mr. Lovett before action was taken, and it had their complete support.

Mr. Ross said that the President had decided several days ago to grant American recognition to the Jewish State, but due to protocol regulations he could not announce his policy until a formal letter arrived. "We were able to move very quickly when the messenger brought the letter," he said, "because the President had already determined the course of action to be taken."


Sunday May 16, 1948

Etzion settlers taken P.O.W.

(May 16) -- Fighting in the Kfar Etzion bloc continued throughout Friday, after Kfar Etzion itself had surrendered to the Arabs on the previous day. The wounded from the settlement were evacuated to Massout Itzbak.


The fighting was broken off on Friday on the intervention of a Red Cross representative, accompanied by a Jewish Medical Officer, who went out to the settlements and supervised the transfer of the Jews from Revadim and Ein Zurim, the wounded and women being taken to Bethlehem, and the other settlers to prison.

The settlers from Massuot Itzhak, including the wounded from the first day's fighting at Kfar Etzion, were removed yesterday.

The terms of surrender agreed on by the Jews and Arabs were:
All able-bodied soldiers to be taken as prisoners of war, and kept in special camps, to be supervised by the International Red Cross. Women, non-combatants and wounded to be brought to Jerusalem by the Red Cross.