British armoured cars spray Tel Aviv’s streets with bullets killing five
31 July 1947
On 31 July 1947, ‘seven (British) armoured cars roared through the main street of the all-Jewish city of Tel-Aviv… with machine guns firing into shops and passing traffic,’ killing at least five and wounding fifteen others.1 This indiscriminate act of violence was in retaliation for the brutal lynching of two British soldiers who’s bodies had been found earlier the same day, a crime which had itself been provoked by the hanging of three leading Jewish militants, suspected of planning acts of terror, two days earlier.2
According to an official police statement, one man had been killed by machine gun fire in Allenby Road and ‘in the Hatikvah quarter of Tel Aviv armed men “described as troops or police” shot up and threw a hand grenade into a cafe, killing three people and wounding several others.’3 There was little sympathy for the victims from the British press. Even the left leaning Daily Mirror merely reported it under a subhead of ‘Clash in Tel-Aviv,’ noting that ‘British military authorities at Jerusalem said this morning that no troops were out of barracks in Tel Aviv at that time,’ although evidence later emerged which showed that British soldiers had indeed been responsible for the terror killings. 4
It is of interest that what were arguably the world’s two most prestigious newspapers, The Times and The New York Times, took up different approaches to the horrific murders. The headline in London was ‘British Sergeants Found Murdered,’ while The New York Times led with a more balanced header of ‘Troops Avenge Hostage Deaths: 5 Jews are slain in Tel Aviv After Hanging of Two Britons.’ Even the New York Times’ headline failed to reflect the true gravity of the crime of uniformed soldiers shooting down random civilians, entirely unconnected with the lynching.5 Some police officers were later disciplined, but no criminal charges were ever brought against any of the killers.
- ‘Jewish sources say five killed by troops in Tel Aviv,’ The Northern Whig, 1 August 1947, p. 1
- Peter Clarke, The Last Thousand Days of the British Empire: The Demise of a Superpower, 1944-47, Penguin Books, London, 2008, p. 498.
- ‘Jewish sources say five killed by troops in Tel Aviv,’ op. cit. and ‘British deny troops rioted in Tel Aviv,’ The Coventry Evening Telegraph, 1 August 1947, p. 1
- ‘Palestine Leaders Told Act Now Or,’ The Daily Mirror, 1 August 1947, p. 1
- Peter Clarke, op. cit.
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