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Sweeping Man-hunt on in Palestine Following Jail Break by 231; 15 Jews Killed

May 6, 1947
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The most extensive manhunt in the history of modern Palestine was under way early today following yesterday’s Irgun-engineered mass jail break from Acre prison during which 15 Jews were killed and 216 persons escaped.

British troops–mainly paratroopers and Arab Legionnaires–poured into the Galilee area from the south while other reinforcements came in from the northern border and the north coastal area to cordon off a number of Jewish settlements and to search the Gulilee hills for the escaped prisoners.

The dead Jews included four escaped prisoners, two attackers, and five Jews whom the military authorities maintain were involved in the attack, but who were described by Jewish sources as being innocent members of a nearby settlement who were shot down by British paratroopers. Ten wounded attackers and 16 uninjured raiders were captured.


A spokesman for the Jewish Agency released a strongly worded statement terming the action “irresponsible and suicidal.” The statement pointed out that an excessive number of Jews were killed and the only purpose the raid served was to release nearly 200 Arab prisoners, “many of whom were guilty of shedding Jewish blood.” The spokesman said that he hoped the government would not retaliate against the entire Jewish community for the actions of a “group of desperadoes.”

Acre was under curfew and completely cordoned off last night a number of hours after the jail break and the Jewish community of Safad was surounded while troops under orders to “take no chances” were screening every Jewish man and boy. Upper and Lower Galilee were cut off from the rest of Palestine and all communication facilities were in the hands of the military. Planes circled overhead, seeking to spot the escapees.

Among the Jewish communities being searched were the settlements of Naharia, Shavei Zion, Kfar Masaryk, Mishmar Hayam, and Ein Hamifratz. Jewish observers point out that the last two colonies were established by Jews of left-wing sentiments who are not apt to have taken any part in the Irgun’s bloody raid.


The success of the attack has given rise to a number of theories about the possibility of cooperation between the Irgunists and Arab underground groups. Observers point out that the city’s population made no attempt to hamper the attackers as they took over strategic areas and buildings near the prison. In addition, it was noted that both Jewish and Arab escapees were loaded into the same trucks and driven away by the Irgunists. The Arab press attempts to deny this theory by citing the fact that several Arabs informed the police of the Irgun invasion.

Three of the prisoners who died during their break for freedom were former members of the underground. Itzhak Ashbel was recently sentenced to death, but his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, for participating in an attack on the Sarafand army base. Chayim Brenner, reputed to have been the Jerusalem commander of the Irgun, had been imprisoned in an Eritrean camp for a number of years and was recently returned to Palestine and given a life sentence. Shimon Amrani was serving ten-year sentence for his part in an attack on the C.I.D. building in Jerusalem. the fourth dead prisoner was Shimon Woliner.

Although the authorities are extremely chary of releasing the statistics on the number of prisoners who have been recaptured, it is believed that they do not exceed 15 or 20. It is also reported that a number of Arab escapees have surrendered.


A number of witnesses assert that the size of the attacking force was in itself a major reason for the complete surprise with which the raiders were able to carry out their operation. The Arab witnesses recounted that they had seen a long line of military vehicles led by two jeeps and followed by a number of British army trucks in which were what appeared to be British soldiers. In the rear came several ambulances also with military markings.

Although the number of attackers is a matter of conjecture–some estimates place the number as high as 100–it was reported that they operated in three platoons. They apparently had their own field telephones and other means of communication and operated out of a smoothly established “field headquarters.”

The first escapees were a large number of Arab and Jewish prisoners who were playing soccer in the jail courtyard. The prisoners apparently made for the Galilee hills. A bridge was blown up at one of the entrances to Acre to keep reinforcements out and a number of minor explosions were set off in the town during the raid.

Before British reinforcements entered they had to clear a large number of mines off the roads and at least one military vehicle was blown up. the attackers lost a jeep and a truck. In one of the jeeps were two dead men, one dressed in the uniform of the Royal Engineers similar to which the leader of the attacking jeep party is said to have wern.

The curfew was lifted today in the Mea Shearim quarter of Jerusalem. The curfew had been in effect from March when the district was placed under martial law. Although military control was lifted, the curfew survived.

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