The “Massacre in Ma’alot”

The murder of the Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich on September 5, 1972 and the ‘Massacre of Ma’alot on May 15, 1974, the 26th anniversary of Israeli independence’ were two of the major hostage incidents in the world where a forced rescue ended in a disaster. The stories and events of the two failures became prime examples to many of the western world’s security forces on what to and what not to do in a hostage situation.

The infamous terrorist attack that resulted in the “Massacre” in Ma’alot, Israel was perpetrated by three Arabs born in Israel who joined the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PDFLP), al-Jabha al-Dimuqratiyya li-Tahrir Filastin.

The three terrorist murderers were:


Ziyad Abdar-Rahim Ka’ik (Ziyad) was 22 years old he had been born in Taibe, an Arab village located in the ‘Triangle’ and he spoke fluent Hebrew. He is described by the survivors as being the commander of the group. In his youth he had been involved with criminal activities and he had a police record as a juvenile delinquent. Because of his delinquency he had been placed in a institute for delinquents “Achvah” near Akko-Acre. Upon his release he joined a criminal gang that specialized in burglaries. He also became a journeyman in laying tile floors for contractors in the area of Netanyah. In February of 1973 in crossed the border into Lebanon and joined the PDLFP.

Ali Ahmad Hasan al-Atmah (Linou), was 27 years old and he was born in Haifa. He is remembered by all of the survivors as being particularly committed to the Palestinian cause as well as being vicious, unfeeling, cruel and harsh.

Muhammad Muslih Salim Dardour (Harbi), 20 years old, the youngest member of the group was born in Beit Hanina. According to the hostage survivors he was described as being shy, indifferent and apathetic. Some mistook these qualities to believe he was afraid.The 3 terrorists

(To the left is a poster of the three terrorists glorified in PA TV broadcast a tribute to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP))

The Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PDFLP), had broken away from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine(PFLP) led by the Christian Arab leader Dr. George Habash, in 1969 over ideological and personal differences.The PDFLP Palestinian “Freedom Fighters” was led by Nayef Hawatmeh.  who was born in 1935 into a Christian family in Al-Salt, Jordan. Nayif Hawātmeh was highly regarded by the Soviets as a solid Marxist, without the middle-class orientation of ʿArafāt’s Fatah movement.and unlike other Palestinian factions that espoused international displays of violence, the PDFLP has generally focused its violent activities within Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

The major reason for the existence of the PDFLP movement is the tragedy of the refusal of the Arabs of the Mandated Area to accept the UN Partition plan (UNR181) in 1947 and the sub-sequential war for Israel’s Independence. The Arabs of the Mandated Area, unlike the Zionists,  had a divided leadership and were incapable of establishing a country in the area designated to them. With this weakness in mind the members of the Arab League chose that moment to divide the area between them by invading. The Arabs of the Mandated Area were called upon by the invading armies to flee for their lives as Arab radio stations broadcasted reports of “Massacres” by the Jews the most infamous being that of the action in Deir Yassin.

When the members of the Arab League countries were resoundingly defeated by the new Jewish nation their embarrassment caused them to attempt to ignore their “Catastrophic Defeat” and the seven nations primarily Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon placed the now homeless “Arabs of the Mandated Area” into refugee camps and a special refugee assistance program UNWRA was designed and created “Just” to care for them.

In squalid refugee camps spread throughout the region and in the Gaza Strip. “Arabs of the Mandated Area” have been deprived of citizenship by their Arab brethren to subside on handouts from UNWRA. No other refugee group on the planet has had a “special” plan just to aid them like that for the “Arabs of the Mandated Area” for nearly 70 years.

Even today the Palestinian Movements all base their existence on the fiction of the Nachba, (The Catastrophe) or the lack of victory in the destruction of the Jewish presence in “Palestine”. It is this “Big Lie” or as Plato stated “The Allegory of the Cave” that is still being taught in UNWRA schools, just as it was taught to the three young Arabs. Though born in Israel they were filled with such passionate hatred that they choose to ignore their freedom offered in the Israeli society and to join the terrorist organization to kill the “Occupiers”.

The untold, and under publicized story,that most people in the world are unaware of  is the story of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands. Few know that the original residents of Ma’alot, and the parents of the children murdered, were also victims and refugees. They were sons and daughters of more than 900,000 Jews of Arab Lands that were summarily kicked out of their homes, were they resided for generations, deprived of their possessions and expelled in revenge for the “Loss of face” and embarrassment of the Arab League loss.

In direct contrast to the Arab refugees who have received billions in aid from the UN. The Jews of 22 Arab lands were absorbed into the tiny State Of Israel under extreme financial burden and lack of basic infrastructure. The only help that Israel received in it’s early days was that of world Jewry who were still traumatized by the loss of nearly half of world Jewry by the Nazis. Yet despite all the difficulties and with no where to go. These Jewish refugees from Arab lands were resettled in Mabarrot aka “Development Towns” like Ma’alot as full citizens of the Jewish Homeland.

The Story of Ma’alot

Ma’alot was originally established in 1957 as a Ma’abara (Hebrew: מעבר‎) transit camp or refugee absorption camp to expand the population of the country’s peripheral areas and to ease development pressure on the country’s crowded center. The Ma’bara was meant to provide accommodation for the large influx of Jewish refugees from Arab countries primarily Morocco but also from Tunisia and Egypt. The first 120 large families that arrived to live in the Ma’abar that hot July of 1957 lived under very harsh conditions. They were housed in tents or in temporary tin dwellings with many people sharing sanitation facilities.

In the beginning the entire area was lacking in places of employment other than those created by the state in development projects to create infrastructure. Jewish residents lived under the status of a workers camp to perform menial jobs in the area. The first places of employment were that with the reclaiming of the land through reforestation by the Keren Kayemet program and the construction and expansion of the road system.

The first actual “homes” were small Amidar Israeli Government housing apartments  built on Har HaRakafot (Cyclamen Hill), known in Arabic as Bab Al-Hauwa (“Gate of the Winds”),  Ma’alot was finally connected to the electricity grid on 29 October 1959. Maalot was later transformed into a “Development Town” town (Hebrew: עיירת פיתוח‎, Ayarat Pitu’ah) and merged with Tarshicha on May 16, 1963.

In 1965 the first commercial center in Ma’alot was completed and there were 21 shops, a coffee shop, bank, grocery store and movie theater. Slowly but surely the Israeli Government and the Histadrudt Labor Union opened factories for employment in Maalot: TASS the Israeli Military Industries factory, GIBOR a textile undergarment factory and Telrad. There was a small private company MAGAT a manufacturer of stainless steel containers. All of this growth took place under the constant threat of death by “Falestinian” terrorism from Lebanon and the surrounding other Arab nations.

Prologue to the Massacre

On the 11th of April 1974 just one month prior to the devastating attack in Ma’alot a gang of terrorists from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command had infiltrated into Kiryat Shmona where they occupied an apartment block and viciously murdered eighteen: Ten adults and eight children here are the names of the civilians murdered in cold blood.

Fanny Shitrit (30) her children, Yochevet(11), Aharon (8) and  Motti (4)
Esther Cohen (40) her son David (7) and her daughter Shula (14)
Mirim and Yakov Guerta a young couple aged thirty
Shimon Biton (30) his son Avi (5) and his daughter Anat (2.5)
Anisa Stern (47) and her daughter Rachel (8)
Shaul Ben Eliahu Ramrejkar (64)
Esther Vasnah (60)
Mordecai Gerbi (20)
A Bedouin member of the Border patrol Suweil Avlack (20) from Tarschicha was also killed in the attack.

Due to the horrific atrocity in Kiryat Shmona the Israeli Air Force was called in to retaliate against terrorist camps in Lebanon. The retaliatory air strikes where carried out against PLO command centers and training camps located in Palestinian refugee camps. Due to the calculated placement of the terrorist facilities in close proximity to refugee housing by the PLO there were regrettable civilian casualties.

In the aftermath of this activity there had been a continuous high state of alert in the communities’ and agricultural settlements along the length of the Lebanese border. On the 12th of May 1974, three days before Israel’s twenty-sixth Independence Day, a group of over 115 fifteen to seventeen year old students from a religious regional high school in Safed received permission from the Ministry of Education, the IDF and the Police to set out on a field trip of the Galilee. Despite the warnings the leaders of the school group were given permission to set out on the field trip.

The planned itinerary for the group originally had been to go to the Negev. But once they arrived in Akko and had gone to the Police station for confirmation of the trip they were told that there was evidence of a terrorist crossing into Israeli territory and that they would have to return. Instead the leaders of the group decided to take the students to Wadi Achziv and to walk towards Maalot. The one condition given them by the Police authorities in Akko was that they could not sleep outside in nature they would have to spend the night in a ‘secure location’. The arrangements for them to spend the night in Ma’alot at the Netiv Meir Grammar School facility on the floor were made at the last minute. Along with the students there were: teachers Tzion Cohen and HaRav Yoseph Amar. The ‘armed escort’ was Meir Amar, two female soldiers !st Lieutenant Narkis Mordecai and Ricki Chani were the female first-aid medics and Yossi Amrosi who was a tour guide from the Para-military youth organization ‘Gadna’ and who was also the person in charge of the field trip.

The PDFLP terrorist gang infiltrated into Israel from south of the Lebanese village of Ramish into Israel through the Nachal Matat nature reserve on Sunday night May 12th with relative ease since at that time there was no real border obstacle to speak of. There was evidence found near the scene of their “break-in” that showed that they did so with help from within. They were dressed in blue jeans and two wore reddish shirts one had a Khaki colored shirt (as can be seen on the Palestinian Authority magazine).

They all wore Soviet Made ammunition vests and they were loaded down with ammunition for their AK-47 Kalashnikov machine guns, hand grenades and they had blocks of Czechoslovakian made KGB/STASSI issue plastic explosives.

They had infiltrated the border through the Nachal Matat nature reserve. They walked to a protected resting spot near a small narrow bridge at the Elkoush junction in the orchards near the Druse village of Hurfiesh. They spent the day and night of Monday May 13th  in their concealed location in the thick foliage.

A border patrol unit discovered the footprints of the terrorist group but the Bedouin tracker failed to find the continuation of the trail and mistakenly reported to their superiors that the footprints belonged to smugglers. Because of this terrible mistake no alarm or alert was made.

One of the members of the terrorists gang Ziyad Abdar-Rahim Ka’ik (Ziyad) was well acquainted with the territory and the backwoods paths since he had lived in the Israeli Arab village of Taibe and had even worked for a period of time in Safed as a waiter and cleaner at a restaurant in Safed.

Monday, May 14th.


Netiv Meir Religious Grammar School

Netiv Meir SchoolAfter a vigorous day of hiking in the Wadi’s near Ma’alot the students and their escorts arranged to stay in the Netiv Meir Religious Elementary School. The students were tired and hungry when they arrived at the school building. They held evening prayers and  ate their evening meal in the area in front of the school.

As on all religious school field trips the escorts prepared the sleeping areas designated to  separate the male from the female students. The escorts confined the boys to the second floor while the girls had been placed in third floor classrooms

The field trip leader Yoni Amrossi was wary of the wild behavior of the students and instructed the escorts to place their weapons in the cabin of the “tyiulite”- the Volvo chassied field trip trucks. He recounted later that he was fearful of an ‘accident’ occurring. One of the teachers, Pinchas Valnin, who did not wish to be in the building and to sleep on the concrete floor decided to sleep in the cabin of the truck. By 11PM almost all of the students were asleep.

As the evening passed on the terrorists continued their trek through the fields and orchards of the Druze village of Hurfiesh towards the small narrow bridge at the Elkoush junction. Around 11:45 PM, as the terrorists rested and waited near the small stone bridge built during the British Mandate, a Peugeot tender was slowly making his way up the steep hill towards Moshav Zuriel them from the direction of Ma’alot. After climbing the steep hill towards Moshav Zuriel, and away from Maalot, the tender began snaking its way down the long winding road along the nearby Wadi (gorge) from Moshav Zuriel towards the Elkoush-Hurfiesh junction bridge. Inside the tender were eight Christian Arab women from the Christian Arab village of Fassuta. Just as the terrorists were walking uphill, along the winding and deserted narrow Safed to Nahariyah road, halfway up the winding road from the Elkoush junction bridge. They saw the beams of the headlights of the approaching tender illuminating the winding road in front of it. Seeing the headlights of the vehicle the commander of the terrorist group Ziyad-Rahim jumped out from the shadows of the side of the road way into the light of the tender and attempted to stop the vehicle.The Bedouin driver, Fain Saad 24 years old from the village of Arab Al Aramsha, saw Ziyad-Rahim but refused to stop and continued a further 20 meters when suddenly Linou opened up with a murderous volley. The other two terrorists Linou and Harbi standing in the shadows along the side of the road immediately joined in spraying the tender with AK-47 machine gun fire.

One of the Christian Arab women Chasibah Shala 27 years old was murdered immediately and seven others were seriously wounded. The seven women from Fassuta were: Aebleh Kasis 17, Suad Jiris 20, Fahimah Jiris 17, Sameeya Matar 22, Suaed Matar 16, Marta Huri 42 and Violet Dakwar 23.

The bullets from the terrorist’s gun caused severe damage to the tender and it’s motor yet the The driver who was also wounded was able to put the car into neutral and glide some distance downhill away from the terrorist in order to allow the wounded women to jump out of the now disabled vehicle and flee into the darkness of the woods. The terrorists also fled the scene along the side of the road towards Ma’alot. The wounded driver managed to reach Moshav Elkoush and alert the police at 00:30 Tuesday May 15th  before being evacuated to the government Hospital in Nahariyah.

Alerted by the gunfire and the driver Fain Saad of the tender, Israeli Border Police, the IDF units in the area and Police, which are still stationed in a British Mandatory Government built “Taggart Fort” building in nearby Moshav Meona, began to search the wooded area near the scene. They had believed that the terrorists had accomplished their mission and were fleeing the scene back into Lebanon. At the same time the Israel air force dropped flares to illuminate the area in the direction of the “escape route”.

Shimon Elmakius, one of the original Moroccan refugees that had settled in Ma’alot with his family, was on duty in the Army reserves Civil Defense unit in the Towns Emergency Headquarters located in the basement of the Magen David Adom, emergency ambulance service building. He later related that since the attack on Kiryat Shmona on the 11th of April 1974, there had been tension along the border area and several local residents had been called up as guards from the Civil Defense unit. Around 11PM those who had been on duty and the two drivers of the ambulances were released to go home to sleep. Only he and Eliahu Ben Naim remained on duty. With the attack on the tender of the Arab workers from Ata. The police in the Sasa station had called and notified him of terrorists in the area. Because of the false assumption that the terrorists had completed their attack and were fleeing back to Lebanon Elmakius was not told to alert the commander and to awaken all the members of the Civil Defense unit. He was requested to awaken the ambulance drivers and to send them to the scene to treat and evacuate the wounded.

When the ambulance drivers returned around 2AM, Elamakius called the local Civil Defense unit commander and informed him of the situation and that terrorists were in the area and that the Unit should be awoken and called out to patrol and check. However according to him the commander refused to call out the unit.

It only became apparent later that the border patrol’s report about smugglers was woefully wrong. The police who had previous knowledge of the possibility of a terrorist attack mistakenly believed that the act that they were informed of centered on the attack on the tender. Therefore all efforts to locate the terrorists where now directed towards the groups supposed retreat route to Lebanon near Moshav Elkoush.

The security forces in the Sasa Police Station telephoned the home guard base in Ma’alot located near the Magen David Adom first aid and ambulance service and notified Shimon Elmakius a member of the Home Guard that here were terrorists in the area. The Home Guard commander was unsure and made no preparation for security of the townlet because his superiors informed him that all the efforts of the security forces were being focused on the supposed route of retreat to Lebanon.

Due to the darkness and the steep terrain of the nearby Wadi the Bedouin trackers failed to pick up the track of the terrorists. Officers in charge told all forces to wait until sunrise before continuing the search. It is also believed that the terrorists utilized the time before the arrival of Israeli forces to run along the paved roadway so as not to leave a trail.

Enbolded by their success, the terrorist leader Ziyad-Rahim decided to cut across and through the fields and orchards of the now aware and guarded Moshav Zuriel to the East, thereby adverting being spotted. As they walked they could clearly see the small sleepy township of Ma’alot with its street lights outlined on the nearby ridge in the distance.

After resting in the foliage and darkness, offered by a small bridge that crossed a stream bed at the foot of the bottom of the Wadi. The terrorists noticed the lack of traffic on “Kvish” Road 89 – the Safed to Nahariyah road. Gathering their equipment the terrorists climbed the rocky slope and entered the peaceful and unguarded ‘Development Town’ of Ma’alot at approximately 02:30 AM from the East.

The-Cohens-AptComing up from the darkness of the Wadi they observed several three story apartment blocks and a lone street light above a small parking area that bordered a bomb shelter. As they crouched momentarily and observed the nearby structures they decided to enter the center stairwell of a nearby three story apartment block.

Fortuna Cohen the mother of the family,who was in her seventh month of pregnancy, had awoken and gone to the kitchen to warm a bottle of milk to feed her 16-month-old son Yitzhak. The meager light from the apartment shone out like a beacon. Seeing the light the terrorists walked quickly uphill in the shadow of the lone streetlight and went into the darkness offered by the ground floor middle entrance of the low rent subsidized “Amidar” apartment building number 137.

As they approached the building they had decided to take hostages. Ziyad-Rahim told Harbi to guard the entrance of the stairwell as he and Linou slowly climbed the steps to the second floor. Ziyad-Rahim stationed Linou by the Cohens door. He than proceeded up the stairwell to the upper floor to begin rounding up hostages from the upper floor. Ziyad-Rahim began by knocking on the door of the third floor apartments first. Not receiving a response Ziyad-Rahim became frustrated and angry and shot out the lock of one of the apartments and found the apartment empty. The neighbor by the family name Nachmias, who though he was blind, managed to climb from his porch to the adjacent apartment thereby escaping death.

On the first floor the father Yoseph-‘Jojo’ heard the noise and opened the door. Linou opened fire with his AK-47 automatic rifle Ziyad-Rahim hearing the shots ran down the stairwell. Together they murdered the father Yoseph. The mother Fortuna, who was in the adjacent bedroom with the children placed their deaf-dumb 18-month-old son Yitzhak under the bed. Ziyad-Rahim lounged into the apartment and kicked the bedroom door open as he sprayed the children’s bedroom with AK-47 automatic fire murdering the eight month pregnant Fortuna and their five year old son Moshe Eli in cold blood. And severely wounded in the five year old daughter Biya in the abdomen. Both Biya and Yitzhak survived.

The sounds of the gunfire in the middle of the night were muffled and the neighbors that did hear had no means by which to notify the security forces because at that time there weren’t telephones in homes of the local citizenry.

After the murder of the Cohen family, the terrorists then ran from the apartment building and up the road, in the direction of the Netiv Meir Elementary school where the students were sleeping. On their way to the school the terrorists encountered an elderly man Yakov Kadosh a sanitation worker for the township whose job was to place the garbage pails near the sidewalk for collection. Approaching Kadosh Linou greeted him in Hebrew by saying “Boker Tov” (Good Morning”) and Kadosh replied “Boker Tov.” Since the terrorists were “Israeli-Arabs” they knew Hebrew and asked for directions to the school. Kadosh pointed out the direction. Linou asked him;“Are there Children at the school?” “Yes” replied Kadosh. One of the other terrorists asked him “Are you a Jew or an Arab?” When Kadosh replied “Jew” he brutally beat him and then shot him. Luckily according to Kadosh he fell on the side of the street and was only wounded but he feigned death. This gunfire did wake several of the neighbors. The terrorists now wary of the noise made by their gunfire hurriedly carried on leaving him for dead.

The terrorists ran up a short pathway crossed a narrow road and then ran up the driveway towards the tour trucks that were parked across the courtyard towards the Netiv Meir Grammar school, where the tour group was spending the night.

The Netiv Meir Elementary school is a three story concrete building. It was built with a ground floor entrance and an open space of pillars. The school faces with windows to the north and south. To the East and West sides there are no windows. At the time of the incident the building was only three years old and there where apartment buildings under construction nearby. The entrance at that time faced to the east.

Shaul Mereck, one of the neighbors who had been awoken by the gunfire, was a young man who had recently finished his military service, ran to the Home Guard office at Magen David Adom first aid and ambulance service to notify authorities and the leader of the “Home Guard”. Upon his arrival he and several other local members of the Home Guard began to rush to the scene of the gunfire. Shimon Elmakius knew that the gunfire was coming from near his home so he ran to check if all was well at his home.

The three terrorists had found the teacher Pinchas Vaknin asleep in one of the trucks and woke him The terrorists forced by gunpoint to escort them to the school entrance. Vaknin knocked on the glass door entrance to the school. The teacher Zion Cohen related; “It was close to 4AM and I heard someone knocking on the door saying, “Open up, open up!” The door was made from glass that was not transparent and I asked; “Who’s there?” and the teacher Pinchas Vaknin replied. “It’s me I’m outside. Open the door”. When the terrorists entered they took over 115 students hostage. As they entered and climbed the steps to the second floor Vaknin cried out “mechablim ( terrorists), anyone who can run for your lives!” The students who awoke from all the commotion were dumbfounded during the first few seconds. Many of them thought it was just a gag until they heard the first automatic volley of shoots fired by the terrorists.

The driver of the tour truck Micah Gantz was the first to grasp the seriousness of the situation. He was one of those who had been located near the end of the first floor hallway near a locked classroom. Fully understanding the seriousness of the position they were now in he pried open the door of the classroom, which opened towards the hallway and not inward. As he pulled the door towards him, a group made up of students and the escorts; Yona Amrossi, Zion Cohen, Rabbi Yoseph Amar, the soldier on leave Meir Amar, ran to the open door into the corner classroom. Gantz and the others ran to the window and unhesitatingly jumped the four meters down to the ground floor area below. Only Rabbi Yoseph Amar was injured when they jumped from the window. 17 other students were able to flee the building by leaping from the windows.

Yossi Amrossi, the teacher in charge of the tour group was one of the first to leap out of the window, in his own words to notify the authorities and to grab his weapon from the truck. Many of the children and most of the teachers managed to flee from the building and in so doing saved their lives.

The terrorists then quickly began to gather the remaining 85 children and three adults; Ricki Hanay 20 an army first-aid medic, a 21 year old literature teacher Edna Strolovitch and Pinchas Vaknin,  who had not managed to flee into a second floor end of the hallway classroom. There they kicked and hit the children and forced them under gun point and shots to sit on the floor. The terrorist then began to place explosive charges, booby traps and fuse lines throughout the entire school building and the classroom. The terrorists had planned to activate the explosives by direct current from the school electricity connection. A plunger to effect the explosion was on the teachers table in front of the classroom with Ziyad’s ammo vest which was laid out on the desk.  Linou and Harbi stayed with the students and a Ziyad-Rahim went to the third floor landing where he could observe the access to the front of the building.

It was now 04:30 AM.

The terrorists released one of the hostages,a young female Army officer. Ziyad-Rahim tells her in Hebrew; “Take these handouts and give them to Mordecai Cohen.” (The Labor Union representative in Safed) The young officer, who was a resident of Safed recognized one of the terrorists as a waiter from a restaurant near her home. She and Gerbi Halfon departed the school with their demands, the release of 23 terrorists to be flown to Damascus by 18:00 hours today, their arrival being confirmed by a coded message to be delivered to them by either the French or Romanian Ambassador. If the coded message is not delivered by the French or Romanian ambassador by the 18:00 deadline they would blow up the school building with all inside.  Once the Israeli government was informed of the situation, the terrorist began negotiations for the release of the hostages. They also demanded that the French and Romanian ambassadors come to secure the deal. Officials complied and two of  the terrorists held in prison were even brought to the school and shown to them that the Israeli Government was seriously dealing with their demands for release.

One of the students Yeshai Maimon volunteered himself to stand up to the terrorists since all but one of the teachers and adult escorts had fled. The terrorists took the megaphone left by the head teacher and gave it to Maimon. They then presented him with pre-prepared texts with their demands.

Golda Meir and the existing government, which was in the throws of dissolution in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War, declared that they would not negotiate with terrorists. Golda pushed for negotiations and there was strong disagreement between Chief of Staff Gur and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, only a month after Dayan requested Golda Meir’s government to appoint Gur as chief of staff. Moshe Dayan forcibly pushed for a rescue by force by an elite parachute unit, ‘The Sayeret Matkal’ to attack immediately. Gur was afraid that the action would be disastrous for the dozens of hostages and asked that the negotiations be continued. He refused to carry out the minister’s order and demanded that it first be discussed and ratified by the cabinet. Negotiations carried on for some 14 hours.

At 05:00 Israeli airforce helicopters fly in members of the Elite Sayert Matcal commando unit who land at the local football field. The unit quickly sets unp in positions around the school. police and Civil Guard units cordon off the area and local residents are asked to go to their bomb shelters.

At 06:00 The terrorists repeat their demands as they snipe at residents who out of curiosity attempt to approach the building.

07:00 the chief of staff Mordecai Gur arrives at the scene.

07:30 Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan and Commander of the Northern Command Raphael “Rafual” Eitan arrive and go to the local Council and announce to Council Leader Eli Ben-Yakov; “We are in charge now!”  “You take care of the residents and we will take care of the terrorists” boasts Dayan.

08:00 More shots are fired by Linou at onlookers. Army personnel are told to withhold fire.

09:00 -12:00 Tenseness in the air. Soldiers take up firing positions in two nearby apartment blocks near the school and inside the gym near the school snipers take position. News correspondents and camera men who attempt to get close are fired upon by Linou.

The parents of the children begin to arrive from Safed. There are loud arguments mothers crying. All want to see their children released unharmed . Parents demand to know what is being done.

MK Amnon Linn, the mayor of Safed Aharon Nachmias and members of the City council offer themselves as hostages in place of the children to Dayan but he refuses to discuss it.

13:00 Two students a boy and girl who “were not feeling well” are released with a list reaffirming the demands of the terrorist. They report that the school has been wired with explosives and that the terrorists have been treating them well so far.

13:10 27 year old Sylvian Zerach, a soldier in the professional army  from Akko who was married to a resident of Ma’a lot and the father of a one month old baby girl, stood with several other news photographers and correspondents to observe the activities at the school. They stood near the concrete 50 meter high water tower that symbolizes Ma’alot. The tower is some 200 yards from the third floor window where the third terrorist was watching. As he stood near the base of the tower one of the terrorist fired a burst of gunfire at the news people and a freak round caught him in the neck severing his carotid artery. He was brought to the nearby aid station set up in the city square where a doctor and medics worked frantically to save his life but to no avail.

All day long negotiations with the terrorists were carried out between the terrorists by megaphone and the Israeli loudspeakers. The terrorists presented their demands for the release of 23 Arab and three other convicted terrorists from Israeli prisons. Among them was Kozo Okamoto – a Japanese national involved in the 1972 Lod Airport Massacre,  or they would kill the students by the 6 PM  deadline. The terrorists refused to communicate with anyone not even the French or Rumanian Ambassadors without first receiving the code word from Damascus signifying the release of their imprisoned terrorist colleagues. The terrorists said that if the ambassadors approached them without saying the promised code word they, the ambassadors would be murdered.

Shoshi Dahn, Shula Rubin were asleep when the teacher Pinchas Vaknin came and whispered that there were terrorist in the building. The girls who had been tired from all the days activities rolled over thinking it was a bad joke when suddenly one of the terrorists came into the room and kicked them. Pinchas Blachson, from Hatzor HaGalil whose father had demanded of him not to go, was also rounded up with all the others into the fateful classroom. Linou addressed the students in Hebrew telling them that there was nothing to worry about as long as the Israeli government meets their demands. In the meantime the children watched in horror as the terrorists set up blocks of plastic explosives rigged to go off and they warned them if there would be any trouble they would set off the explosives to destroy us and the building. As the sat there waiting the terrorist ate their food and drank their water. The captives were not allowed to leave the classroom and were denied to use the bathroom. The terrorists refused to allow them water and the young girls urinated on themselves form all the fear. Blachson relates how the boys urinated into cups and later due to thirst drank it. He recalled how he had a small prayer book of Tehillim (Psalms) that he took out to read and passed it to others so that they too could pray, Yona Sabag z”l, who was killed in the assault was sitting next to Pinchas whispered to him; “You will survive and get out of here alive. I doubt that I will.”  He repeated this over and over during the time there in the room. Yona removed the watch from his wrist and passed it to me stating;”Here take this and pass it to my family so that one of my nephews that will be born will be called in my name.”

The deadline was set at 6:00 p.m. the same day and the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, met in an emergency session, and by 3:00 p.m. a decision was reached to negotiate, but the DFLP members refused a request for more time.

Almost is a big word.

At 17:25 PM, commander of the the elite Sayeret Matkal Special Forces group was given the ‘green light’ from Defense Minister Moshe Dayan to storm the building. . The break in force was divided into three units; two to break in from the entrance while a third was to have climbed a ladder and entered from the northern window side.

The teams moved into position from the blind side to the East from the frames of some apartment buildings that were under construction

The operation was to have been coordinated with simultaneous sniper fire on the three terrorists. At exactly 17:30 the first team entered the building through the main entrance on the first floor, which was not locked but instead was blocked by tables and chairs.

At the moment the command to shoot was given a chair placed on a desk blocking the front entrance fell to the floor scaring the targets and the snipers missed. The first three man team led by Yuval Galili, from Kibbutz Gevah, was hit by gunfire as they tried to go up the u-shaped stairwell to the second floor. Trying to prevent the death of his team members and in order to extract them a captain Zvika mistakenly threw a phosphorus grenade into the second floor hallway. The smoke from the explosion blinded them all.

The second team which was led by Amiran Levine team had been trained to take out Linou who had appeared at the third floor window, where he had shot the volley that had killed Zerach. When they broke in and after Galili’s team was ‘knocked’ out. Levine led his attack group up the stairwell but because of the thick smoke they ran to the empty second floor and had to waste precious moments rushing to the first floor hallway where the children were being held in the classroom.

Haribi who had stayed with the children the entire time could not speak Hebrew so the students spoke to him in Arabic. When the Israeli force broke in the abject fear of reprisal caused Haribi to grab Gabi Amsalem and hold him by gunpoint next to him on the floor as a human shield.

Ziyad who had heard the commotion of the break in had exited to the hallway to give covering fire for Linou who now had retreated towards the classroom filled with the hostages. As the two terrorists retreated towards the room. Ziyad was shot and killed by Levine’s number 2 just as he approached the threshold of the classroom where the hostages were being kept.

Linou however ran into the classroom and calmly grabbed ammo clips that he had been placed on the teacher’s desk. He loaded his weapon and sprayed the panicked and hysterical children with round after round, back and forth among the terrified and packed in students in front of him. Occasionally he grabbed a grenade and tossed it out the window. As he stood there he was shot several times by the members of the assault force. Yet he continued to stand firing into the children. It was only when a burst of fire broke his left wrist did he pick up two grenades and threw them into a group of young girls huddled together on the floor three feet in front of him murdering them.

The-classroom-nowAs Linou fired into the massed crowd of the panicked students several children leapt from the windows 10 feet down to the ground. As one of the survivors Shlomo Aburamd later related, the team that was to have scaled the ladder and confronted Linou failed to do so because of the amount of panicked children crashing down on them from above. They were also prevented from ascending into the classroom by Lini who was throwing grenades out of the window the entire time.

Once the assault force was able to kill Linou the members of the assault team entered the room and discovered Haribi behind Amsalem and neutralized him.

In the end the assault team had managed to kill all the terrorists, but at the terrible cost of twenty-two dead schoolchildren and more that fifty wounded. With the conclusion of the fighting at 17:45 the tuff combat veteran elite soldiers were stunned and sickened by the sight of the carnage and the large pool of blood from the mangled bodies of the teenaged children on the floor. Immediately the combat engineers leaped in to dismantle the explosive charges placed by the terrorists. The line of stretcher bearers and medics rushed in to begin removing the wounded to the mobile hospital and evacuation center that had been established two blocks away. The Combat engineers worked to remove the unexploded grenades and booby traps set up by the terrorists. Parents and relatives of the children had attempted to rush into the building to find out what had happened to their children. The police and the soldiers stationed around the building strained to prevent a further tragedy due o the explosive charges that needed to be deactivated.

The wounded and the dead were quickly evacuated to the local hospitals. The wounded by helicopter and the dead by ambulance.

Light Among the Darkness

Moshe Asulin whose two sons had been in the school searched for them. His son Yakov who had been wounded in the leg was found in Rambam Hospital in Haifia. Moshe frantically searched for his other son Chaim in the Rambam Hospital. Suddenly a Rabbi serving in the Army Rabbinute (the Chaplincy Corp) approached him took him aside and inform him that his son Chaim had been murdered in the attack and that his body was in the Morgue at Nahariyah Government Hospital and that they requested that he go and confirm the identity of his son’s body. Moshe was shattered and requested that the Rabbi ask his brother Yisrael , who worked in the civilian rabbinute in Safed as an undertaker to go and identify his nephew and to prepare his body for the funeral. He also asked him to begin all the secondary preparations and arrangement for the funeral. Death notices were prepared and Yisrael set out to the Morgue at Nahariyah Government Hospital. upon his arrival Yisrael entered the sad room with the bodies of the murdered children who lay upon bloody stretchers covered by army blankets.

Yisrael began to do the ritual cleansing of the body for the burial when he noticed that Chaim’s wrist was still warm and he noticed that to his surprise there was a faint pulse. Yisrael immediately began screaming for help; “The boy is still alive!” His uncle screamed over and over. Medial personnel nearby thought that the uncle was struck by remorse and hysteria at the sight of his dead nephew. They grabbed Yisrael and attempted to calm him but he continued screaming for help; “The boy is still alive!” A doctor who had been nearby entered the morgue reluctantly because he too was sceptical of Yisrael’s call. Upon his check he discovered that there was a feint pulse! Immediately Chaim was wheeled into the emergency unit and doctors worked frantically on his wounds from shrapnel and ten bullets! Chaim Asulin remained in a coma for four years.”I suddenly remember awaking after four years at the age of nineteen on my birthday of all things,” he later recalled. Chaim Asulin survived and though he lost a hand he served in the IDF and is married with two son and a daughter.

In the end 22 unarmed teenagers were murdered in cold blood simply because they were Jews. The traumatic effect of the cost of the operation can be still felt in the communities of the children around and in Safed.
Today there is a small memorial center dedicated to the memory of the murdered children located in the Netiv Meir School. In the year following the Terrorist Massacre in Ma’alot in 1975, the B’nei Akiva established a Yeshiva in the neighborhood dedicated in the name of the Cohen family.

Nayef Hawatmeh, the head of the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine that claimed responsibility for the attack, said that the attack had been aimed against the Middle East peace mission of Henry Kissinger, who had been in the Middle East about two months earlier. Hawatmeh said that Kissinger was suggesting a settlement that would mean the surrender of the Palestinian people.The attack was meant to show Kissinger that the Palestinians reject any proposal that would hurt the Palestinian cause and would accept only the creation of a Palestinian entity. The leader also said the attack was intended to warn the US against turning the West Bank of Jordan over to King Hussein.

Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir had  told reporters in Jerusalem that her government had been talking to the hostage-takers but had not been given enough time to complete preparations to free prisoners.

Mrs. Meir described the group believed to be behind the attack as “an organization of blood and murder”.

Israel’s Minister for Information, Shimon Perez,  later related that the decision to storm the school had been taken at the last minute because the terrorists had screamed through the megaphone that they wanted to hear the password from their headquarters by the 18:00 deadline. It was feared the gang would blow it up with the children inside and therefore the attack was launched.

The Mishmar Ezrachi or Civil Guard

The traumatic effect of the event on the Israeli public was a major contributor to the establishment of the Mishmar Ezrachi or Civil Guard volunteer police unit, on July 10, 1974. The Civil Guard started as a group of civilians who volunteered to do night patrols in near-border neighborhoods, which were exposed to Palestinian terror attacks in the aftermath of the Ma’alot massacre.
After the terrible incident in 1974 Ma’alot began to develop slowly. We the citizens of the Galilee attempted to live normal lives under the daily threats of terrorism from the Palestinians who attempted to take control over southern Lebanon. In January 1979 another group of three Terrorists penetrated to what was then the Histadrudt run Guest House – today’s Hacienda Hotel and they took hostages but before they could begin to make demands as a member of the Civil Guard in charge of a road block I had spotted them and reported them to the army post who sent the “Special Emergency Response Team” to the Guest House. When the executive commander of the unit arrived he proceeded inside the building along the bottom corridor while his driver and communications sergeant began to search the upper corridor. Suddenly one of the terrorists who was in one of the lower corridor apartments came out and was surprised by the officer who struggled momentarily with the terrorist before grabbing his AK-47 from him and as the terrorist attempted to flee he shot him. As the shot rang out the two additional terrorists who had been holding the hostages upstairs both exited the room into the upper corridor. Seeing them the driver and the communications sergeant opened fire at the two terrorist forcing them to flee from the scene. On their exit they hurled a grenade at the communications sergeant who without hesitation slapped the grenade with his hand back towards the terrorists who were wounded from the fragment ran out the steps into the field of fire of the rest of the IDF unit who opened fire on the two causing a much larger secondary explosion from the suicide belt worn by one of them.

The communications sergeant was later cited for bravery in action with a Distinguished Service Medal.

The sad part of the entire incident was that in the course of the exchange of fire several of the hostages had managed to flee the room by tying bed sheets together and to slide down to safety but one woman lost her grip and fell and died from her injuries.

I continued to serve as a member of the Mishmar Ezrachi in Maalot from the time that I arrived in Maalot in March 1976 until 1998. On 21 November 1995, Maalot – Tarshicha achieved the status of a city after the city doubled its population with the arrival and absorption of many immigrants from the former Soviet Union during the early 1990s.


It was ironic that in their “Lust” for blood the three “Arab Israeli” terrorists who committed the atrocity in Ma’alot, began their rampage by attacking a van carrying Arab workers, ‎killing Chasibah Shala 27 years old a Christian Arab Israeli women from Fassuta and severely wounding seven who were on their way home from work in a Jewish (Histadrudt) Garment Factory in Kiryat Ata and wounded the Arab Moslem driver.

It is also ironic that The Second Lebanon War in 2006 which began on the 12th of  July 2006. Began with a cross border ambush, under the “Watchful Eye” of the UN “Peace Keepers”, by the Hezbollah on Israeli patrol vehicles in the same area where the three Terrorists crossed in May of 1974 under the supposed watchful eyes of the UNFIL forces. The immediate result was the kidnapping by the Hezbollah murderers of the two Israel soldiers; First Sergeant Ehud Goldwasser and Sergeant First Class Eldad Regev.

For 34 long days during that summer of 2006, the immediate vicinity of the Ma’alot was bombarded by more than 1,600 Katyusha rockets. The civilian population of Maalot and Tarshicha were exposed to daily rockets attacks. Many of those who could fled to safer parts of Israel with their families. Many had no where to go but there crowded dark and dank bomb shelters.

The only casualties in the area of Ma’alot occurred on the 3rd of August 2006 when one of the Katyusha rockets launched by the Hezbollah in Lebanon hit murdering three young Bedouin:  Shanati Shanati, 18; Amir Naeem, 18; and Muhammad Fa’ur, 17, all of Tarshiha.

Altogether there were 43 Israeli civilians casualties. Most were in their homes and nowhere near military bases or facilities. 15 out of a total of 43 Israeli civilians (including four who died of heart attacks during rocket barrages) were Arab-Israelis.


The hideous atrocity of the cold blooded massacre of innocent civilians, mainly children in Ma’alot, is the epitome of “Falestinian” hatred towards the rebirth of the Jewish homeland. It’s outcome, though terrible, drew worldwide attention to the need for change in Development Towns. This need for change was felt in also in the relationship between the Israeli Government and the inhabitants of “Development Towns” who were primarily Sephardic Jews who they themselves were refugees from Arab lands.

About the Author
Yakov Marks arrived in Israel in 1974 from B'ham Al. USA as a volunteer on Kibbutz Ashdot Yakov. Yakov was a member of a Garin for Kibbutz Ketura in 1975 but moved to be a single soldier in Ma'alot in 1976, where he resides until today. He served in the IDF as a combat medic in regular service and as a reservist from 1976 through 2000. Yakov is married to Rena B. (formerly of Far Rockaway NY) and he is the father of six children and he is the proud grandfather of Ori Meir and Tehilah. Yakov was a teacher of English and History in local High Schools for many years. He has been active in Israeli politics as a member of the Labor Party since 1975 and is a member of Yitzhak Rabin's z"l forum in the party.