|Part of the Palestinian Fedayeen insurgency (during Arab–Israeli conflict)|
Israeli raid on Qalqilya police station in October 1956
Kingdom of Egypt (1950–1953)
Egypt (UAR) (1958–1970)
|Commanders and leaders|
Chaim Weizmann (1948–1952)
Yosef Sprinzak (1952)
Yitzhak Ben-Zvi (1952–1963)
Kadish Luz (1963)
Zalman Shazar (1963–1970)
Israeli Prime Ministers
David Ben-Gurion (1948–1954, 1955–1963)
Moshe Sharett (1954–1955)
Levi Eshkol (1963–1969)
Gamal Abdel Nasser|
President of Egypt (1956–1970)
President of Syria (1971-2000)
Hussein bin Talal
King of Jordan (1952–1999)
|Casualties and losses|
|400–967 civilians and soldiers killed during this period by fedayeen attacks (1951–55)||2,700–5,000 Arab soldiers and Palestinians* killed by retribution operations (1951–55)|
Reprisal operations (Hebrew: פעולות התגמול, Pe'ulot HaTagmul) were raids carried out by the Israel Defense Forces in the 1950s and 1960s in response to frequent fedayeen attacks during which armed Arab militants infiltrated Israel from Syria, Egypt, and Jordan to carry out attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers. Most of the reprisal operations followed raids that resulted in Israeli fatalities. The goal of these operations was to create deterrence and prevent future attacks. Two other factors behind the raids were restoring public morale and training newly formed army units.
Reprisal operations were carried out following raids by armed infiltrators into Israel during the entire period from 1948 Arab–Israeli War until October 1956. Most of Reprisal operations followed raids that resulted in Israeli fatalities. From 1949 to 1954 the reprisal operations were directed against Jordan. In 1954 the Jordanian authorities decided to curb the infiltration due to fierce Israeli activity, and the cross-border infiltration from Jordan substantially declined, along with the number of victims. The IDF stopped the reprisals against Jordan from September of that year.
From 1949 there were infiltrations from Gaza strip under Egyptian control, and the Egyptian authorities tried to curb them. The Egyptian republican regime told Israel during secret talks that such acts as the blockade and armed infiltration were political necessities for Egypt and Israel had to accept it. From February 1954, Egyptian soldiers opened fire against Israeli border patrols, and infiltrators from the Gaza Strip planted mines on the patrol routes, on top of the conventional infiltrations. However, Moshe Sharet, the Israeli prime minister, did not authorize reprisal attacks against Egypt. In mid 1954 a senior Egyptian military intelligence in the Gaza Strip reported: "The main objective of the military presence along the armistice line is to prevent infiltration, but the Palestinian troops encourage the movement of infiltrators and carry out attacks along the line."
In 1955 Ben Gurion returned to the government, and a reprisal operation against an Egyptian military camp near Gaza was authorized, after a murder of an Israeli civilian in the center of Israel was committed by Egyptian intelligence agents. In the operation the IDF lost eight soldiers, and the Egyptians 38 soldiers. Later Nasser claimed that this operation motivated the Czech arms deal, although Egypt had previously signed arms contracts with Czechoslovakia (which never materialized). Nasser refused to order his army to stop firing at Israeli patrols. Moreover, this shooting was intensified after the Gaza raid. According to Israeli casualty statistics, 7 or 8 Israelis were killed by infiltrators from Gaza annually from 1951 to 1954, with a dramatic rise to 48 in 1955.
Ben Gurion continued to adhere to the status quo and followed the terms of the armistice regime, but in September 1955 Egypt tightened its blockade of the Straits of Tiran, closed the air space over the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli aircraft, initiated fedayeen attacks against the Israeli population across the Lebanese and Jordanian borders, and announced the Czech arms deal. However, with the revelation of the Czech arms deal, Ben Gurion believed that Nasser now possessed the tools with which to put his aggressive intentions into practice. Ben Gurion therefore attempted to provoke a preemptive war with Egypt.
From December 1955 to February 1956 the Egyptians clamped down on "civilian" infiltration into Israel, yet their soldiers frequently fired across the line at Israeli patrols.
Some infiltration activities were initiated by Palestinian Arab refugees who were ostensibly looking for relatives, returning to their homes, recovering possessions, tending to their fields, collecting their crops, as well as exacting revenge. Half of Jordan's prison population at the time consisted of people arrested for attempting to return to, or illegally enter, Israeli territory, but the number of complaints filed by Israel over infiltrations from the West Bank show a considerable reduction, from 233 in the first nine months of 1952, to 172 for the same period in 1953, immediately before the Qibya attack. This marked reduction was in good part the result of increased Jordanian efficiency in patrolling. According to some Israeli sources, between June 1949 and the end of 1952, a total of 57 Israelis, mostly civilians, were killed by Palestinian infiltrators from the West Bank and Jordan. The Israeli death toll for the first nine months of 1953 was 32. During roughly the same time period (November 1950 – November 1953), the Mixed Armistice Commission condemned Israeli raids 44 times. Furthermore, during the same period, 1949–1953, Jordan maintained that it had suffered 629 killed and injured stemming from Israeli incursions and cross-border bombings. UN sources for the period, based on the documentation at General Bennike's disposal (prepared by Commander E H Hutchison USNR), lower both estimates.[clarification needed]
Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion and Israeli chief of staff Moshe Dayan ordered reprisal raids as a tough response to terror attacks. The message was that any attack on Israelis would be followed by a strong Israeli response. In the words of Ben-Gurion, from his lecture "retribution operations as a means to ensure the Peace":
We do not have power to ensure that the water pipe lines won't be exploded or that the trees won't be uprooted. We do not have the power to prevent the murders of orchard workers or families while they are asleep, but we have the power to set a high price for our blood, a price which would be too high for the Arab communities, the Arab armies and the Arab governments to bear.
This approach dominated in Israel during the 1950s and 1960s, although it was not the only one. Moshe Sharett, the Israeli prime minister during the retribution operations, objected to this policy and after the Ma'ale Akrabim massacre he wrote in his diary:
Committing a severe responsive act to this bloodbath would only obscure its horrors, and put us in an equal level with murderers of the other party. We should rather this instance to raise political pressure on the world powers, to have them exert unprecedented pressure on Jordan.
The head of the United Nations truce observers, Canadian Lieutenant-General E. L. M. Burns, was very critical of what he described as "constant provocation of the Israeli forces and armed kibbutzim." His conclusion was "The retaliation does not end the matter; it goes on and on ..."
Between 1949 and 1956 cross border attacks from Israel's neighbours killed around 200 Israelis, with perhaps another 200 Israeli soldiers being killed in border clashes or IDF raids. Over the same period between 2,700 and 5,000 Arabs were killed. This figure includes many unarmed civilians who had crossed the border for economic or social reasons. Most were killed during 1949–1951. After which the average was between 300 and 500 killed a year.
The Sinai War of 1956 ended the first phase of the Israeli retribution operations. The retribution operations policy continued after the Sinai War, but were initiated mainly against Jordan and Syria, because at that time the majority of attacks originated over the Jordanian and Syrian borders. The main retribution operations held after the Sinai War include:
A commemoration site called "Black Arrow" (חץ שחור), which commemorates the various retribution operations and the heritage of the Israeli paratrooper units, is located in the Negev.
the Israelis would have to accept a certain degree of friction in their relations with Egypt, and understand that such acts as the blockade and armed infiltration were political necessities for Egypt and not representative of any truly belligerent intention.
In July 1954 the head of Egyptian military intelligence in the Gaza Strip wrote: 'The main objective of the military presence along the armistice line is to prevent infiltration, but the Palestinian troops encourage the movement of infiltrators and carry out attacks along the line.'
Egyptian representatives were able to sign a new commercial agreement with Czechoslovakia on 24 October 1951, which included a secret clause stating that "the government of Czechoslovakia will provide the Egyptian government with arms and ammunition - to be selected by Egyptian experts - worth about 600 million Egyptian pounds, to be paid in Egyptian cotton." The Egyptian experts requested 200 tanks, 200 armored vehicles, 60 to 100 MIG-15 planes, 2,000 trucks, 1,000 jeeps, and other items.... Czechoslovakia would not be able to supply weapons to Egypt in 1952. And each year, from then until 1955, Prague kept finding new reasons to delay the shipments.
(Nasser)refused to order his troops to cease firing at Israeli patrols — indeed, this practice was intensified after the Gaza raid
Israeli casualty statistics show that 7 or 8 Israelis were killed by infiltrators on the Gaza border annually from 1951 to 1954, with a dramatic rise to 48 in 1955.
On September 12 Egypt tightened its blockade of the Straits of Tiran and closed the air space over the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli aircraft, forcing Israel to halt civilian flights to South Africa. During the following weeks Egyptian directed fedayeen attacked Israeli settlements and traffic across the Lebanese and Jordanian borders.
During December 1955 February I956 the Egyptians appear to have clamped down on civilian infiltration, but their troops fired across the line at Israeli patrols almost every day