A series of historical maps of the area around Arab Suqrir (click the buttons)
|Geopolitical entity||Mandatory Palestine|
|Date of depopulation||25 May 1948|
|• Total||40,224 dunams (40.224 km2 or 15.531 sq mi)|
|Cause(s) of depopulation||Military assault by Yishuv forces|
|Current Localities||Bnei Darom Netivot Nir Galim, Ashdod|
'Arab Suqrir (Arabic: عرب صقرير) was a Palestinian Arab village in the Gaza Subdistrict, located 38 kilometers (24 mi) northeast of Gaza in a flat area with an elevation of 25 meters (82 ft) along the coastal plain just north of Isdud. The total land area of the village was 40,224 dunams, of which 12,270 was Arab-owned, while the remainder was public property. In 1931, it had a population of 530, decreasing to 390 in 1945. It was destroyed and depopulated during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
Under the Ottoman Empire, in 1596, it was under the administration of the nahiya of Gaza, part of the Liwa of Gaza. With a population of 55 (10 households), all Muslims. The villagers paid taxes on wheat, barley, sesame, beehives, and goats; a total of 2,000 Akçe. The original inhabitants of the village were Muslim Bedouins who gradually settled on the site, built stone houses, and became farmers.
Socin found from an official Ottoman village list from about 1870 showed that the place (called Abu Suweirih) had 41 houses and a population of 105, though the population count included men, only. Hartmann disagreed both about the number of houses, and the identification.
In the 1945 statistics the population of Arab Suqrir consisted of 390 Muslims and the land area was 40,224 dunams, according to an official land and population survey. Of this, 583 dunams were designated for citrus and bananas, 489 for plantations and irrigable land, 15,538 for cereals, while 966 dunams were non-cultivable.
On January 11, 1948, 'Arab Suqrir was subject to the first Haganah operational proposal to level a village. An intelligence report reveals an official recommendation that "The village should be destroyed and some males from the same village should be murdered." According to Israeli historian Benny Morris, the report was issued as a result of the killing of eleven Haganah scouts outside patrol at Gan Yavne by militiamen from 'Arab Suqrir on January 9. The recommendation of leveling the village was endorsed by Haganah intelligence director Ziama Divon who said "the Arabs in the area expect a reprisal... A lack of response on our part will be interpreted as a sign of weakness."
According to Palestinian historian Walid Khalidi, press accounts at the time told a different story. The New York Times quoted police sources saying that a party of Jews from nearby Yavne attacked "Wadi Sukrayr" with gunfire on January 9, adding that police arrived and counterattacked, resulting in the deaths of eight Arabs and twelve Jews. The Jaffa-based newspaper Filastin also reported an attack on the village on January 9.
On January 20, the official order was issued with directives to "... Destroy the well... destroy the village completely, kill all the adult males, and destroy the reinforcements that arrive." However, when the operation was carried out on January 25, the women and children had already evacuated a few days prior and the roughly 30 men who had remained to guard the village after hearing of the approach by the Haganah. Morris writes that the Israelis destroyed the houses, two trucks, and the nearby well, citing a report that said "The village, apart from a few relics, no longer exists." The Associated Press reported that the Haganah bombed fifteen or twenty houses in an Arab village near Yibna, but gave no casualty figures and quoted informants that the bombing were in retaliation for attacks on Jewish convoys.
The inhabitants of 'Arab Suqrir were angry that "no village dared to come to their help and they asked how could the Arabs fight this way." Some villagers returned to the site soon after its destruction and finally left at the end of March. The village came under the control of Israel by the Haganah's Givati Brigade around May 10, 1948, at the start of Operation Barak, but the village was not physically destroyed until August 24–25 in Operation Nikayon. Following the war the area was incorporated into the State of Israel.
Khalidi wrote that the village remains consist of "overgrown weeds, a few cactuses, and trees. Two houses remain standing. One of them is in a citrus grove and has a concrete frame and cinder block walls. On the top of the flat roof is an illiya." Two Jewish towns are currently located on the former land of 'Arab Suqrir: Nir Galim was established in 1949 and Ashdod was established in 1955.
According to Petersen, the village site is today located in the centre of the Bnei Darom moshav, with the remains of a khan located in a wooded park next to the water tower of the moshav. The khan ruins were first described by Victor Guérin, who inspected them in 1863, and who wrote the following description:
This ruin is that of a Khan, now overthrown. It is 60 paces long by 37 broad. It contains a cistern and a small vaulted magazine, as yet not destroyed. Below the hillock covered by its ruins I remarked on the east a reservoir and viaduct, a well partly fallen in, but well built. A canal, traces of which are alone visible, carried the water of the reservoir to a fountain, now demolished, and situated in the plain near the road
Clermont-Ganneau visited the place in 1873, and gave a very similar description, with the addition: "this must have been the site of some ancient "manzel", or posting-house, on the Arab route from Syria to Egypt.
Petersen, inspecting the place in 1994, found the place in much the same condition as during the British mandate period, except that the reservoir from the Mandate time is now replaced with a water-tower. Petersen described the remains as comprising a nearly 40 m-long wall, running north–south, with an entrance near the north end. A barrel-vaulted chamber, with an interior measuring 8.3 m long and 3.8 m wide, is located inside the khan, just south of the entrance.