Overall Chronology

Overall Chronology

IV. The Palestine War And The Nakba
2 April 1947 to 1 January 1950

Members of the Palestinian Resistance

Palestine Liberation Organization Information Center archives

The years 1947–1949 were among the most decisive in modern Palestinian history, and their outcome was catastrophic for the Palestinian people. By the time the British referred the question of Palestine to the United Nations in April 1947, they had already helped to create a shift in the local balance of power in favor of the Zionists and at the expense of the Palestinians. Relying on the diplomatic and political assets provided by the UN Partition Resolution of November 1947 and on strong U.S. support, the Zionists embarked on an offensive to conquer as much land as possible beyond the recommended partition lines, to destroy and empty whole Palestinian villages and towns, and to transform most of the Palestinians into refugees. Arab military and political support, not nearly commensurate to the scope of the sustained Zionist existential threat, could not prevent the Palestinian Nakba.  

British policy in Palestine since the 1917 Balfour Declaration, and the ensuing struggle between the Zionist movement and the Palestinians for control over the future of the country, left Britain incapable of managing the situation politically and militarily, and finally led it, in April 1947, to refer the problem of Palestine’s future to the UN. By that time, the population of Palestine was one-third Jewish and two-thirds Palestinian Arab Muslim and Christian. On 15 May 1947, the UN created the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) to devise a plan for post-Mandate Palestine. After touring both the Middle East and displaced persons camps in Europe that held thousands of Jewish Holocaust refugees, UNSCOP arrived at a plan to partition Palestine into a Jewish state, an Arab state, and an international zone in and around Jerusalem. The borders seemed unworkable—each state consisted of three major parts only barely connected with one another—and the Jewish state was larger than the Arab state, yet its population would be only about one-half Jewish. UNSCOP also issued a minority plan that rejected partition in favor of a federal Palestine. The UN General Assembly voted to adopt the UNSCOP majority proposal on 29 November 1947. The Zionists publicly accepted partition; neither the Arab states nor the Arab Higher Committee (AHC), the de facto Palestinian leadership, did.

Arab-Jewish fighting in Palestine broke out almost immediately after the UN partition vote. Jewish forces were larger and much better organized. They consisted of the Haganah militia and its full-time strike force, the Palmach, plus two smaller militias: Irgun Tzva’i Le’umi (National Military Organization; also called Irgun and Etzel) and the Lohamei Herut Yisra’el (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel; also called LEHI and the Stern Gang). There was no national Palestinian fighting force. The major armed group was the Jaysh al-Jihad al-Muqaddas (Army of Holy War), formed by the AHC and led by ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni. It operated only in the Jerusalem area. In northern Palestine, an Arab League–sponsored army called the Jaysh al-Inqadh al-‘Arabi (Arab Liberation Army) operated. It was made up of volunteers from surrounding Arab countries and led by a Lebanese officer, Fawzi al-Qawuqji. Various villages also formed their own militias for defense. By May 1948, Zionist forces were on the offensive and had captured several major towns such as Jaffa, Haifa, and Tiberias, as well as large areas of the proposed Arab state, particularly in Galilee. Tens of thousands of Palestinians had already fled as refugees, especially after news of Zionist atrocities like that at Dayr Yasin—where on 9 April, Zionist paramilitary forces killed more than 100 Palestinian villagers—spread through the population.

On 14 May 1948, the day that the last British soldiers and administrators left Palestine, Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of a Jewish state called Israel. During the years of the Mandate, the Zionist movement had carefully prepared for independence and had created a network of institutions ready to begin the process of governing. By contrast, there were no real national Palestinian institutions for governance or defense. On 15 May, units of the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia entered the country to protect the Palestinian community and fight the Israelis. Despite being nominally coordinated by the Arab League, these armies generally acted independently of one another. Within two weeks, Arab forces had fought the Israeli army to a standstill. Israeli-Jordanian fighting in Jerusalem’s Old City was particularly fierce. After a short truce arranged by the UN on 11 June, the fighting resumed from 8 to 18 July. Israeli forces captured the towns of Nazareth, al-Ramla, and Lydda. By that time, the Israeli army had received a massive shipment of weapons from Czechoslovakia. Newly arrived Jewish immigrants and foreign Jewish volunteers swelled the Israeli army, and aircraft purchased from Czechoslovakia and smuggled from the United States helped create a formidable air force. A second cease-fire held from 19 July until 15 October. Thereafter, the Israeli army went back on the offensive, capturing the rest of Galilee and the Negev, and winning the war.

By early 1949, the proposed UN partition boundaries had become irrelevant. Israeli forces controlled 77 percent of pre-1948 Palestine, including large areas of what was designated in the UN plan as part of the Arab state. Of the other 23 percent of Palestine, Egyptian forces controlled Gaza while Jordanian and Iraqi troops held onto the West Bank and East Jerusalem. No Palestinian state emerged. Although the Arab League endorsed the formation of the AHC-led All Palestine Government in Egyptian-controlled Gaza on 20 September 1948, this body never exercised any real power, even in Gaza. In the West Bank, a gathering of Palestinian notables in Jericho on 1 December 1948 called for Jordan to annex the West Bank.

Palestinians call the war the Nakba—the catastrophe. By far, the most disastrous consequence of the war was the massive depopulation of Palestine’s Arabs. More than 725,000 Palestinians had fled their homes or were expelled by Zionist forces, only to become refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, and surrounding Arab countries. Israel categorically refused to allow them to return. The approximately 150,000 Palestinians who stayed, a large number of whom were also internally displaced homeless refugees, were subjected to martial law in the new Jewish state.

The UN intervened to bring an end to the fighting, dispatching the Swedish diplomat Folke Bernadotte as UN Mediator for Palestine. After several months’ effort, Bernadotte was assassinated in Jerusalem on 17 September 1948 by members of LEHI. He was replaced by an American, Ralph Bunche. After the fighting ended, Bunche gathered delegations from the warring sides and brought them to the island of Rhodes to arrange for final armistice agreements. Starting in February 1949 and lasting until July, he arranged armistices between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Iraq never signed an armistice and simply withdrew its forces from the West Bank.

Although the armistices ended the bloodshed, no peace treaties emerged from Rhodes. On 11 December 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 194, which created the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine (UNCCP), whose three members were France, Turkey, and the United States. The UNCCP convened the Lausanne Conference in April 1949 to achieve a final peaceful end to the conflict. The conference, which included delegations from Israel and four Arab states—the Palestinians had no official representation—failed to produce an agreement by the end of the conference in September 1949. Resolution 194 also called for the refugees to be allowed to return to their homes or, for those choosing not to, to be compensated for their losses. One year later, on 8 December 1949, the UN General Assembly established an agency specifically for the refugees—the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)—to provide relief services such as food rations and health services, as well as social services such as education.

Thus, the uneasy status quo that emerged after the war left the significant issues facing Palestinians—including the situation of the Palestinian refugees and the question of political representation of the Palestinian people—largely unresolved. This lack of resolution only compounded the scale of the disastrous loss of Palestine.



Selected Bibliography

The Arab-Israeli Armistice Agreements, February-July 1949: UN Texts and Annexes. Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1967.

Masalha, Nur. Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of “Transfer” in Zionist Political Thought, 1882-1948. Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992.

Morris, Benny. The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Pappé, Ilan. The Making of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947-1951. New York: I.B. Tauris, 1994.

Rogan, Eugene L., and Avi Shlaim. The War for Palestine: Rewriting the History of 1948.  Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.    

Shlaim, Avi. Collusion Across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement, and the Partition of Palestine. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988.

Shlaim, Avi. “The Rise and Fall of the All-Palestine Government in Gaza.Journal of Palestine Studies 20, no.1 (Autumn 1990): 37-53.

Overall Chronology
E.g., 2020/07/09
E.g., 2020/07/09
Event Date Subject
British Refer Palestine to the UN 2 April 1947
Continuation of Zionist-British Confrontation 16 April 1947 - 26 April 1947
UN General Assembly Session on Palestine 28 April 1947 - 9 May 1947
UNGA 106 (S-1): Creation of a Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) 15 May 1947
Casualties of Zionist Anti-British Attacks 16 May 1947
Zionist Attacks Against Palestinians 21 May 1947 - 15 August 1947
Stern Gang Letter Bombs Against Officials in London 5 June 1947
UN Special Committee on Palestine Prepares its Proposals 15 June 1947 - 3 September 1947
Irgun Kidnaps and Murders Two British Sergeants 11 July 1947 - 31 July 1947
Arab League Meeting on Palestine, in Sofar, Lebanon 16 September 1947 - 19 September 1947
Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestinian Question 23 September 1947 - 25 November 1947
British to Terminate Palestine Mandate 26 September 1947
Palestinians and Zionists on UNSCOP Partition Plan 29 September 1947 - 3 October 1947
Arab League Meeting on Palestine in Aley, Lebanon 7 October 1947 - 15 October 1947
US and USSR Endorse Partition 11 October 1947 - 13 October 1947
UNGA 181 (II): Palestine Partition Plan 29 November 1947
The Haganah Implements Plan Gimmel 29 November 1947 - 1 December 1947
Palestinian Strike Against Partition Plan and Palestinian-Zionist Clashes 2 December 1947
Series of Zionist Attacks on Palestinians in the Wake of the Partition Plan 6 December 1947 - 31 December 1947
Britain Recommends Date of Mandate Termination 8 December 1947
Arab League Rejects Partition Plan 8 December 1947 - 16 December 1947
Arab Liberation Army Organized 1 January 1948 - 9 January 1948
Series of Zionist Attacks 2 January 1948 - 26 January 1948
Palestinian Attacks 14 January 1948 - 19 February 1948
Zionist Military Preparations 14 January 1948 - 20 February 1948
Contingents of ALA Volunteers 21 January 1948 - 28 January 1948
British Break Arab Attacks 6 February 1948 - 10 February 1948
Fate of Diplomatic Representations in Jerusalem 11 February 1948 - 1 May 1948
Zionist Attacks 14 February 1948 - 5 March 1948
Fawzi al-Qawuqji Enters Palestine 5 March 1948
Plan Dalet Finalized by the Haganah 10 March 1948
Haganah Operations 11 March 1948 - 31 March 1948
Palestinian Operations 11 March 1948 - 31 March 1948
US Apparent Hesitancy Toward Partition 18 March 1948 - 30 March 1948
Early Responses to Truce and Trusteeship Ideas 19 March 1948 - 20 March 1948
Plan Dalet Launched 1 April 1948
Security Council Resolutions S/RES/43 and S/RES/44 1 April 1948
Arms for the Zionist Forces 1 April 1948 - 14 May 1948
Operations Nachshon and Harel to Open Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Road 2 April 1948 - 21 April 1948
The Battle for Haifa and Its Surroundings 4 April 1948 - 23 April 1948
Unit of Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Attacks Kfar Darom 10 April 1948
General Zionist Council Decides to Proclaim Jewish State on 16 May 12 April 1948
Fighting Around Jerusalem 12 April 1948 - 23 April 1948
Security Council Resolution S/RES/46 17 April 1948
Fall of Tiberias 18 April 1948
Trusteeship Plan for Palestine 20 April 1948
Security Council Resolution S/RES/48 23 April 1948
Operation Chametz and the Fall of Jaffa 24 April 1948 - 13 May 1948
Operation Jevussi for the Conquest of Jerusalem 26 April 1948 - 30 April 1948
Zionist Conquest of Eastern Galilee 28 April 1948 - 12 May 1948
Arab States (Reluctantly) Prepare for Intervention in Palestine 30 April 1948 - 12 May 1948
Arab Gains in Gush Etzion 3 May 1948 - 14 May 1948
Operation Maccabi and the al-Latrun Area 8 May 1948 - 13 May 1948
Operation Barak Toward the South 9 May 1948 - 13 May 1948
Control of Coastal Plain Haifa-Tel Aviv 13 May 1948 - 23 May 1948
State of Israel Is Proclaimed in Tel Aviv at 4:00 P.M. 14 May 1948
UNGA 186 (S-2): Appointment of a UN Mediator in Palestine 14 May 1948
Operation Ben Ami in Western Galilee 14 May 1948 - 17 May 1948
Operations Shfifon and Kilshon in Jerusalem 14 May 1948 - 28 May 1948
The British Mandate Ends. The US Recognizes the State of Israel on a de facto Basis 15 May 1948
Arab Armies Cross Palestine Borders 15 May 1948 - 19 May 1948
West Bank to Be Placed under Jordanian Military Government 16 May 1948 - 24 May 1948
Israel's Law and Administration Ordinance 19 May 1948
Security Council Resolution S/RES/49 22 May 1948
Security Council Resolution S/RES/50 29 May 1948
1st Palestine Truce, Destruction of Palestinian Villages 11 June 1948 - 8 July 1948
Ahmad Hilmi Abd al-Baqi Is Appointed Military Governor of Jerusalem 16 June 1948
Abandoned Areas Ordinance 24 June 1948
Count Bernadotte's Palestine Plan 28 June 1948
Responses to Bernadotte's Plan 2 July 1948 - 5 July 1948
Jordan and Israel Sign Agreement on Demilitarization of Mount Scopus Area 7 July 1948
Security Council Resolution S/RES/53 7 July 1948
Israeli Military Operations at End of 1st Truce 8 July 1948 - 18 July 1948
Security Council Resolution S/RES/54 15 July 1948
Second Palestine Truce 19 July 1948 - 15 October 1948
Ethnic Cleansing During the Second Truce 24 July 1948 - 26 October 1948
Constantine Zuraik publishes Ma'na al-Nakba (The meaning of al-Nakba) in Beirut August 1948
Israel Declares Jerusalem Occupied City 2 August 1948
Israel's Area of Jurisdiction and Powers Ordinance 16 September 1948
Bernadotte's New Plan 16 September 1948
UN Mediator Count Folke Bernadotte Is Assassinated by Lehi in Jerusalem 17 September 1948
US in Favor of Bernadotte's New Plan 21 September 1948
Establishment of All-Palestine Government in Gaza 23 September 1948 - 2 October 1948
Pro-Jordanian Amman Conference 1 October 1948
Arab Responses to Formation of the All-Palestine Government 5 October 1948 - 14 October 1948
Emergency Regulations Regarding the Cultivation of Fallow Lands and Unexploited Water Sources 11 October 1948
Operations Yoav and ha-Har in the South Put End to 2nd Truce 15 October 1948 - 29 October 1948
Israel Establishes Military Government 21 October 1948
Operation Hiram in the North 24 October 1948 - 31 October 1948
A Massacre in al-Dawayima 29 October 1948
George Hanna publishes Tareeq al-Khalas (Path of Deliverance) November 1948
Security Council Resolution S/RES/61 4 November 1948
Israel Conducts its First Population Census 8 November 1948 - 1 February 1949
Security Council Resolution S/RES/62 16 November 1948
UNGA 212 (III): Establishment of a Special Fund for Palestine refugees 19 November 1948
Pro-Jordanian Jericho Conference 1 December 1948 - 28 December 1948
Emergency Regulations Regarding Absentee Property 2 December 1948
UNGA 194 (III): Establishment of a Conciliation Commission for Palestine (UNCCP) 11 December 1948
Israel Strengthens Its Political Control over Jerusalem; Military Government Dissolved 20 December 1948 - 17 February 1949
Operation Horev Against Egyptian Forces 22 December 1948 - 6 January 1949
Individual Return of Tens of Thousands of Palestinian Refugees; Israel Launches "War on Infiltration" January 1949 - December 1956
First Arab-Israeli Armistice Talks Commence Under UN Supervision in Rhodes 12 January 1949
France Recognizes Israel on a de facto Basis 24 January 1949
The US Recognizes Israel on a de jure Basis 31 January 1949
Israel Enacts the Registration of Inhabitants Ordinance 1 February 1949
Jordan's Early Measure to "Jordanize" Arab Palestinians 14 February 1949
Egypt-Israel Armistice Agreement 24 February 1949
Musa Alami Publishes 'Ibrat Filasteen (The lesson of Palestine) March 1949
Palestinians Are Expelled from al-Faluja Pocket 1 March 1949 - 21 April 1949
Arab Sacrifice Brigade Formed and Dissolved 1 March 1949 - 30 November 1950
Security Council Resolution S/RES/69 4 March 1949
Jordan Undertakes Legislative Steps Aiming at Integrating the West Bank into the Kingdom 16 March 1949 - 19 July 1950
General Refugee Congress Meets in Ramallah 17 March 1949
Lebanon-Israel Armistice Agreement 23 March 1949
Palestinians Testify Before the UNCCP 24 March 1949
Jordan-Israel Armistice Agreement 3 April 1949
Israel Enacts the Emergency Regulations (Security Zones) 24 April 1949 - 27 July 1949
UN Conciliation Commission on Palestine Convenes the Lausanne Conference 27 April 1949 - 12 September 1949
UNGA 273 (III): Admitting Israel to Membership in the UN 11 May 1949
Syria-Israel Armistice Agreement 20 July 1949
Gaza's Egyptian Administration 8 August 1949
Israel Decides to Issue Temporary Residency Permits for Palestinians Not Included in the Census October 1949
UNGA 302 (IV): Establishment of Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) 8 December 1949
UNGA 303 (IV): To Place Jerusalem under a Permanent International Regime 9 December 1949
Jordan Amends the Parliamentary Election Law 13 December 1949