Battle of Anabta

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
1936–39 Arab revolt in Palestine
Battle of anabta 1936.jpg
Date21 June 1936
LocationAnabta, Mandatory Palestine
Result Rebels withdrew after a 9-hour clash
United Kingdom United Kingdom
Flag of the British Army.svg British Army


  • Local rebel factions (fasa'il)
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the British Army.svg John Fullerton Evetts Ibrahim Nassar
Abd al-Rahim al-Hajj Muhammad
450 60–70
Casualties and losses
British Army: 2 killed, 3 wounded Arabs: 10 killed, 4 wounded

On June 21, 1936, Arab militants attacked a convoy of civilian buses escorted in convoy by British soldiers in Mandatory Palestine along the road from Haifa to Tel Aviv, near Anabta. Two British soldiers were killed, along with 10 or 11 Arabs in what the New York Herald Tribune termed a "major fight" in the 1936–39 Arab revolt in Palestine and the Baltimore Sun described as the "heaviest engagement" of the revolt at that point.


Arab fighters, some mounted on horses, posing with their rifles and a Palestinian flag

In what the Baltimore Sun described as the "heaviest engagement" of the revolt to date,[1] a convoy of Egged civilian buses was traveling from Haifa to Tel Aviv under the protection of British troops when it was ambushed at a point about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) West of Anabta by an estimated 60 to 70 Arab fighters – part of a faction controlled by Ibrahim Nassar – in an encounter that rapidly escalated into a "pitched battle".[2][3][4][5] Sergeant Henry Sills of the Seaforth Highlanders was killed early in the battle; his body was later dragged off the road and into a cave by Arab irregulars.[4][6][7] Fighting began at 11am and continued until night fell.[3] Reinforcements arrived from Tulkarem.[3]

Arab fighters had blocked the road with a "barricade of stones," firing on the convoy from cover when it halted to remove the barricade.[4] The second soldier killed was a private in the Royal Scots Fusiliers.[8] Three British battalions from Brigadier John Fullerton Evetts' 16th Infantry Brigade, and four airplanes took part in the battle against an unknown number of Arab militants; three British planes were hit by Arab gunfire but managed to land safely at the airport in Tulkarem.[3][7] Arab fighters were able to hold the British troops "at bay" until the arrival of British airplanes, machine gun fire from the planes separated the Arabs into two sections that British troops were then able to "encircle and rout."[7] British aircraft then arrived to transport the wounded to hospital.[7][9] An article in The Guardian described the ambush as, "the most serious fighting since disturbances began," two months earlier.[3][10]


A burnt Jewish passenger bus

The Arab high committee, after the battle, urged their followers to continue the general strike which has been going on for sev-eral months. Rely only on "Almighty God and yourselves." the committee instructed its supporters in fresh defiance of the military authorities.[11]

A series of British military actions were launched the day after ambush. In one of these operations, British troops were sent into the cave in which Sills had been dragged; there the British captured two militants and "blew up" the cave using dynamite.[12]

Context and impact[edit]

According to Sonia Nimr, who variously describes this event as an "ambush" and a "battle," this was "perhaps the most important engagement," of the Arab general strike that took place in Mandatory Palestine from April through October 1936, with fighting on a "large enough" scale that the British needed to call in reinforcements, and an entire day's fighting required to regain control from the insurgents.[13]

According to Nimr, Mandate authorities issued an arrest warrant for Abd al-Rahim al-Hajj Muhammad as a result of this battle.[13]

The insurgent strategy used in this battle, "ambush a motorized convoy," then disperse into the civilian population, made it difficult for the British to identify and defeat the militants. In September 1936, the British to reorganized their strategy under Orde Wingate.[14][15][16]


  1. ^ "Troops Ambushed On Road, Heaviest Engagement Of Palestine Revolt Follows". Baltimore Sun. 22 June 1936. p. 9. 
  2. ^ Michael Williams (25 October 1936). Commonweal. Commonweal Pub. Corp. p. 266. Retrieved 18 August 2016. A number of casualties were reported from Palestine as clashes between Arabs and British troops occurred in the Tel Aviv region. The most serious occurrence was a battle at Anabta involving bombers. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Two British Soldiers Killed in Palestine Fighting: Arabs Machine-Gunned from the Air. Three Planes Hit By Bullets in Fierce Encounter". The Guardian. 22 June 1936. 
  4. ^ a b c "Arabs Attack Hebrew University, Settlements and Troops". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 23 June 1936. Retrieved 18 August 2016. 
  5. ^ "Another Fight Palestine". The Scotsman. 26 June 1936. Retrieved 18 August 2016. 
  6. ^ "Special cable to the New York Times (22 June 1936). "British Planes Used to Rout Palestine Arabs; One Soldier and 11 Terrorists Are Killed". New York Times. Retrieved 18 August 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c d "British Troops, Trapped, Lose 2, Kill 10 Arabs". New York Herald Tribune. 22 June 1936. 
  8. ^ "Scots Soldiers Killed; Convoy Ambushed". The Scotsman. 22 June 1936. Retrieved 18 August 2016. 
  9. ^ Great Britain and the East, v. 47, p. 74, OCLC 2447278.
  10. ^ "June 21, 2016: This Week in Jewish History". United with Israel. United With Israel. Retrieved 22 August 2016. 
  11. ^ "The Arab high committee, after the battle, urged their followers to continue the general strike". Mansfield News Journal. 22 June 1936. 
  12. ^ "British Soldiers Kill 5 Arabs". The Baltimore Sun. AP. 23 June 1936. Retrieved 18 August 2016. 
  13. ^ a b "A Nation in a Hero: Abdul Rahim Hajj Mohammad and the Arab Revolt," by Sonia Nimr, in Struggle and Survival in Palestine/Israel, By Mark Levine, Gershon Shafir, 2012, University of California Press, p.146, ISBN 0520262530.
  14. ^ "Military Lessons of the Arab Rebellion in Palestine, 1936," General Staff, Headquarters, February 1938.
  15. ^ "Notes on Tactical Lessons of the Palestine Rebellion, 1936," General Staff, Headquarters, February 1937.
  16. ^ "Orde Wingate And The British Internal Security Strategy During The Arab Rebellion In Palestine, 1936–1939," Mark D. Lehenbauer, Fort Leavenworth, KS: Combat Studies Institute Press, 2012; pp. 43–45.