22nd December 1948
– 8th January 1949
The above map shows how the Jeep Company operated and where their raids
took place. Details to follow. All arrows are Palmach Negev Brigade.
French Commando, and 7th
& 9th Battalions.
7th and 9th
Battalions’ attacks with Jeep Company.
Jeep Company’s raids.
The 9th Battalion preparing to leave Beersheba on the way south to take part in Operation “Horev”.
Bottom: Haim Bar-Lev, 9th Battalion Commander (front, left), Micha Perry, Number 2 Battalion Commander
(behind him) and two other officers talking to the 9th Battalion soldiers at Halutza before embarking on the
gathered sufficient intelligence on the Egyptian positions, we were ready to lead the Battalion and Brigade south to
start the Horev battle. On 25th of December, from a position near Revivim, the Company of the French Commando
attacked the hill of Bir E-Tamile, the main Egyptian fortification blocking the road southwards towards the Egyptian
border. The French Commando managed to capture the hill, but the Egyptians counter-attacked and retook it, capturing
some of the French Commando soldiers, who were tortured and killed. The 7th Infantry Battalion of the Negev
Brigade, and the half-track company of the 9th Battalion, Negev Brigade, attacked again, with our jeeps
giving the attacking infantry covering fire from the east. Four jeeps firing all our eight machine-guns during the
attack on the east side helped keep the Egyptians down, while the 7th Infantry recaptured the hill and took
many Egyptian prisoners. The jeeps kept moving around the hill to see that the Egyptians didn’t try another
counter-attack. The armored cars with the 20 mm anti-tank gun, manned by Machal crew from South Africa, England and USA,
opened fire on three Egyptian armored cars advancing towards the hill. They retreated and were later captured in an
ambush by part of the Jeep Company near Mishrefe.
prisoners of war were being taken back by Peppo’s [ed - Peppo Ashkenazy is described below - he was a Bulgarian
volunteer, and father of IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazy] half-track platoon of Bulgarian overseas volunteers (Machal) to the
prison camp in Beersheba. The French Commando soldiers tried to stop Peppo with the prisoners of war. They wanted to
kill the Egyptian prisoners of war that we had taken on the hill in revenge for what they had done to the Commando
soldiers’ comrades when they retook the hill. Peppo had to fight his way through to get to Beersheba with the prisoners
intact. Later in the prison compound in Beersheba, the
French Commandos tried to break in to the prison compound. They even threw grenades because they could not get in.
A 6-pound anti-tank gun captured from the Egyptians in the counter-attack
of the 7th Battalion. One of our jeeps in the background. Soldiers of the 7th Battalion on top of
southeast, firing at the retreating Egyptian armored cars and vehicles. One of our armored half-tracks with a 20-mm gun
opened rapid fire on the Egyptian armored cars, and they retreated rapidly down the road. These armored cars and other
vehicles retreated towards Mishrefe, where we had four jeeps in ambush and another four nearby, coming up from Uvda.
They managed to ambush the Egyptian convoy.
Our half-track from the Armored Car Platoon, armed with a 20-mm anti-tank
gun which stopped the Egyptian armored cars with their 37-mm cannons and made them retreat. We later captured them at
Egyptian soldiers ran away, leaving us the armored cars – all in all about 30 vehicles. The Jeep Company, sitting at the
top of the Mishrefe hill, opened fire on a convoy of Egyptians coming from Egypt to help. They turned around and
retreated towards the Egyptian lines at Auja.
Migdal Teperson (SA) sitting on one of the captured Egyptian armored cars. Note the Egyptian marking on the turret. This
car was manned by Israelis, continued leading our attack into
and was later knocked out by an Egyptian anti-tank gun. Bottom: Another captured armored scout car with
Egyptian markings. I’m (Migdal Teperson) standing next to my jeep.
The next day,
we started rounding up all the Egyptian prisoners of war. I saw a group running up a hill, took my 52-inch mortar and
fired two shells in front of them, shouting at them to come down. They didn’t, and so I shot two more shells. They
finally came down the hill. We captured them and kept them on the road until the Military Police arrived. Now our whole
Battalion started moving south towards Auja, which was taken that morning by the 89th Battalion of the 8th
capture of Bir E-Tamile following the counter-attack, the Egyptians were fleeing towards
Egypt, and the
main road from Beersheba through Bir Aslouj was now open. After Mishrefe was taken by the jeeps of the 9th
Battalion and then Auja (on the Egyptian border) taken by the 8th Brigade, the whole road from Beersheba to
the Egyptian border was open.
Jeep refueling before continuing south. Left to right: Migdal Teperson,
Irwin Cohen (both SA), Sheffer (Israeli).
south and crossed into Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula. Our twelve jeeps were leading the convoy. The armored cars that we
had captured were put back to use with part of our boys from the 9th Battalion. One of these cars with a
two-pound gun was leading the convoy into Egypt. There were other captured vehicles in our convoy which still had
Egyptian markings on them. Behind the jeeps, we had two pick-ups where we kept some supplies which we had captured in
the Egyptian vehicles – tins of beans (called Ful) and other goodies, such as Halva. As we crossed into
Egypt, a lot of
the young Israelis were very excited, and shouted out that this is the first time they’ve been overseas without a
passport. We hadn’t had much sleep up until now, but the shooting and cracking of bullets going over your head kept us
wide awake. Whenever we stopped, most of us tried to sleep but would wake up immediately with one crack of a bullet. We
continued moving south with the 7th and 9th Battalions following us.
was moving towards Abu Ageila, a crossroads between El-Arish, Beersheba and the road to Cairo, about 40 kilometers from
the border. All of a sudden, we saw two Spitfires passing over us and we were very happy as we noticed they had Israeli
markings, but then, as mentioned in the text below the picture, the two Spitfires attacked us because of the Egyptian
vehicles with Egyptian markings in our convoy. Two people were wounded.
In Sinai, on the way to Abu Ageila. After this picture was taken, our own
planes attacked us because some of the vehicles in our convoy had Egyptian markings. They realized their mistake and
stopped attacking us. Both pilots were South African Machal volunteers, and in our convoy we had 12 more Machal
volunteers from South Africa.
Stopping for a break before crossing into Sinai. Our guns are covered
because we didn’t go into action and didn’t want the dust to destroy them.
towards Abu Ageila, and about 3 kilometers before the city, the Egyptians were dug in on both sides of the road, with
anti-tank guns covering the road. One of these shells knocked out the captured Egyptian armored car leading our convoy,
killing one of the crewmen and wounding another. The ambulance in our convoy took them back to Israel. We continued to
advance, and the Egyptians, after knocking out our armored car, retreated towards Abu Ageila. It should be noted that
because of the heavy mist, the armored car had not spotted the Egyptian position on the road, and nor could we see them
to Abu Ageila, where we spread out. On the 28-29th of December, Abu Ageila was taken by us. We also captured
Egyptian truck drivers who came from Egypt to welcome
us, thinking we were Egyptians. Our jeep rounded up all the Egyptian soldiers who had already ran away to the
surrounding hills and wadis. As we captured them in groups, we brought them back to Abu Ageila. In one case, I was given
the job to take ten prisoners to Abu Ageila. They refused to go with me, as they thought I was going to kill them. I
must have been a hell of a sight to those Egyptians: Red-eyed, carrying a Bren gun as a machine-gun, hand grenades in my
belt. In the end, one of the jeeps escorted them back. My friend, Irwin Cohen, explains why they refused to go with me:
laugh at what happened in Abu Ageila, when the prisoners we had captured were to be sent to the collection point. Migdal
was told to escort them, but one look at his size, and the huge knives hanging at his sides, the grenades at his belt,
was too much for them. They all pointed at me, insisting that I take them instead. Migdal was not insulted.”
Prisoners of war taken around Abu Ageila being escorted by the Jeep
Company. Migdal Teperson (SA) is on the first jeep from the right, at the back. These were the prisoners that refused to
go on foot with me escorting them because of the way I looked.
we did when we got to Abu Ageila was to patrol the area towards El Arish to see how far we could go. When we came back,
we saw that the 7th Infantry Battalion of our brigade was dug in, facing El Arish. We had already put up
anti-aircraft ammunition. Our heavy machine-guns and a 20-mm anti-aircraft gun kept the Egyptian Spitfires high up in
the air, making it difficult for them to strafe us on the ground. As we had air raids three to four times a day, we
parked our jeeps on the cliff walls of the wadi and camouflaged them with nets to make it difficult for the planes to
hit them. Most of the time, the jeeps were out patrolling in no-man’s-land (details to follow). Our base was on the dry
bed of the Abu Ageila wadi, which had a small mountain about 4 meters high in the middle of it. This is where we slept,
ate and lived when we were not on patrol. We used to run around the sharp cliffs of the mountain for protection from the
spitfires attacking us and trying to strafe our positions. Depending on where the Spitfires struck, we ran to the
opposite side of the mountain for protection. By the time we left, we had run a path around the small mountain in the
middle of the wadi.
20 mm anti-aircraft gun. Bottom: Bezer heavy anti-aircraft machinegun.
These two guns had kept the Egyptian Spitfires high in the air so they
could not strafe us.
After the 82nd
Battalion together with our 7th Infantry made an unsuccessful attack towards El-Arish, we returned to our
lines at Abu Ageila. They had brought up one Sherman tank of
the 8th Brigade to use in this attack, but its track broke and came off. The Sherman tank was left in the
no-man’s land area which our jeeps patrolled at daytime, but where there were no jeep patrols at night. Only small
groups went out at night for special operations, usually with the half-tracks and armored cars. The following story will
explain about the operation at night to try and save the Sherman tank. The 9th Battalion halftracks and the
flame thrower took part in this operation. The following story, written by Yehuda Ben-Tzur, is about that operation.
Yehuda was my corporal until they moved him to be the sergeant of the new flame thrower half-track of the 9th
December 1948, the 9th Battalion had captured the Abu Ageila army compound.
The Company of Avraham Adan (Bren) of the 7th
Battalion, Palmach Brigade, had taken control over the external posts which defended the access to the compound.
which was packed with action (attack of the compound by Spitfires, counter-attack from El-Arish, takeover attempt on an
Egyptian Airfield en route to Suez, capture of a plane at El-Arish Airfield), the Battalion was gathered around the
campfire and Haim Bar-Lev, Battalion Commander, informed them that the 7th Battalion was ordered to hold on
at the compound until an Infantry Battalion swaps them. Due to accumulated tiredness, I retired to the Scout's tent
before the meeting was over and shortly fell asleep. Not more than 30 minutes later I was brutally awakened. I was
ordered to post a road block on the road leading to El-Arish, about ten kilometers west of Abu Ageila.
Yehuda Ben-Tzur, second from left, on his flamethrower half-track with his
Peppo with his Bulgarian Machal platoon (overseas volunteers) on a
half-track. Yosef (Peppo) Ashkenazi, was the father of Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, Chief-of-Staff of
the Israeli Army in 2007.
which I commanded included a flamethrower half-track with seven soldiers (as I recall, among them were Lahish and Eli
Oren) and a Hermesh half-track platoon composed of new Machal volunteers from Bulgaria, communicating mostly in Ladino,
under the command of Peppo (Israel). The driver of the Commandcar was Eitan, 16.5 years old. The son of Yosef Ashkenazi
(also called Peppo), who was one of the Bulgarian volunteers, became the Chief-of-Staff of the Israeli Army in 2007,
Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi (see pictures below).
Ashkenazi, 9th Palmach, 1948, father
Lieutenant General Gabi
Ashkenazi, IDF Chief of Staff, 2007 son
information given to me was that except for a small force of the 8th Brigade that tried to salvage a Sherman
tank which lost his track, there were no Israeli forces between Abu Ageila and El-Arish. After the 8th
Brigade force finished its mission, around 22:00, and passed us eastward to Abu Ageila – we should consider anyone
coming from the west as enemy.
30 minutes we arrived at the area destined for the road block. We parked the vehicles at the side of the road, with the
half-track up front and the Commandcar at the back. Peppo deployed the squad to the sides of the vehicles and ordered
them (in a mixture of languages, mainly Ladino) to dig-in in personal foxholes. He placed himself on the vehicle's seat
while the driver lay back behind him in the Commandcar and covered himself with canvas.
the lookout duty (as usual in ambushes, one is awake and the rest asleep) would be our responsibility, the seven
soldiers in the half-track. I was on the first shift, and took place on the driver’s seat.
men quickly fell asleep. My friends’ snoring helped me somewhat to stay awake. Suddenly I saw car headlights coming at
me. I activated the routine "light code" – 4 blinks means it’s Wednesday, the fourth day of the week – and got response
accordingly. Apparently it was a truck from the 8th Brigade, I asked the driver how the salvage work is
progressing and he replied work might not be over until the early hours of morning. This information - which meant our
road block was unnecessary – took some of the anxiety from me. Since that moment I was battling my tiredness and was
waking up from time to time after banging my head at the half-track's wheel.
slowly. Customary to the procedures back then, I didn't set lookout shift hours and we agreed everyone will try to stay
awake as long as they could and then wake up the next guy for his shift.
to "hold on" awake for an hour and a half, when suddenly I heard a terrible cry by Peppo shouting "Nimrod, Nimrod!",
accompanied by unknown grunting which definitely pointed out danger. After getting off the vehicle to check things out
(our force didn't include anyone called Nimrod), I saw a figure in the middle of the road, a few meters from me.
who is this ("Mi Ze") and was asked "Min Hada?" (Who is this in Arabic) at the same time. A shot that was fired
immediately after that passed right by my head. I had to turn to the half-track in order to take my rifle which was on
the driver’s seat and ordered Eli Oren, the only who woke up due to the shooting, to check what Peppo was screaming
about. Peppo's screaming was continuing all that time and I opened fire at the dark figure which started to escape
westward, swallowed by the darkness.
discovered Peppo sitting on the Commandcar's hood, literally fighting for his life, against a tall Sudanese soldier which
tried to choke him with his rifle. Eli hit the Sudanese with his rifle butt and with the help of Peppo, who broke free of
the Sudanese, subdued him with their rifle butts.
the Sudanese belonged to the Egyptian force which was defeated in the morning at Abu-Ageila. They escaped through the
desert, going on the road to El-Arish when darkness fell, with the intention of meeting their own forces.
discovered our vehicles they assumed/hoped these were Egyptian vehicles and got closer to check. The first Sudani got
close to the Commandcar. Peppo was sleeping in the driver’s seat, head wrapped with Kafia. The
Sudanese woke Peppo up
while mumbling a few Arab words.
came clear to both of them who the other one was, the Sudanese placed his rifle on Peppo's neck in order to choke him.
Peppo grabbed the
Sudanese's gun and tried to remove it while screaming "Nimrod!". The other
Sudanese, whom I ran into,
retrospect, I asked Peppo why he shouted "Nimrod". Apparently he got confused (understandably) and called out to Nimrod
Eshel (Nimrod and I belonged to a group of Palyam which had recently joined the 9th Battalion, and were also
previously with the jeep platoon). I never asked him, and until this day it's unclear to me why he didn't call his
soldiers who were in their foxholes not far away from the Command car.
The armored Car Company of the 9th battalion moving towards
south to join the Battalion. The Company was made up of 12 armored cars, and about 40% of the crew were overseas
volunteers (Machal) from South Africa,
USA, England, so the orders also went out in a mixture of English and Hebrew.
"Negev Beasts" (Hayot Hanegev) was the original and informal name of the 9th battalion Jeep company
motorized commando of the Palmach Negev Brigade (Hativat Hanegev), a unique military force that played a key role in liberating the Negev in the
Israel War of Independencee.
Eyes of the Beholder relates some of the exploits of this little jeep unit, composed of Machal (overseas) volunteers from all
over the world, as well as young Israeli Palmachniks like Avraham Adan (Bren), later General Bren, Mordechai (Motta) Gur
and Haim Bar Lev. These are the men who conquered Beersheva and who raised the famous ink flag in Eilat. The book
includes priceless photos and maps. It is a valuable first person account of what really happened, as well as a memorial
to the Machal volunteers and Israeli soldiers who fought to defend Israel in 1948.
Colonel David (Migdal) Teperson, author of Eyes of the Beholder, grew up in the South African veldt, lived in
the Kalahari desert, and learned the ways of the wild from age 13. His learned survival skills were aided by his 6' 6"
frame and restless iron-clad constitution. He volunteered to defend the new state of Israel, serving first in the
Alexandroni Brigade and later in the Negev Beasts in 1948, and fighting in every war of Israel. These excerpts from the book are presented to honor the Machal
volunteers and others who served in the Israel war of Independence and to give a close-up look at the history of that
war and at the young men and women who made the state of Israel possible. The patch at right is the symbol of the
Motorized Commando Unit.
Eyes of the Beholder is
copyright © by David Teperson, 2008. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted
in any form or by any means, without permission. Material appearing in these Web pages is reproduced by permission. To
obtain printed copies of the entire book, contact Colonel David Teperson, P.O. BOX 9590, KFAR SHMARYAHU ISRAEL. 46910
TEL: 972-9-9582718 FAX: 972-9-9560673 E-MAIL: DAVE_TEP(at)NETVISION.NET.IL
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