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IDF Negev Beasts -  Operation Yoav - Part I

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Operation Yoav In the Israel War of Independence opened the way to the Negev (southern Israel) which had been blocked by the invading Egyptian army. This excerpt from "Eyes of the Beholder" by Col. David Terperson tells of the part of the Negev Beasts commando in this very large operation. The Negev beasts performed commando raids and intelligence in operation Yoav, and participated in the capture of Beersheva in October of 1948. For general background on the operation, see Operation Yoav


After being re-equipped, the whole brigade, including the 9th Battalion and my jeep company, moved South, and sometime around the 6th of October (my birthday), we started to go through the Egyptian lines that cut the Negev off from the Israeli side. Our jeep company had orders not to speak to anyone, as we passed Bedouin camps and Egyptian positions, thinking that we were Egyptian units, we were welcomed in Arabic. We started our trip back after 12 o’clock at night, no lights, traveling as a convoy. We managed to get through the Egyptian lines without any incident, and continued all the way down to Kibbutz Gvulot, which is on the Beersheba Wadi. We hid our jeeps and other transport vehicles in the Wadi, where we slept. In the early morning, Egyptian Spitfires attacked us, but because of the zigzag of the Wadi and the high walls we were protected, except for one command car which was hit. We all survived. We moved out and prepared ourselves for the next part of our actions. We always had to be on the lookout for Egyptian Spitfires despite an official ceasefire. In fact, the ceasefire did not really exist in the Negev. The Egyptians did not attack us again nor did they try to take control of any more territory. Some of the jeeps patrolled the water pipeline leading to Kibbutzim in the Negev to protect it from Bedouins trying to blow it up.

Map - Operation Yoav, IDF 1948

Operation “Yoav” opened up the road to the cut-off Negev. The Jeep Company took part in the raids (shown by the dotted lines) and in the capture of Beersheba.

After returning to the Negev, we carried out a commando raid by night from the Egyptian railway line running from Khan-Yunis to Gaza. We cleared the mines in the Wadi between Egyptian fortified positions on the Gaza strip border, went through with two armored cars and 12 jeeps following, till we hit the Khan-Yunis-Gaza road, where our armored cars ambushed Egyptian vehicles on the road, shot them up and destroyed them. The 12 jeeps lined up, we put our jeeps into four wheel drive, as we had to cross heavy sand dunes. It was a lovely moonlit night. I was driving in the middle. The Egyptians’ camp started firing at us. All 13 jeeps lined up in a straight line next to each other, approximately 10 meters apart, and started moving forward firing our MG34 machine guns. The going was tough through the sand dunes. I will never forget the two jeeps on either side of me, shooting with tracer bullets. As we went through, we discovered more and more dead Egyptians and dead donkeys. The Egyptians had all run away. After a while, the back gunner started firing over my head, the empty shells falling on me. The noise from the firing guns, the flashes – all together was like a big fireworks show in the dark. It was a beautiful sight. I was driving in the middle of the twelve jeeps and had a beautiful view on both sides of the display. With all the noise, excitement of being in action and the fireworks display your fear disappears and you start doing what you were trained to do.

The going was tough, the sand was heavy, so it was decided that we could not make the railway line in time to get back to our lines, so we turned around and went back with our back machine-gunners firing towards the Egyptians all the time. We shot at a couple of the Egyptian trucks we had ambushed on the road and their soldiers ran away. We returned to our lines before daybreak. After getting back to our side, all the tension and excitement of the raid released itself in joking, laughing and talking about events. It took us a while to fall asleep, even though we were exhausted. The fear was there, but by being busy fighting we were able to completely control it. It was a very exciting experience. I believe the main idea of our raids behind their lines was to force the Egyptians to bring reinforcements to protect their flank around Gaza.

In the coming days, we also raided Egyptian positions opposite Kibbutz Be’eri and around Rafah. The raids consisted of jeeps coming close to the Egyptians’ positions, firing machine-guns and then driving away. We fired mortar shells at their positions and the Egyptians would open up with everything they had, enabling us to see their machine-gun positions. Again, these raids forced the Egyptians to move part of their forces from the North to reinforce and protect the areas in the southern Gaza strip where our raids took place. We even took our heavy Bezer machine-guns that could fire over the horizon at the Egyptian positions opposite the Gaza strip. As usual, being very nervous, they would open up with everything they had, causing the Egyptians to move troops again from the Northern parts towards Gaza and the South. Our next objective was the capture of Beersheba and the opening up of the Negev with the Givati Brigade, together with the 8th Armored Commando Brigade. Two days later, on the 21st October, the 9th Palmach Battalion of the Negev Brigade and the French Commando, with the assistance of the 89th Armored Half-track Battalion, attacked and captured Beersheba. I will describe this later in my story. Up until the capture of Beersheba, we continued training and attacking Egyptian positions all along the Gaza strip.

 


"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 Independence.

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.


Copyright

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

Negev Beasts Insignia - IDF/Palmach 1948

Negev Beasts - Main Page


See also:Palestine Partition - November 29, 1947 Memoirs of a Palmach volunteer, 1948 , Was there Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine in 1948?
Israel - Birth of a Nation - The struggle for Israel's independence 
1948 Israel War of Independence (First Arab-Israeli war) Timeline (Chronology) MACHAL In Israel's Wars MACHAL in Israel's War of Independence MACHAL - in illegal immigration to Palestine and Israel War of Independence

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