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Photographing the battle of Latrun


Battle of Latrun
Uri Avnery Social activist
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At the beginning of May, we needed to bring another convoy to Jerusalem and they added my company. Throughout the whole war, I was with the 54th battalion of the Givati Brigade. The 52nd battalion of the Givati Brigade was ordered to clear the route to Jerusalem as far as Harel. From there Yitzhak Rabin and Harel had to clear the road onwards to Jerusalem. Then the convoy was assembled. We joined the 51st battalion whose commander was a man named Yuval Ne'eman, and that was how I met him. We sent reconnaissance forward to assess the situation on the ground. After about an hour they returned carrying lots of casualties. The road was blocked near Latrun by the Qawuqji troops which was a sort of semi-regular army force from Galilee led by Lebanese Fawzi al-Qawuqji. But we had to open the road. So we all got together, the entire force, to Latrun, to conquer Latrun.

Before Latrun, 100-200 meters before Latrun, we were told to get out of the vehicles. That was where I met Yuval Ne'eman, who commanded the operation, and he told us: ‘You go straight. You reach the hill, focus on the hill. Dig in and try not to let them see you and cover the main force that will move forward to Latrun’. So I had a unique role to play; I was with a squad or two, we sat in the trenches that we had dug during the night on that hill like we were sitting in the balcony at a theatre, and down below us a battle was taking place. And what a battle! It was the first time we heard cannons! We did not even know what a cannon was. Qawuqji already had cannons.

בראשית מאי היינו צריכים להביא עוד שיירה לירושלים, וצירפו את הפלוגה שלי. אני הייתי שייך תמיד, כל המלחמה, לגדוד 54 של גבעתי. וגדוד 52 של גבעתי קיבל את הג'וב לטהר את הדרך לירושלים עד הראל. משם יצחק רבין והראל היו צריכים לנקות את הכביש משם ועד ירושלים. אז התאספה שיירה. אותנו צירפו לפלוגה של 51, שהמפקד שלה היה אדם בשם יובל נאמן, כך הכרתי אותו. ושלחנו קדימה איזה סיירת לראות מה מצב השטח. אחרי איזה שעה הם חוזרים עמוסים בהרוגים. הכביש חסום ליד לטרון ונמצא שמה הצבא של קאוקג'י שירד מהגליל והוא היה צבא חצי-סדיר נגיד. אבל מוכרחים לפתוח את הכביש. אז עלינו כולנו, כל הכוח, ללטרון לכבוש את לטרון. לפני לטרון, כמאה-מאתיים מטר לפני לטרון הורידו אותנו מהמכוניות. שם פגשתי את יובל נאמן, שפיקד על הפעולה, והוא אמר לנו: "אתם תלכו ישר. תגיעו לגבעה, תתמקדו על הגבעה. תתחפרו, תשתדלו שלא יראו אתכם, ותחפו על הכוח העיקרי שהוא יתקדם ללטרון”. וכך היה לי מחזה יחיד במינו, שאני עם כיתה אחת או שתיים, ישבנו בשוחות שחפרנו בלילה על הגבעה הזאת, כמו שיושבים ביציע של תיאטרון, ולמטה, לרגלינו, התחולל קרב. ואיזה קרב! ‏בפעם הראשונה שמענו תותחים! לא ידענו מה זה תותח. קאוקג'י היו לו כבר תותחים.‏

Uri Avnery (1923-2018) was an Israeli writer, journalist and founder of the Gush Shalom peace movement. As a teenager, he joined the Zionist paramilitary group, Irgun. Later, Avnery was elected to the Knesset from 1965 to 1974 and from 1979 to 1981. He was also the editor-in-chief of the weekly news magazine, 'HaOlam HaZeh' from 1950 until it closed in 1993. He famously crossed the lines during the Siege of Beirut to meet Yasser Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli. Avnery was the author of several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including '1948: A Soldier's Tale, the Bloody Road to Jerusalem' (2008); 'Israel's Vicious Circle' (2008); and 'My Friend, the Enemy' (1986).

Listeners: Anat Saragusti

Anat Saragusti is a film-maker, book editor and a freelance journalist and writer. She was a senior staff member at the weekly news magazine Ha'olam Hazeh, where she was prominent in covering major events in Israel. Uri Avnery was the publisher and chief editor of the Magazine, and Saragusti worked closely with him for over a decade. With the closing of Ha'olam Hazeh in 1993, Anat Saragusti joined the group that established TV Channel 2 News Company and was appointed as its reporter in Gaza. She later became the chief editor of the evening news bulletin. Concurrently, she studied law and gained a Master's degree from Tel Aviv University.

Tags: Harel, Givati Brigade, Latrun, Yuval Ne’eman, Fawzi al-Qawuqji, Yitzhak Rabin

Duration: 2 minutes, 43 seconds

Date story recorded: October 2015

Date story went live: 10 March 2017