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Thursday, March 13, 2008

April 11, 1956: Terrorists attack school synagogue

From Time:
It was just after dusk, and 46 skull-capped youngsters stood at their evening prayers in the synagogue of the Shafrir village farm school just outside Tel Aviv. They prayed: "If any design evil against me, speedily make their counsel of no effect and frustrate their designs. Do it for the sake of Thy . . ."

From outside came the sound of a scuffled foot. The door burst in with a crash; the lights went out. It was the fedayeen (self-sacrificers), members of specially trained Arab assassin squads, who had crept north from the Egyptian-held Gaza strip. Submachine guns thundered in the room, and ten-year-olds went down in windows. Three boys and a teacher died almost instantly; three others fell badly wounded. Others jumped out of windows, took shelter in a ditch. The killers fled. It was minutes before a teacher broke open the lock on the school telephone and called police.

The raid was the deadliest of many launched last week by fedayeen irregulars as Egypt and Israel verged on war across the tensest frontier in the world. Nine Jews were killed, more than 50 were injured in some 30 reported attacks. The raiders, mainly Palestinian Arabs recruited from the Gaza border camps (and not technically in the Egyptian army), struck hardest in the coastal plain, always at night. No citizen of the tiny republic was safe from the "Nights of Horror," as Cairo's newspaper Al Akhbar jubilantly headlined the raids, and never was a U.S. diplomat's remark more terrifyingly apt: "Every Israeli sleeps within 20 miles of an Arab knife."