al-Batani al-Gharbi
District: Gaza
Population 1948: 1140
Occupation date: 10/06/1948
Military operation: Barak
Occupying unit: Giva'ati
Jewish settlements on village\town land before 1948: None
Jewish settlements on the built-up area of the village\town after 1948: None
Jewish settlements on village\town land after 1948: A part of Azrikam

The village stood on flat terrain on the southern coastal plain. It was one of two villages named al-Batani. Its twin, al-Batani al-Sharqi, lay to the east. The names of the two villages identified one as “eastern (sharqi) and the other as western (gharbi). A military airport was built  during the Mandate on flat land about 2 km south of the village. Secondary roads linked al-Batani al-Gharbi to adjacent villages, including Yasur and Isdud on the coastal highway. The earliest available reference to al-Batani indicates that it was originally founded as a “ranch” for the first Umayyad caliph, Mu’awiya ibn Abi Sufyan (AD 661-680). In the late nineteenth century, the village of al-Batani al-Gharbi was situated on low ground and had a rectangular shape, extending along a southeast-northwest line. Construction initially expanded along the two short sides of the rectangle, then along the roads to other villages. The village houses,  made of adobe brick with wood and cane roofs, were built close together, separated by narrow alleys. Along with a pond and a few wells, scattered patches of garden could be seen on the village lands. The two al-Batanis shared an elementary school that was opened in 1947 with an initial enrollment of 119 students. The population was Muslim, and the village had its own mosque as well as a number of small shops.The villagers worked mainly in agriculture, cultivating, among other crops, grain and citrus. In 1944/45 a total of 170 dunums was devoted to citrus and bananas and 4,152 dunums were allotted to cereals; 95 dunums were irrigated or used for orchards. Agriculture was both rainfed and irrigated from wells that were scattered across the landscape. These wells also supplied water for domestic use. In addition to crop cultivation, the community engaged in animal husbandry and poultry raising.

Occupation and Depopulation

Al-Batani al-Gharbi was one of four villages occupied on 18 May 1948 during Operation Barak. Israeli historian Benny Morris states that “most of the inhabitants of these villages had fled either before or during the attack; a few were probably expelled.” Al-Batani al-Gharbi was occupied a few days after the fall of Al-Batani al-Sharqi, which had been entered on the first stage of the same operation.

Operation Barak was aimed at the villages south and west of al-Ramla. It was launched on 9 May 1948, manly by the Haganah’s Giv’ati Brigade, to “clear” the southern and western ends of its zone of control before 15 May. The Palmach’s Negev Brigade also took part; it moved toward al-Ramla from the south, while the Giv’ati Brigade approached al-Ramla from he north. The operational plan was that the Giv’ati Brigade would fan out from its headquarters in the settlement of Rechovot, west of al-Ramla. Its objective was to “deny the enemy a base… creating general panic and breaking his morale…” in the words of the operational orders quoted by Morris. He reports that one of the declared aims was to drive out  large number of Palestinians from the villages in the occupied area. By the end of May the two brigades had succeeded in occupying over thirty villages and “clearing” the area of tens of thousands of people.

The Giv’ati Brigade expanded the area under its control in this operation and “cleared” the coastal area west of al-Ramla and Lydda, in accordance with Plan Dalet. The plan’s guidelines to the commander of the brigade, Shim’on Avidan, said, in part: “You will determine alone, in consultation with your Arab affairs advisers and Intelligence Service officers, (which) villages in your zone should be occupied, cleaned up or destroyed.” In keeping with the Giv’ati Brigade’s practice during this operation, any villagers who remained in a village after it had been occupied were subject to expulsion.

As British forces withdrew from Palestine, on 15 May 1948, the Haganah launched the second stage of Operation Barak  in the south of the country. Al-Batani al-Gharbi was one of the villages to be occupied during this second stage of the operation.

Israeli Settlements on Village Lands

There are no Israeli settlements on village land. The settlement of ‘Azriqam established in 1950, is close to the village site, to the south, on the land of Bayt Daras.

The Village Today

Cactuses and fig and sycamore trees grow on the site, and some of the village street are still clearly recognizable. The adjacent land is partially cultivated by the nearby kibbutz. A stone quarry is also located on village lands.

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Source: All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948. Walid Khalidi. Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992.

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