Today is the 64th anniversary of the massacre of the villagers of Deir Yassin, the best known of the many massacres perpetrated by Zionist forces in 1948 as part of their concerted attempt to 'cleanse' Palestine of its indigenous Arab population.
What follows is an excerpt from the testimony of Jacques de Reynier the senior International Red Cross representative in Palestine at the time:
"The [Irgun] gang was wearing country uniform, with helmets. All of them were young, some even adolescents, men and women, armed to the teeth: revolvers, machine-guns, hand grenades, and also large cutlasses in their hands, most of them still blood-stained. A beautiful young girl, with criminal eyes, showed me hers still dripping with blood; she displayed it like a trophy. This was the 'cleaning up' team, that was obviously performing its task very conscientiously.
"I tried to go into a house. A dozen soldiers surrounded me, their machine-guns aimed at my body, and their officer forbade me to move. The dead, if any, would be brought to me, he said. I then flew into one of the most towering rages of my life, telling these criminals what I thought of their conduct, threatening them with everything I could think of, and then pushed them aside and went into the house.
"The first room was dark, everything was in disorder, but there was no one. In the second, amid disembowelled furniture and covers and all sorts of debris, I found some bodies cold. Here, the 'cleaning up' had been done with machine-guns, then hand grenades. It had been finished off with knives, anyone could see that. The same thing in the next room, but as I was about to leave, I heard something like a sigh. I looked everywhere, turned over all the bodies, and eventually found a little foot, still warm. It was a little girl of ten, mutilated by a hand grenade, but still alive. As I was about to carry her out, the officer tried to stop me, blocking the doorway. I pushed him aside and went through with my precious load protected by my good friend the glass cupboard*. The ambulance set off, with orders to come back as soon as possible. As the gang had not dared to attack me directly, I could continue. I gave orders for the bodies in this house to be loaded on the truck, and went into the next house, and so on. Everywhere, it was the same horrible sight. I found only two more people alive, both women, one of them an old grandmother, hidden behind a heap of firewood where she had kept quiet for at least 24 hours.
"There had been 400 people in this village; about fifty of them had escaped, and were still alive. All the rest had been deliberately massacred in cold blood for, as I observed for myself, this gang was admirably disciplined and only acted under orders.
"Back in Jerusalem I went straight to the Jewish Agency where I found the leaders dismayed, apologetic and pretending, which indeed was true, that they had no power over the Irgun and the Stern Gang. However they had done nothing to try and prevent about a hundred men from committing this unspeakable crime." (From Haven to Conquest: Readings in Zionism & the Palestine Problem Until 1948, edited by Walid Khalidi, 1971, pp 763-764)
[*de Reynier's description of one of his companions: "a huge fellow... as large as a cupboard."]