by Osnat Shiran
Osnat Shiran is a History scholar at the Galili Center for Defense Studies
The War of Independence 1948-1949 was a war between the Jewish Settlement (Yishuv) in the Land of Israel and Arabs in the Land of Israel (Palestine) and later between the Army of the State of Israel and the combined armies of the Neighboring Arab States.
The war commenced after the decision by the United Nations on the division of the Land of Israel into two separate states – Jewish and Arab - on November 29, 1947, and continued until July 20, 1949, when a truce agreement was signed – the last country to sign being – Syria.
Until May 1948, the British according to the United Nations mandate, governed the two populations in Israel. The Arabs and Jews had no sovereignty and were not allowed to use military force, but as the British started to leave the land, each side tried to exploit its advantages in order to secure its settlements and control the evacuated strongholds.
The Arab settlements in the Land of Israel were able to survive economically and independently, without relying on the central administration, in contrast with the Jewish Settlements that were constantly dependant on the Central Administration to supply them with all their needs, from electricity, water and food to arms and military supplies. With these conditions, the Institutions of the Yishuv had to make every effort to avoid being cut-off from the settlements themselves, or at least see to it that necessary and frequent connection would ensure communication.
This was the situation with the one hundred thousand inhabitants of Jerusalem. Their main supply route, the main road from Tel Aviv was blocked by a number of Arab villages. The feeling of want, which was worse than the shortage itself, endangered the powers of resistance of the Jewish settlers in Jerusalem.
The leaders of the Hebrew Community could not come to terms with the danger of losing Jerusalem and concerted all their efforts and energy to break through a corridor to Jerusalem. When the road was blocked, numbers of armored vehicles, which were loaded with supplies, gathered together and traveled in convoy under escort. In March 1948, three large convoys were attacked in different parts of the country and as a result it was decided that there was no alternative but to conquer and takeover all the ridges of the hills on both sides of the road. The battles took place during April and May and in the end the Jews held the Eastern part of the road (from Shaar Ha-gai to Jerusalem), and the Arabs held the center part of the road (The Hills of Latrun).