StandingWellBack

You can contact me at rogercdavies(atsquiggle)me.com

This blog has evolved into a review of historical and modern explosive devices, and responses to them. Links are drawn between historical activity and similar activity in the world today. Mostly I focus on what are now called IEDs but I have a loose personal definition of that and wilingly stray into discussions of more traditional munitions, the science and technology behind them, tactical employment and EOD responses. Sometimes it's just about interesting people in one form or another. Comment is welcome and encouraged but I do monitor it and reserve the right to delete inappropriate stuff. Guest posts are always welcome. Avoid any stuff that makes the enemy's job easier for them.

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Entries in Israel (1)

Sunday
Aug102014

1948 Truck Bombs by British Army deserters

This is a strange story in today’s context. One of the biggest vehicle bomb attacks ever occurred in Palestine, just prior to the formation of Israel on 22 February 1948.  Two large IEDs in trucks were initiated simultaneously in Ben Yehuda Sreet in Jerusalem early in the morning.  The devices were contained in British Army trucks, accompanied by an armoured British military police vehicle. There had been a series of incidents over the period before this attack (in the run up to the formation of Israel as a state) and security was high, but as this was apparently a British Army convoy it was allowed through the checkpoints.  On arrival in Ben Yehuda street the trucks were parked up and the occupants, in British military uniform, left in the armoured vehicle. Some reports suggest three vehicles were left.

Three of the participants are believed to have been Azmi Djaoumi, a Palestinian Arab,  Eddie Brown a British military policeman and Cpl Peter Madison.  Both the latter were British Army deserters. The pair had been responsible for an earlier truck bombing against the Palestine Post building using a similar tactic. 
Shortly after they left the scene both trucks detonated. The devices were prepared by Fawzi el Kuttub, a Palestinian bomb maker. Kuttub had a strange history. Tall, blond and with blue eyes he was the lead explosives expert for the Palestinians in Jerusalem, and was allegedly trained by the Nazis in WW2. His nick name amongst the Palestinians was "The Engineer" - not the first to be called this title.
 
At first I was going to take a stab and suggest that the initiation system was probably a standard military delay fuse in each truck. Then I found a description of the earlier attack by the same perpetrators, which described lighting a fuze protruding from the truck with a lit cigarette, and there is one report that some smoke was seen coming from one of the trucks before it detonated, so I’m going to guess that both trucks had burning fuzes as initiation mechanisms. - probably less than a few minutes in terms of duration.  Of significant interest is a single report I have found suggesting that the initiation fuze was inside a metal tube attached to the dash board of each truck, so that once ignited it could not be accessed easily.
 
I have been unable to ascertain exactly how far away from each other the trucks were parked - there may have been two explosions or one may have initiated the other.  But this is just a guess. The explosive content is interesting - each truck reportedly contained a ton of TNT, but in addition 200lbs of a home made mix which included aluminium powder, and possibly potassium nitrate, packed into a dozen oil cans.
The explosion demolished four buildings and killed about 60 people.   If we assume that the two trucks contained between them over 2 tons of explosives, and both detonated together, that’s one of the bigger vehicle bombs  in history.  
The incident added to that strange triangular violence of the time with Palestinians, Jews and the British at the three corners and elements of each corner with elements taking more and more extreme actions. No side comes out well.   As for the British Army some deserters did support the Palestinian Arab side and others the Haganah.  The Irgun used vehicle bombs too.
 
Ben Yehuda street as been the the scene of a number of terrorist bombs since then.
 
The deserters, Brown and Madison went to Cairo in expectation of a reward of £1000 from from the Mufti of Jerusalem. However they were given nothing and left empty handed. I can’t find out what happened to them both.