Lydda“The strategically situated towns of Ramleh and Lydda which were constant threats to the Tel Aviv area and control the Tel Aviv Jerusalem road, were surrounded tonight by Israeli forces.

They were encircled after the last remaining Arab strongholds on the periphery of the Ramleh-Lydda area had been captured this morning.

[Israeli military headquarters announced later that Lydda had surrendered to Israeli forces who immediately occupied the Arab village. The Associated Press reported.  An ultimatum to surrender by Monday morning or face a tank and artillery bombardment had been given to the Arabs in the two villages.

Two Egyptian Spitfires dropped a few bombs Sunday on Jerusalem, in the first air raid in its history.  Four children were injured.]

This encirclement gives to the Israeli forces a military advantage that seemed inconceivable even up to the time of the truce.  It places them in a position where, if Ramleh and Lydda are taken as expected, the only main objective left before the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem road can be reopened is Arab-held Latrun.  Latrun has been cut off from its supply base at Ramleh and its defenders must depend on Arab centers in Ramallah, which is the nearest assembly point, or in the triangle of Nablus-Jenin-Tulkarm.

Position Seems Hopeless

Mopping up operations were still going on tonight, with armored car of both sides darting back and forth and mortar fire crashing about.  However, because of the seemingly hopeless position of the Arabs, there appeared to be little hope thing better for them than a disorderly retreat.

The Arabs were left little choice of direction in their withdrawal.  They had to flee eastward and over camel trails.  Their road north toward Ras el Ein, had been cut at el Qubab, which was in Israeli hands.

Up to dawn this morning they could have fled along the main road from Lydda through Ben Shemen, but this, too, was in Israeli hands.  All the Arabs could do tonight was to race directly east-ward over rocky and dusty trails in the direction of Ramallah.

It is expected that most of the routed troops will head for Latrun to the Southeast, to reinforce the battalions there.  It does not require a military strategist to determine that Latrun is high on the list of Israeli objectives.  If Latrun can be taken, Jerusalem will again be free as the Israeli forces hold everything beyond that point on the road to Jerusalem.

Artillery Reserve Reduced

Another important objective taken today in the same general campaign was the Arab stronghold of Beit Naballa, from where the Arabs had been shelling Wihelma yesterday after it had been captured by Israel.  By taking out Beit Naball, the Israeli forces removed one of the principal remaining threats in the area, and considerably reduced Arab artillery reserve.

When Ramleh and Lydda were surrounded, there was not a single Arab gun of large caliber within artillery range.  The nearest point for heavy artillery was Qibya, east of Beit Naballa and about eight miles from Lydda.

When the exception of Qibya, Latrun and Ras el Ein there is no threat left to the Tel Aviv area.  Ras el Ein, which is near Petah Tiqva, is the source of Jerusalem’s water supply, and is now held by the Iraqis.  The Iraqis, however, have but one military supply line since the encirclement of Lydda and are not in a position considered a tactically strong.

As part of the general offensive, although on the so-called southern front, Israeli units captured four villages along the main El Majdal-Latrun road, thus preventing the Egyptians from reinforcing Latrun without taking a roundabout desert trip past Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

The Egyptians remained bottled up around Ashdod.  But even if they broke out, they could no longer follow their original plan of braking through to Latrun with the capture of El Masmiyeh, Jaladiya, Tina and Sumsum, all of which command the main Latrun highway.

Egyptain planes were over Tel Aviv again today and injured seven persons”

Source: New York Times, July 12, 1948