Lydda, Ramleh, Ben Shemen“Striking before dawn today Israeli forces cut deep into Arab territory on the central front, capturing Lydda airport, near-by Wilhelma, which was an Arab Legion stronghold, and six other villages.  The Arabs launched counter attacks later in the day but tonight the situation appeared to be under control.

[A Trans-Jordan communiqué said that Israeli advance toward Bab el Wad on the Jerusalem-Tel Avivi road had been intercepted and repulsed by the Arabs, Press service dispatches said

[Jerusalem also saw the renewal of hostilities, with Arab and Israeli mortars exchanging fire.]

The offensive was the most sweeping and tactically important since the State of Israel was formed.  It appeared to be an enveloping action designed to take out Ramleh, which was Latrun controls the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem main road.  Military observers feel that if Ramleh falls the Arab backbone of the central front will have been broken.

Ramleh now appears to be ringed and could easily become the scene of the country’s most decisive battle.

The Israeli forces put other links in their chain around the area by taking the town of Daniyal and Jimzu just east of Lydda.  These were more or less protective covering for Lydda-Ramleh area.

In the south, Israeli forces claimed to have killed 300 Egyptian and Sudanese troops and captured 200 more since the expiration of the truce.  But they lost Beit Affa and are being heavily shelled at Negba.

The action against the Lydda district was considered one of the most important of the war as it struck into the heart of the Arab Legion forces feeding the Latrun area, knocked out one of their most strategic positions at Wilhelma and regained the country’s largest airport.

The Arabs fled in panic, he said, leaving at least eight armored cars behind  when the Israeli forces swooped in on them from several directions at once.

Other villages in the area taken were Yahudiya, Tira, Rantiya and Qula.  The last name town is situated at an important crossroads north of Lydda on the Arab supply lines from Ramallah and Nablus.

But the richest prize of all was Wihelma, which was founded by the Templars around the turn of the century and later became a camp for German internees.  It is a substantial settlement of red tile-roofed houses of fairly modern design and holds a strategic position on the Lydda-Petah Tqva road to Tel Aviv.

This correspondent visited it today three hours after it was captured and everything seemed serene.  We had a press conference in a peaceful spot under the trees, during which the Arabs launched a counter –attack.

The counter-attack slowed down considerably within half an hour as Israeli Commandoes stormed the outskirts of Beit Nabala just to the east of us.  The attack had been from there.  Late this afternoon they had taken Deir Tarif which is really part of Beit Nabal.

It was from this well fortified sector that the Arabs used to shell Israeli convoys on the Lydda-Tel Aviv road and, with the aid of Wilhelma, kept their iron clad grip on the entire area.”

Source: New York Times, July 11, 1948