Late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (left) sitting with fellow PLO fighters in a guerilla camp in Jordan, 1966. (WAFA)
Ramallah (UNA-OIC) – On this day 53 years ago, in the morning of March 21, 1968, about 15,000 Israeli occupying troops began a military assault on the military bases of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), on the East Bank of Jordan River.
Some 15,000 Israeli infantry troops, with dozens of tanks, attacked the Karameh camp near the King Hussein Bridge, hoping to eliminate the PLO fedayeen (commandos) under the command of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who were based there.
The Jordanian Armed Forces artillery stopped Israel’s tank column at the Allenby Bridge, near the crossroads of the main road from Shuna to Karama, while Palestinian commandos were able to destroy several of Israel’s tanks and armored cars, and engaged Israel’s airborne troops entering the town of Karameh.
In a 15-hour battle, just a few hundred commandos and civilians from the camp, with military and logistic support from the Jordanian Armed Forces, inflicted unprecedented losses on the invading Israeli troops.
The town was destroyed after fierce fighting between Israel’s troops and approximately 200 to 300 Palestinian commandos. Israel admitted losing 21 soldiers, but the Palestinians said the real figure was over 200.
Although the total number of Palestinian dead, injured and captured exceeded those lost by Israel and that the Israeli occupation army destroyed the camp, the battle marked the first time that Palestinian troops successfully confronted their enemy face to face.
The significance of the battle lays in the fact that, for the first time, Palestinian fighters had successfully engaged Israel’s army, scoring a major symbolic victory.
After Karameh, thousands of young Palestinians joined the PLO’s guerrilla wings and began paramilitary training.
The Battle of Karameh, which literally means “battle of dignity” in Arabic, ushered in a new phase. Although the battle may not be big in scale when compared to larger and longer battles before or after 1968, yet it reminds us more than half a century later that the occupying state of Israel can be forced to recalculate its potential.