By Alden Oreck
The Israeli attack on Qibya, Jordan, came against the backdrop of repeated cross-border attacks by Jordanians on Israeli civilians in the years after Israel's War of Independence. After the June 1949 cease-fire between Israel and its Arab neighbors, including Jordan, with whom Israel shared its longest international border, the Mixed Armistice Commission and United Nations Truce Supervision Organization were set up to lessen the danger of violence along Israel's borders. Both failed. Between June 1949 and October 1954, Israel accused Jordan of violating the armistice agreement 1,612 times, killing at least 124 Israelis, wounding hundreds more.
On October 13, 1953, Jordanian terrorists infiltrated the Israeli border and threw a grenade into a house, killing a mother and two children in Tiryat Yehuda. In an effort to prevent further attacks and protect its borders, Israel launched a reprisal raid on Qibiya, a Jordanian town across the border from Tiryat Yehuda. Unit 101, led by then Colonel Ariel Sharon, destroyed 50 homes, killing 69 Jordanian civilians who were hidden inside and had gone unnoticed. Although Sharon claimed he did not know the houses were occupied, the event still shocked and embarrassed Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Nevertheless, the attack, and other such reprisal raids on Jordanian terrorist and army posts brought relative quiet to Israel's Jordanian border.
Sources: Shipler, David. Arab and Jew. NY: Penguin Books, 1987.
Sachar, Howard. A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time. NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998.