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Operation Uvda

(March 5 - March 10, 1949)

Yigal Allon and Nahum Spiegel during Operation Uvda

Operation Uvda (Hebrew: מבצע עובדה‎, Mivtza Uvda) was an operation conducted by the Israel Defense Forces during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, from March 5 to March 10, 1949. It was the last campaign undertaken by the IDF during the war and its objective was to capture the southern Negev desert, which was claimed by the Kingdom of Jordan to be under Jordanian control in the armistice talks of 1949.

The southern Negev was designated to be part of the Jewish State in the 1947 UN Partition Plan. The name uvda (עובדה) is Hebrew for “fact,” referring to the operation’s objective to establish de facto Israeli sovereignty over the territory in question, rather than actually conquer it. As such, the Israeli forces did not meet significant resistance on their way. The region claimed during this operation is now referred to as Uvda.

On March 5, 1949, (4 Adar 5709) Negev Brigade forces set out from Beersheba to the Ramon Crater, through Bir ‘Asluj. Golani forces simultaneously set out from Mamshit to Ein Husub.

On March 6, the Negev Brigade traveled to Sde Avraham and began to clear land for an airfield there. That night 7th Brigade reinforcements from the Gahal platoon arrived by air carrying supplies and fuel.

On March 7, Golani forces conquered the village of Ein Harouf. On the same day, the Alexandroni Brigade moved from Beersheba through Mamshit toward Sodom. From there it made an amphibious landing near Ein Gedi through the Dead Sea.

On March 8, Golani conquered Ein Ghamr. The defending Jordanian forces withdrew. Simultaneously, Negev forces moved towards Umm Rashrash through the Valley of Fingers. At night, the Alexandroni Brigade set sail from Sodom on the Dead Sea and landed at Ein Gedi before dawn. This was called Operation Itzuv (“Stabilization”).

On March 8–9, the Alexandroni Brigade split into three groups, one of which captured Ein Gedi and the southern group captured Masada. During that time, the Negev Brigade stayed at the Valley of Fingers for two days, looking for a roundabout way to reach Ras al-Naqb.

On March 9, Golani forces captured Gharandal and proceeded to Ein Ghadyan (now Yotvata).

On the morning of March 10, an aerial photographer discovered that the police station guarding Ras al-Naqb was abandoned. The Negev Brigade set out towards Umm Rashrash through Ras al-Naqb.

Historical model of the police station at Umm Rashrash

Negev and Golani Brigades actively competed on who would reach the Red Sea first and, on March 10 at 15:00, the Negev Brigade accomplished the feat, reaching the abandoned police station at Umm Rashrash (where the city of Eilat was later built), one of just three mud buildings near the beach. The Golani Brigade arrived two hours later.

The Israeli forces had wanted to avoid contact with Jordanian forces and were fortunate the Jordanian Legion had retreated to Akaba in Jordan leaving Um-Rashrash undefended.

The raising of the “Ink Flag” and the monument to the event in Eilat

Soldiers found a sheet, drew two ink stripes, and sewed on a Star of David torn from a first-aid kit to create an Israeli flag to symbolize their victory. Operation Uvda was the last military operation during the war, and the raising of the flag at the police station on March 10 at 16:00 is considered the end of Israel’s War of Independence.

The front commander sent this telegram at the conclusion of the campaign: “On Haganah day, the 11th of Adar, the Palmach Negev brigade and the Golani brigade present the Gulf of Eilat to the State of Israel.”

Sources: “Operation Uvda,” Wikipedia.
“Operation Uvda,” The Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Zionism and Israel.

Photos: Ink Flag Monument, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Original Ink Flag - @IDF, (March 10, 2021).
Police station model - Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Allon-Spiegel - Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.