“Sandala Massacre” remained hidden over the years but archived in the hearts of Palestinian victims’ families, even though no desire had pushed them to narrate it years after it occurred due to the horrible events.
A few years ago, the veil was lifted on the details of the “Sandala Massacre,” and it became known to only a few Palestinians. However, many of them are still unaware of it to this day, which marks its 66th historical anniversary.
On September 17th, 1957, the tragic Sandala Massacre took place in an area between Jenin and Nazareth, targeting children while on their way to school. It ended during their journey back home when they were torn apart by an Israeli occupation bomb, leaving their limbs scattered everywhere.
It was 2:00 PM on Tuesday when the bell rang at the Sandala-Muqaybilah Joint School, which was located over a kilometre away from the village of Sandala. The children had to walk this distance daily to attend school, relying solely on their feet.
The bell that rang for their departure, sadly, marked a tragic end with no return
Rashad Amari, one of the witnesses to the massacre, recounts the details to the “Safa” agency, revealing that 15 children from Sandala left their school that day after the bell rang for departure. While they were crossing that long distance, they came across a bomb from an Israeli tank. Curious and astonished, they approached it, only for it to explode in an instant, taking their lives.
He describes the scene as his father recounted it to him: “The sound of the explosion was terrifying and immense on that day, and dust darted and scattered everywhere in Sandala due to its intensity. The residents rushed towards the sound, only to find torn and fragmented remains, with no trace of their children’s features. They were 15 children, their blood mixed, and their identities erased”
The cries of the residents, women and men, young and old, rose high as they witnessed the remains of their children. The earth trembled with their overwhelming emotions, and the scene was shrouded in doubt as they attempted to comprehend what had happened, though they couldn’t fathom it.
Reaping Dead Bodies
The blood and ripped bodies had transformed the month of September, which had been a season for harvesting summer crops, especially the olive harvest, into a tragedy. The residents, instead, were gathering their children’s remains and reaping the lives of their children as a price of the Israeli occupation’s presence in their lands.
Due to its remote location near the Jenin border, the massacre in Sandala did not receive attention from the media or political parties, nor did it ring in the ears of the United Nations or other organizations.
Days and years passed, and the Sandala massacre was forgotten, almost unknown to anyone, except for those who had witnessed it and couldn’t bear to recall its horrors.
“Whenever I asked my father to tell me what happened, he would get angry and refuse, saying, ‘Don’t remind me, my son. Don’t ask me. Don’t reopen my wounds,” Amrie recalled.
The people of Sandala kept this horrible massacre in their hearts, unwilling to evoke the ugliness of those memories. None of the international organizations or political parties investigated the massacre, and it remained undocumented like many other atrocities committed in Palestine since the Nakba in 1948. The Communist Party in ‘Israel’ was only inquiring about what had happened.
Rashad Amari asserted that the perpetrators of the massacre and those who dropped the bomb remain unidentified until today, but their descendants continue to expand in Palestine, committing more massacres through airplanes, tanks, and bullets.
“It was revealed in recent years that another massacre had occurred in Sandala, and the residents currently have an annual festival to commemorate its memory on the village’s land,” he added.
The darkness of September resonating in the memory of the Sandala people is not only confined to the massacre of the fifteen children. In the same month during the Nakba in 1948, Israeli occupation forces assassinated Sheikh Saleh Amari, who was one of the senior religious leaders of Palestine.
Rashad Amari narrates, “Yes, Sheikh Saleh Amari had studied at Al-Azhar and served as the Imam of the Sheikh Abdullah Mosque in the Haliisa neighbourhood of Haifa. While returning to Sandala from there, he was assassinated, and to this day, we don’t know where they hid his body.”
Surprisingly, all the victims of the Sandala massacre, the 15 children, belonged to the Amari family, which has been residing in Sandala for decades.
The population of the village at the time of the massacre was approximately 300 people. Therefore, Amari comments, “Imagine that an entire generation fell victim to this massacre, meaning that in every house, there was a martyr.”
The tragedy has not ceased over the years. Just two months ago, the people of Sandala and the Amari family in particular confronted the same scene, perpetrated by a grandson of the killers of the 15 children. Th young boy Diyar Amari was murdered as he was returning to his village in the Marj Ben Amer area in May 2023.
Since the murder of Diyar Amari, Sandala has witnessed large-scale protests and demonstrations, where the residents remembered the tragic massacres that they endured at the hands of Israeli Zionist gangs.
“We continue to pay the price of the Israeli occupation brought to our homeland by the West,” Amari described.
He concluded, “Yesterday, they were 15 children, and today, their brother Diyar is executed. The same killer widens with his tanks, bombs, bullets, and massacres, on land, sea, and air. In this way, we as a people have been for decades.”