Operation Black Arrow

Operation Black Arrow

Operation Black Arrow
Part of the Retribution operations
Fedayeen 1956.jpg
Five fedayeen marauders killed by Israeli border police in chase after attack near Nir Galim.
Date February 28, 1955
Location Gaza
Result Israeli victory
Israel Israel Egypt
Commanders and leaders
Ariel Sharon
Danny Matt
Aharon Davidi
Casualties and losses
8 killed 38 killed

Operation Black Arrow (Hebrew: חץ שחורHetz Shachor) was an Israeli military operation carried out in Gaza (while under Egyptian control) on 28 February 1955. The operation targeted the Egyptian army. Thirty-eight Egyptian soldiers were killed during the operation as were eight Israelis.


The 1948 Arab-Israeli War resulted in a decisive Israeli victory. However, the Arab nations remained intransigent and were only willing to sign armistice agreements with Israel. Thus, a static situation of “no war, no peace,” emerged. Moreover, hundreds of thousands of Arab refugees now camped alongside Israel’s porous borders. The refugees lived in squalor, were kept under martial law and were prevented from gaining citizenship in their respective Arab host countries. Arab governments, but in particular Egypt, sensing the refugees’ discontent, capitalized on the opportunity to recruit embittered Palestinians for terrorist actions against Israel. At first, the infiltrations and border transgressions took the form of petty banditry and thievery. However, by 1954, Egyptian military intelligence was taking an active role in providing various forms of support for Palestinian (Fedayeen) terrorist activity. After one such atrocity, Israel decided to take decisive action against Egypt for its sponsorship of terror and initiated Operation Black Arrow.

Casus Belli

The attack

On February 28, Ariel Sharon, commander of the Paratroop Brigade was issued the go ahead to initiate Operation Black Arrow. That night, a force of 150 paratroops, led by Aharon Davidi and Danny Matt attacked an Egyptian army base near the city of Gaza. An Egyptian military relief convoy was ambushed in route. In total, between thirty-seven and thirty-eight Egyptian soldiers were killed and many more injured for the loss of eight Israelis.


In Egypt there was a sense of humiliation. Not since the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 had the Egyptians suffered such a humiliating blow. Egypt decided to ratchet up its sponsorship of Palestinian terror infiltrations which invited even harsher Israeli retaliatory raids such as Operation Elkayam (72 Egyptian KIA) and Operation Volcano (81 Egyptian KIA, 55 captured). Ultimately, Egyptian provocations such as terror sponsorship and the closure of the Gulf of Eilat to Israeli shipping and air traffic were factors that led to Operation Kadesh in which the Egyptian army was soundly defeated and its Fedayeen bases disbanded.


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