Palestine in the Second World War

Palestine, territory along the Jordan River, was absorbed into the Ottoman Empire in 1517 and remained under Turkish rule until being conquered by General Edmund Allenby and the British Army in 1917. Three years later Palestine became a British mandated territory.

Throughout the 1920s there were clashes between Arabs and Jews and in 1929 there were over 200 deaths in fighting around Jerusalem.

After Adolf Hitler gained power in Germany a growing number of Jews tried to emigrate to Palestine. Overall, Jewish immigration to Palestine increased from 4,075 in 1931 to 61,854 in 1935. It was estimated that at this rate of increase Jews would outnumber Arabs by the end of the decade.

In 1936 thirty-four members of the British Army were killed trying to keep the two groups apart. British soldiers also came under attack from Jewish terrorists and the British government attempted to imposed restrictions on immigration to Palestine and attempted to prevent unauthorized landings of immigrants along the coast.

Palestine was of strategic importance to the British government as it provided a defence for the northern flank of the Suez Canal. In order to gain support of the Arabs in the region Britain decided to halt almost all Jewish immigration in 1939.

In June 1941 the British Army and Free French forces entered Syria from Palestine. After facing tough resistance from the Vichy forces the Allies captured Damascus on 17th June. The armistice was signed on 12th July and pro-British regimes were maintained in Syria for the rest of the war.