Aerial activity in the Negev

One of the ‘Sanegev’ routes ‘Sanegev’ marks the beginning of aerial activity over the Negev.

 

The repeated attacks on the remote and isolated Jewish settlements in the Negev necessitated intensive action by Sherut Ha’avir in that region. The expected rise in the level of routine security activities in the Negev region, and the desire to make the best and most efficient use of the few planes available for defense purposes, created the need for a joint order coordinating the activities of Sherut Ha’avir, the General Staff and the Palmah command in the Negev. Such an order was issued by the Sherut Ha’avir Staff in late December 1947. It was known by the name ‘Sanegev’ – a Hebrew contraction for ‘Negev Patrols’.

In accordance with ‘Sanegev’ regulations, Sherut Ha’avir’s planes carried out patrols over the Negev settlements, in coordination with the ground patrols that were carried out there. They also liaisoned between the ground patrols and the settlements, and called for help from the settlements in case a patrol came under attack. The patrols were planned carefully so as to make maximal use of the available planes and fly over as many of the settlements as possible. The planes also threw down mailbags, newspapers and medical supplies. Occasionally, Sherut Ha’avir’s planes escorted groups of workers and fighters who went out to fix the water pipes, which were constantly being sabotaged by the Beduins. Another function the planes carried out was the ’emergency flights’, that included evacuation of wounded from settlements under attack, often amidst gunfire from both sides.

The character of the operations carried out by Sherut Ha’avir in the Negev was determined by the settlements’ remoteness and the difficulty of transportation and communication in the area, the insufficient weapons, the patchy nature of the information in the pilots’ hands, due to the lack of communications and control systems, and British supervision, which prevented Sherut Ha’avir from having full freedom of action.

The attacks on isolated settlements created a new situation, in which Sherut Ha’avir was called into action at short notice, and had to carry out more complex missions than those it had faced in the past. At the same time that it was organizing and turning into a full-fledged military air force, Sherut Ha’avir’s small nucleus of pilots and light planes found itself dealing with an increasingly intense operational routine.

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