Building destroyed by the air raid
A casualty of the Italian bombing of Tel Aviv on 10 September 1940
Memorial in Tel Aviv to the 137 killed in the Italian Royal Air Force raid of the city on 9 September 1940.
The Italian bombing of Mandatory Palestine in World War II was part of an effort by the Italian Royal Air Force (Regia Aeronautica) to strike at the United Kingdom and its overseas empire throughout the Middle East during World War II.
On 10 June 1940, the Kingdom of Italy declared war on the French Republic and the United Kingdom. The Italian invasion of France was short-lived and the French signed an armistice with the Italians on 25 June, three days after France's armistice with Germany. This left the British and the forces of the Commonwealth of Nations for the Italians to contend with in the Middle East.
The Italian air force wanted to hit the British controlled areas of the Middle East: the refineries and ports of Palestine were the first chosen.
In the early days of the war in Africa, the Italian forces came closer to victory than most realize. One major success that went a long way to allowing the Italians to make a major fight in north Africa was the long-range bombing missions launched by Lt. Colonel Ettore Muti on Palestine and Bahrain which did severe damage to British port facilities and oil refineries. This caused the British considerable logistical problems but also forced them to divert resources to defend the Middle East which were badly needed elsewhere. It also helped relieve the threat to the shipping lanes in the Mediterranean, allowing Italian forces to be moved to north Africa with very few losses. Starting from Italian bases in the Dodecanese Islands, making a wide circle around British bases in Cyprus, the Italian bombers hit British possessions in the Middle East and put the oil refineries in Haifa out of operation for at least a month. British aircraft operating out of Mt Carmel responded but were too late to intercept the Italian bombers as no one had been expecting an attack so far from what most considered the front lines.
Successively on 19 October 1940, four Italian SM.82s bombers attacked American-operated oil refineries in the British Protectorate of Bahrain, damaging the local refineries. The raid also struck Dhahran in Saudi Arabia, but caused little damage.
Starting in July 1940, the Italian bombings in the British Mandate of Palestine were primarily centered on Tel Aviv and Haifa. However, many other coastal towns such as Acre and Jaffa also suffered.
The last Italian bombing on the territories of the British Mandate of Palestine occurred in June 1941. Haifa and Tel Aviv were hit, but with little damage and few casualties.
Bombing of Haifa
Haifa was hit many times by the Italians, because of the port and refinery, starting in June 1940.
The 29 July 1940 issue of Time reported a bombing at Haifa by SM82 bombers during the previous week, with a dozen casualties.
According to Time magazine, the Italians claimed a huge success which the British did not deny.
Where the British oil pipeline from Mosul reaches tidewater, "Ten big Italian bombers, flying at great altitude from the Dodecanese Islands, giving the British bases at Cyprus a wide berth, dropped 50 bombs on the Haifa oil terminal and refinery."
The bombing started fires which burned for many days afterwards, and the refinery's production was blocked for nearly one month.
British fighters from a base on Mount Carmel were too late to overtake the Italians returning to their base in Italian Dodecanese.
Bombing of Tel Aviv
On 9 September 1940, a bombing raid on Tel Aviv caused 137 deaths. There was another raid on Tel Aviv on 12 June 1941 with 13 deaths, done by the Italians or by the French, based in Syria.
Historian Alberto Rosselli pinpointed that the bombing of Tel Aviv that killed 137 people was because the Italian bombers were on their way to the strategic port and refineries of Haifa, but were intercepted by British aircraft. Forced to go back, the Italians received orders to drop their bombs on the port of Tel Aviv, but in attempting to avoid the attacking British planes they dropped the bombs by mistake on a civilian area near the port.