Former Commander Of Deadly King David Hotel Attack DiesSERGEI SHARGORODSKY , Associated Press
Nov. 4, 1990 12:45 PM ET
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Yisrael Levy, an underground fighter in Israel's struggle for independence who carried out the 1946 bombing of a Jerusalem hotel that killed 91 people, has died. He was 64.
Levy died Friday and was buried the same day, according to a death notice in the press. The cause of death was not given.
Levy belonged to Irgun Zvai Leumi, the militant Jewish underground that, led by Menachem Begin, fought the British for independence in the 1940s. Irgun carried out dozens of attacks on British army, government and police targets.
Its deadliest operation was the bombing of the King David, a luxury six- story hotel that housed the British Government Secretariat and army headquarters.
The Jerusalem-born Levy, who joined Irgun at age 14 and used the nom de guerre of Gideon, was entrusted with the mission, having already participated in a bombing of British police headquarters in Jerusalem in 1945.
''Giddy's tremendous inventive and creative powers were called upon to the full,'' Begin recalled in his memoirs, ''The Revolt.'' Begin was prime minister from 1977 to 1983.
''It is not simple to penetrate the very heart of the military government ... We were well aware that this was the largest of our operations to date and that it might turn out to be unique in the history of partisan wars of liberation,'' Begin wrote.
On the morning of July 22, 1946, Levy and his accomplices entered the La Regence Cafe in the hotel basement dressed as Arabs and planted milk cans packed with 500 pounds of explosives. Levy was reportedly disguised as a Sudanese waiter.
No customers were in the cafe. The attackers locked La Regence's 15 Arab workers in a side room and set the timers to go off 30 minutes later. Two British officers who entered the cafe clashed with the attackers and one officer was shot and killed, while the other was wounded.
Outside the hotel, an Irgun cover team exchanged fire with British soldiers and then set off a firecracker. In the confusion, the attackers freed the Arabs then fled.
''Suddenly, the whole town seemed to shudder ... the entire wing of a huge building was cut off as with a knife,'' Begin recalled.
The 200 casualties included 91 dead, among them senior British officers, 15 Jews who worked for the British government, and several Arabs. The Irgun suffered one fatality.
Begin said the Irgun had telephoned warnings to the hotel, the French Consulate and the Palestine Post newspaper about 25 minutes before the blast.
The bloodbath resulted in ''days of pain and nights of sorrow'' for the Irgun, Begin wrote.
The attack haunted Levy for years, according to friends of his quoted in the daily Yedioth Ahronoth.
Levy stayed with the Irgun until it was disbanded in 1948, the year Israel won statehood. He later became a stationery store-owner and lived a quiet life in suburban Tel Aviv.
''He was a modest man, a family man,'' said Yehiel Kadishai, an aide to Begin. ''I don't recall him ever speaking about the (King David) operation.''
He is survived by a wife, two daughters and a son.