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Acre also Akko, is a city in the Galilee region of Israel/Palestine. It is situated on a low promontory at the northern extremity of Haifa Bay. According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), Acre had a population of 45,800 at the end of 2005. From ancient times, Acre was regarded as the key to the Levant due to its strategic coastal location.


The name Aak, which appears on the tribute-lists of Thutmose III (c. 1500 BC), may be a reference to Acre. reference required The Amarna letters also mention a place named Akka. reference required In the Bible, (Judges 1:31), Akko is one of the places from which the Israelites did not drive out the Canaanites. It was in the territory of the tribe of Asher. According to Josephus, Akko was ruled by one of Solomon's provincial governors. Throughout the period of Israelite rule, it was politically affiliated with Phoenicia rather than the Philistines. Around 725 BCE, Akko joined Sidon and Tyre in a revolt against Shalmaneser V.

Greek and Roman periods

Greek historians refer to the city as Ake, meaning "cure." According to the Greek myth, Hercules found curative herbs here to heal his wounds. [1] Josephus calls it Akre. The name was changed to Antiochia Ptolemais shortly after Alexander the Great's conquest, and then to Ptolemais, probably by Ptolemy Soter, after the partition of the kingdom of Alexander the Great.[2]

Strabo refers to the city as once a rendezvous for the Persians in their expeditions against Egypt. About 165 BC Simon Maccabaeus defeated the Syrians in many battles in Galilee, and drove them into Ptolemais. About 153 BC Alexander Balas, son of Antiochus Epiphanes, contesting the Syrian crown with Demetrius, seized the city, which opened its gates to him. Demetrius offered many bribes to the Maccabees to obtain Jewish support against his rival, including the revenues of Ptolemais for the benefit of the Temple in Jerusalem, but in vain. Jonathan Maccabaeus threw in his lot with Alexander, and in 150 BC he was received by him with great honour in Ptolemais. Some years later, however, Tryphon, an officer of the Syrians, who had grown suspicious of the Maccabees, enticed Jonathan into Ptolemais and there treacherously took him prisoner.

The city was captured by Alexander Jannaeus, Cleopatra VII of Egypt and Tigranes II of Armenia. Here Herod built a gymnasium, and here the Jews met Petronius, sent to set up statues of the emperor in the Temple, and persuaded him to turn back. St Paul spent a day in Ptolemais (Acts 21:7). A Roman colonia was established at the city, Colonia Claudii Cæsaris.[3]

Arab rule and the Crusades

The Arabs captured the city in 638 and held it until the Crusaders conquered Acre in 1104. The Crusaders made the town their chief port in Palestine. It was re-taken by Saladin in 1187, besieged by Guy of Lusignan in 1189 at the Siege of Acre, and again captured by Richard I of England in 1191. It then became the capital of the remnant of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1192. In 1229 it was placed under the control of the Knights Hospitaller (whence came one of its alternative names). It was the final stronghold of the Crusader state, and fell to the Mameluks in a bloody siege in 1291. The Ottomans under Sultan Selim I captured the city in 1517, after which it fell into almost total decay. Maundrell in 1697 found it a ruin, save for a khan (caravanserai) occupied by some French merchants, a mosque and a few poor cottages.[4]The Crusaders called the city "Acre" or "Saint-Jean d'Acre" since they mistakenly identified it with the Philistine city of Ekron, in northern Philistia, and southern Israel.

Ottoman rule

Towards the end of the 18th century it revived under the rule of Dhaher al-Omar, the local sheikh: his successor, Jezzar Pasha, governor of Damascus, improved and fortified it, but by heavy imposts secured for himself all the benefits derived from his improvements. About 1780 Jezzar peremptorily banished the French trading colony, in spite of protests from the French government, and refused to receive a consul.

In 1799 Napoleon, in pursuance of his scheme for raising a Syrian rebellion against Turkish domination, appeared before Acre, but after a siege of two months (March–May) was repulsed by the Turks, aided by Sir Sidney Smith and a force of British sailors. Having lost his siege cannons to Smith, Napoleon attempted to lay siege to the walled city defended by Ottoman troops on 20 March 1799, using only his infantry and small-caliber cannons, a strategy which failed, leading to his retreat two months later on 21 May.

Jezzar was succeeded on his death by his son Suleiman, under whose milder rule the town advanced in prosperity till 1831, when Ibrahim Pasha besieged and reduced the town and destroyed its buildings. On 4 November 1840 it was bombarded by the allied British, Austrian and French squadrons, and in the following year restored to Turkish rule.

British Mandate

The province included the modern cities of Sidon, Tyre, Nabatiye, Nahariyya, and some other inland villages and towns such as Umm al-Faraj, Mazra'a, and Dayr al-Qassi.

The citadel of Acre was used by the British as a prison and as a location for a gallows. Many political prisoners, mainly Jewish underground movement activists, such as Zeev Jabotinsky and Shlomo Ben-Yosef, were jailed in the citadel-prison of Acre. Ben-Yosef, an Irgun activist, was the first Jew to be executed under the British mandate.

On May 4, 1947, the Irgun broke into the Acre citadel-prison in order to release Jewish activists imprisoned there by the British. Some 255 inmates escaped, the majority Arab.[5] Twenty-seven prisoners from armed Jewish groups escaped (20 from Irgun, seven from Lehi). In the immediate aftermath of the raid, nine were killed, and five attackers and eight escapees were captured.

Despite the heavy toll in human lives, the action was described by foreign journalists as "the greatest jail break in history." The London Haaretz correspondent wrote on May 5:

"The attack on Acre jail has been seen here as a serious blow to British prestige... Military circles described the attack as a strategic masterpiece."

The New York Herald Tribune wrote that the underground had carried out "an ambitious mission, their most challenging so far, in perfect fashion." Of the five captured attackers, three who had been carrying weapons were tried and sentenced to death; the other two, minors who were unarmed when captured, received life sentences.[6]

After WWII

In the 1947 UN Partition Plan, Acre was designated part of a future Arab state. When the Arabs rejected the plan and Israel declared its independence in 1948, Acre was beseiged by Israeli forces. A typhoid fever outbreak in Acre at this time spurred Egyptian claims that the Haganah used typhus as a biological weapon against the inhabitants, and Brigadier Beveridge, chief of the British medical services, proclaimed that "Nothing like that ever happened in Palestine". The Egyptians executed the Israeli soldiers they said were responsible for the biological attack.[7][8] Acre was captured by Israel on May 17, 1948 and about three-quarters of its Arab population (estimated at 13,000 in 1944) became displaced as a result.


Acre is in the process of demographic change. Today, Arabs constitute about one-third of the population. According to Arab public figures, almost 70 percent of the residents in the old Mandatory district near the Old City are Arabs. Only about 15 percent of the current Arab population descends from families who lived there before 1948. [9]

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