What are the origins of conflict-related population displacement? Why do some communities in conflict zones suffer mass casualties while others evade conflict violence? Whether civilians migrate before or after belligerent operations in their vicinity influences the scale of casualties and population displacement in war. “Preemptive evacuation” is a specific manifestation of forced displacement, in which whole communities leave their homes before belligerents attempt to seize control in their local area. In conflicts involving strategic civilian-targeted violence, social cohesion, by promoting collective action, enhances communities’ capabilities to mobilize collective migration, thereby increasing the likelihood of preemptive evacuation. An investigation of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War probes the plausibility of the theory. Detailed information about Arab Palestinian villages in the previously restricted Village Files is used to construct a village-level dataset, which measures social cohesion and other social, political, and economic characteristics. These documents and data provide crucial sources of evidence to researchers investigating Palestinian society and development, the origins of Israel's statehood, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Findings suggest that areas where communities lack social cohesion may suffer higher casualties from targeted violence, signaling a need for urgent diplomatic and humanitarian prevention or mitigation efforts.

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