Monday, May 01, 2017

The End of the Six Day War

There was a military conflict in the Golan Heights during the Six Day War too. Israel wanted to keep the conflict to the Egyptian front. Eshkol and his allies did know that it was a great possibility that the fighting could extend to the Syrian front. At first, Egypt has shown false reports that they defeated the Israeli army. These reports also said that they would be attacking Tel Aviv too in order to make Syria join the war. So, Syria started to use artillery to shell northern Israel. 12 Syrian jets attacked Israeli settlements in Galilee. Then, Israeli fighter jets intercepted the Syrian aircraft. Israel shot down 3 and drove off the rest. Two Lebanese Hawker Hunter jets (2 of the 12 Lebanon had) crossed into Israeli airspace and began strafing Israeli positions in the Galilee. They were intercepted by Israeli fighter jets and one was shot down. Syrians tried to get the water plants at Tel Dan, Dan, and She’ar Yashuv. They were stopped by the Israelis. The Syrians lost 20 soldiers and 7 tanks. One Israeli officer was killed. Another Syrian offensive failed quickly. Air attacks from Israeli broken up Syrian reserve units. Many tanks from Syrians reportedly sunk in the Jordan River. Many tanks were too wide for bridges. Syrians had a lack of radio communications between tanks and infantry. Units ignored orders to advance. Therefore, the Syrians stopped their ground attack. They used a massive bombardment of Israeli communities in the Hula Valley instead. The Israeli Air Force on June 5, 1967 (in the evening) attacked Syrian airfields. The Syrian Air Force lost some 32 MiG 21s, 23 MiG-15 and MiG-17 fighters, and two Ilyushin Il-28 bombers, two-thirds of its fighting strength. The Syrian aircraft that survived the attack retreated to distant bases and played no further role in the war. Following the attack, Syria realized that the news it had received from Egypt of the near-total destruction of the Israeli military could not have been true.

There was a debate in Israel on whether to attack the Golan Heights or not. This happened on June 7 and 8. Syria executed pre-war raids. This caused tensions. Many Israelis wanted Syria to be punished. Some military leaders believed that an attack would be too costly since the opposition would be heavily fortified. The western side of the Golan Heights included a rock escarpment that is about 1,700 high. It rises from the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River and then flattens into a gently sloping plateau. Dayan opposed the operation at first. He believed that wit would cost 30,000 lives and might cause a Soviet intervention. Prime Minister Eshkol was more open to the attack in the Golan Heights. The head of the Northern Command, David Elazar, supported the attack too. Later, Israeli intelligence said that Soviet intervention declined. Reconnaissance showed that some Syrian defenses in the Golan region collapsing and intercepted cable revealed that Nasser was urging the President of Syria to immediately accept a cease-fire. On June 9, 1967 on 3 am., Syria said that it accepted a cease-fire. Despite this announcement, Dayan was more enthusiastic on attacking the Golan Heights. Dayan wanted to attack without consultation or government authorization. About 75,000 men in nine brigades were part of the Syrian army. They had an adequate amount of artillery and armor. Israel used 2 brigades in combat. They were the 8th Armored Brigade and the Golani Brigade. They were in the northern front at Givat HaEm. There were another two in the center. Their names are the infantry and one of Peled’s brigades (from Jenin). The Golan Heights' unique terrain (mountainous slopes crossed by parallel streams every several kilometers running east to west), and the general lack of roads in the area channeled both forces along east-west axes of movement and restricted the ability of units to support those on either flank. Thus the Syrians could move north-south on the plateau itself, and the Israelis could move north-south at the base of the Golan escarpment. An advantage Israel possessed was the excellent intelligence collected by Mossad operative Eli Cohen (who was captured and executed in Syria in 1965) regarding the Syrian battle positions. Syria had built extensive defensive fortifications in depths up to 15 kilometers, comparable to the Maginot Line. This was different than the other campaign. The IAF was only partially effective in the Golan. The reason was that the fortifications were powerful. The Syrian forces still weren’t able to put up an effective defense. The reason was that the officers were poor leaders. They treated their soldiers bad. Officers who retreated from danger left their men confused and ineffective. The Israelis had the upper hand during close combat that took place in many Syrian bunkers along the Golan Heights. The Israelis had Uzis, or a submachine gun use for close combat. Syrian soldiers had AK-47 assault rifles, which was bigger than Uzis. AK-47s were used in combat in more open areas.

On the morning of June 9, Israeli jets carried out dozens of sorties against Syrian positions from Mount Hermon to Tawfiq. They used rockets salvaged from captured Egyptian stocks. The airstrikes knocked out artillery batteries and storehouses and forced transport columns off the roads. The Syrians heavily were killed. Many senior officers and troops deserted. The Israelis used this time to clear paths through Syrian minefields. Yet, the airstrikes never seriously damaged the Syrian bunkers and trench system. The bulk of the Syrian forces on the Golan remained on their positions. After 2 hours after the airstrikes started, the 8th Armored Brigade advanced into the Golan Heights from Givat HaEm. This brigade was headed by Colonel Albert Mandler. The Engineering Corps sappers and eight bulldozers cleared away barbed wire and mines. The force came under fire when they advanced. The Israeli tanks had maneuverability. So, they moved slowly. They were under fire when they came near the fortified village of Sir al-Dib. They wanted to go to the fortress of Qala. Israeli deaths increased. The attacking force lost its way. They were at opposite Za’uara. They faced Syrian reservists. Colonel Mandler ordered simultaneous assaults on Za’ura and Qala. Heavy fighting continued. Israeli and Syrian tanks struggled around obstacles. They fired at very short range.  Mandler recalled that "the Syrians fought well and bloodied us. We beat them only by crushing them under our treads and by blasting them with our cannons at very short range, from 100 to 500 meters." The first three Israeli tanks to enter Qala were stopped by a Syrian bazooka team, and a relief column of seven Syrian tanks arrived to repel the attackers. The Israelis took heavy fire from the houses, but could not turn back, as other forces were advancing behind them, and they were on a narrow path with mines on either side. The Israelis continued pressing forward, and called for air support. A pair of Israeli jets destroyed two of the Syrian tanks, and the remainder withdrew. The surviving defenders of Qala retreated after their commander was killed. Meanwhile, Za'ura fell in an Israeli assault, and the Israelis also captured the 'Ein Fit fortress.

In the central sector, the Israeli 181st Battalion captured the strongholds of Dardara and Tel Hillal after fierce fighting. There were very desperate fighting in the northern axis. Golani Brigade from Israel attacked 13 Syrian positions. They attacked also the formidable Tel Fakhr position. Israelis were under the Syrian guns because of navigational errors. Both sides took heavy casualties. Israel lost all 19 of their tanks and half-tracks. So, the Israeli battalion commander ordered his 25 remaining men to dismount. He told them to divide into 2 groups and charge the northern and southern flanks of Tel Fakhr. The first Israelis to reach the perimeter of the southern approach laid bodily down on the barbed wire. This allowed their comrades to vault over them. From there, they attacked the fortified Syrian positions. The fighting was waged at extremely close quarters, often hand to hand combat. Israelis broke through the northern flank. In minutes, they cleared out the trenches and bunkers. This battle lasted for 7 hours. Israel lost 31 people and 82 were wounded. Syrians lost 62 people and 20 people were captured.   Among the dead was the Israeli battalion commander. The Golani Brigade's 51st Battalion took Tel 'Azzaziat, and Darbashiya also fell to Israeli forces. On the evening of June 9, the four Israeli brigades had all broken through the plateau. They were reinforced and replaced. Thousands of reinforcements started to reach the front. Tanks and halftracks had survived the previous day’s fighting were refueled and replenished with ammunition. The wounded were evacuated. Israel had eight brigades in the sector by dawn. Syria had damaged its line of defense. Many of its defenses were still intact. Syria controlled Mount Hermon and Banias in the north. They also controlled the area between Tawfiq and Customs House Road in the south. June 9 was when Syrian leaders decided to reinforce those positions soon. They wanted to maintain a steady barrage on Israeli civilian settlements. Israel continued to advance in the night. Fierce resistance slowed them down. Yet, a Syrian counterattack never materialized. Jalabina was fortified. It had many Syrian reservists in that village. They use their anti-aircraft guns to hold off the Israel 65th Paratroop Battalion for 4 hours. Then, a small detachment managed to penetrate the village and knock out the heavy guns. The 8th Brigade moved south from Qala. They advanced 6 miles to Wasit. There, they faced heavy artillery and tank bombardment. At the Banias in the north, Syrian mortar batteries opened fire on advancing Israeli forces only after Golani Brigade sappers cleared a path through a minefield, killing sixteen Israeli soldiers and wounding four.  On the next day, June 10, the central and northern groups joined in a pincer movement on the plateau, but that fell mainly on empty territory as the Syrian forces retreated. At 8:30 am, the Syrians began blowing up their own bunkers, burning documents and retreating. Several units joined by Elad Peled's troops climbed to the Golan from the south, only to find the positions mostly empty. When the 8th Brigade reached Mansura, five miles from Wasit, the Israelis met no opposition and found abandoned equipment, including tanks, in perfect working condition. In the fortified Banias village, Golani Brigade troops found only several Syrian soldiers chained to their positions. During the day, Israeli units stopped after getting room. Some Israeli troops advanced after an agreed upon cease fire. They wanted to occupy strategically strong position. In the east, the ground terrain was an openly gently sloping plain. This position or the cease fire line is known as the “Purple Line.” Time magazine reported: "In an effort to pressure the United Nations into enforcing a ceasefire, Damascus Radio undercut its own army by broadcasting the fall of the city of Quneitra three hours before it actually capitulated. That premature report of the surrender of their headquarters destroyed the morale of the Syrian troops left in the Golan area."

The Six Day War lasted for a few days. It changed the history of the Middle East forever. Israel executed a strike first against Egyptian forces. The war was mostly a victory for Israel. Israel gained large amount of land in the Sinai Peninsula, in the West Bank, and in the Golden Heights. Thousands of people died as a product of the serious war. Many people (both Jewish people and Arabic people) were displaced from their territories. Massive strategies were employed among both sides. Tensions in the Middle East existed long before the Six Day War, but these same tensions continued afterwards.   The war was more than about Egypt and Israel. Egypt allied with Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon to fight against Israel. Levi Eshkol, Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon, and other Israelis were leading commanders and leaders. Abdel Hakim Amer, Abdul Munim Riad, etc. were Egyptian commanders and leaders. Israel had 264,000 troops engaged and the Egyptian and its allies made up of 547,000 troops. To this very day, many people in the Middle East discuss about the West Bank, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, and other locations. That is why many Palestinian rights groups want independence for Palesine. The war showed how powerful the Israeli military was. It also presented the truth that the human value of Jewish and Arabic people in that region is equal. We want equality, peace, and justice to exist for all in that region regardless of race, or nationality.

By Timothy

No comments: