The Six Day War: Day Five

As Day Five began, it was clear that the war for Israel’s survival was over. What was left were loose ends. Or, maybe I should say, one very important loose end.

Syria.

For years Syria had been shelling communities in the north, confident that her impregnable positions on the Golan would deter any counter attack by Israeli forces. Artillery barrages were a fact of life for those living within range of Syrian guns.

Furthermore, Syria had become a Soviet client and was being used by the USSR to destabilize the region. The month before, the Soviets sent fabricated intelligence to the Assad regime, claiming that Israel was planning to invade Syria. The result was the mobilization of the armies of Syria, Jordan, and Egypt – and tensions that eventually led to the Six Day War.

Just a few years later, in 1972, Syria would start the process of invading Jordan, and it would be Israel’s threat to attack Syria that would keep her from conquering her Arab neighbor to the south.

The point is that you didn’t need to look far to see that Syria was a problem, and a problem like Syria that held the Golan Heights was a serious problem.   

That’s why, on Day Four, Moshe Dayan had okayed Operation Hammer, which was Israel’s operational plan to sweep the Syrians away from the ridge and deny the Syrians the ability to bombard Israeli towns and villages. Once the plan had been okayed, Israeli aircraft immediately began attacking Syrian fortifications. Moshe Dayan would eventually cancel the operation, hours after it had been okayed. 

However, Israeli forces would continue to race to the north to prepare for the possibility of action with Syria.

The tipping point came when the United States communicated a carefully worded message suggesting that it was a shame that the chief instigator of the war was getting away unscathed. And, at the same time, Israeli Intelligence intercepted a communique by Nasser indicating that Arab forces were near collapse.

Moshe Dayan immediately put Operation Hammer back in motion, and Israeli jets once again began pounding Syrian targets early in the morning of Day Five.

By 11:30 a.m., the 8th Armored Brigade was in motion, advancing on Syrian positions in the north of the Golan, near Q’ala. The Syrians had been counting on the difficult terrain to blunt any Israeli attack, and had concentrated on defending the southern areas of the Golan – which is precisely why Israel chose the north as the initial invasion route.

However, as inventive as the plan had been, the 8th Armored would still lose most of its bulldozers and tanks and suffer heavy casualties.

At the same time, an infantry brigade advanced on Tel Fakhir, a few kilometers south of Q’ala. For seven hours, Israeli infantry fought to dislodge the Syrian defenders. At the end, the battle was won, but at a terrible cost.

Of the 800 soldiers who began the battle, only 4 survived uninjured and alive.

The cost for both of these battles was high, but the end result was that the Syrian wall of steel and concrete had been breached.

The next day would mark the end.