It’s the last day of the war.
Pressure was building to finish the conflict, from the outside and from the inside. The Soviets were worried that a total collapse of the Syrian army would irreparably damage their influence in the region. The Arab countries were screaming bloody murder about Israeli aggression. The Europeans were disconcerted by the quickness of Israel’s victories. And, the Arabists in the U.S. State Department were moaning about the damage to relations with the oil producingÂ countries of the Persian Gulf.
Israel, on the other hand, had a far more serious concern. Strategic stockpiles of munitions were running out. There was a limit to how long they could maintain the incredible pace of their victoriesÂ without having to start rationing.
However, the worst of the war was over. Jordan and Egypt had been taken off the board, and the hardest battles on the Golan HeightsÂ were over. There were still tough fighting left, but IsraeliÂ commanders could see that the end was clearly in sight.
This isÂ a good time to also insertÂ a mention of one of theÂ largest factors contributing to Israel’s success against the Syrians: the Israeli spy, Eli Cohen. Just before he was caught inÂ May of 1965, he had penetrated the upper levels of Syrian society and government. He had even been considered for the position ofÂ Assistant Defense Minister.Â One important success had been his recommendation that Syrian bunkers in theÂ Golan be shaded by Eucalyptus trees – providing excellent targeting information to Israeli pilots.
When you go up to the Golan, you can still see those trees.
But, let’s get backÂ to Operation Hammer, as the operation on theÂ GolanÂ was called.
On June 10th, Syrian resistance was faltering. The static line defense strategy that the Syrians had picked up from the Soviets was crashing down around their ears. Fresh Israeli units were pouring through theÂ breaches in the Syrian defenses that had been opened the evening before.
Israeli forcesÂ quickly took the Banias and then turned south to assaultÂ Mas’ada.Â Israeli mechanized units also began positioning to take the last bastion of a Syrian presence on the Golan, Quneitra (also spelled Kuneitra).
Then, the Syrians did something interesting. At 8:45, Damascus radio announced that Quneitra had fallen (when most Israeli units were still 10 kilometers from the town). The Syrian governmentÂ had hoped to obtain Soviet intervention to pressure Israel to stop advancing further into Syrian territory.
The idea backfired. Syrian soldiers also listenÂ to the radio, and upon hearing that Quneitra had fallen, began to panicÂ and fleeÂ their positions. ResistanceÂ on the Golan began to collapse. Quneitra fellÂ in the early afternoon, and Mas’ada followed a few hours later. Fighting had ended on the GolanÂ byÂ 6:15 p.m.
The Six Day War was over.Â Â