The Lone Tank Brigade That Saved the Golan Heights from the Syrian Onslaught during the Yom Kippur War

When Syrian and Egyptian forces launched simultaneous attacks on Israel on Yom Kippur of 1973, the IDF found itself woefully unprepared. The high command, just ten days before the war began, finally acted on repeated warnings of imminent war and ordered Colonel Avigdor Ben-Gal to move his tank brigade from the Sinai to the Golan Heights; the last units were still arriving when the fighting began. Even with Ben-Gal’s tanks, Israel had a single, understrength division on the Golan, which faced an onslaught from three battle-ready Syrian armored divisions. Abraham Rabinovich tells the story of how Ben-Gal’s troops held the line:

The Syrians calculated that Israeli reserve units could not reach the Golan in less than 24 hours. Damascus expected to capture the Heights before then. Until Israel’s reserves joined the battle, the main burden of holding the enemy at bay would fall upon young conscripts—draftees—and their regular army commanders.

Informed by [his superiors] at 10 a.m. on Yom Kippur of the warning [that Syria would attack], Ben-Gal summoned his battalion and company commanders by radio to a meeting at the main army base in the northern Golan, Nafakh. . . . The officers would meet again at 2 p.m., by which time the situation might be clearer. With that, the brigade commander drove to the front. . . . The officers were just arriving for the 2 p.m. meeting when MiGs dropped bombs on the camp. “Everyone to your tanks,” Ben-Gal shouted. A sentry already lay dead at the gateway. . . .

After days of [intense fighting], Ben-Gal’s control was unraveling as officers were hit and orders not passed on. There appeared to be no alternative but to have the tanks fall back. Even if they managed to outrace the Syrians to a new line, however, they would not be able to hold it for more than half an hour, he estimated, in the absence of proper defensive positions. He decided on a last desperate bid to shore up the collapsing line. . . .

The bid worked, and the remnants of the brigade managed to hold the northern Golan for five days, at which point reinforcements arrived and the Syrians retreated. Three-quarters of Ben-Gal’s tank crews were killed or wounded; he managed to get the survivors a one-day respite before beginning a counterattack.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Golan Heights, Israeli history, Syria, Yom Kippur War

 

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy