The Liberation War of October for Just Peace

The late President, Hafez Assad confirmed that Syria’s objective is to restore the usurped rights; " We have fought in order to restore the land and rights. The struggle has been carried on to realize such objective. The wars we have fought and sacrificed for were not for the sake of exercising our strength or for the mere love of strife. We have always fought, to defend our right and dignity and to free the land.", "We want the honorable peace that will be acceptable to our peoples and will not cede a grain of our Homeland. It is the peace under which neither our rights will be relinquished nor the dignity of our Nation will be neglected".

The preparation stages were confined to Syria and Egypt being the two Countries capable of stirring the military and political situation under the general and particular circumstances prevailing at the time. It was obvious that any war to be waged against Israel would be a limited one because the international community would not support the Arabs further than liberating the territories occupied in 1967. It was by the end of 1972 that Syria and Egypt thought of the preparations for initiating the battle. Egypt set up the "Planning Commission" which was instructed to immediately consider the Israeli military potentials. After exhausting studies, it was concluded that the Israeli army’s fighting capabilities were based on four basic factors:

• A powerful air force,

• Adequate equipment and logistics living active support of land and marine forces,

• A reliance on the USA in risky times, and

• Training programs that ensure the highest technical standard of the warriors.

The following basic negative phenomena appeared in the meantime on the Israeli military situation:

• The control of vast territories resulted in very long transportation roads between the battle fields and the basic concentration points.

• The limited population potential necessarily imposed a limited fighting capability for a limited span of time.

• The economy which depended on foreign support and subsidy found itself unable to stand a long fighting period.

• The long disconnected fighting lines left vast open gaps of land full of Arabs who obviously opposed to the occupation.

Consultations continued until Syria agreed, in the meeting held in Damascus on June 12, 1973 between the two Presidents Hafez Al-Assad and Anwar Al-Sadat, to hold talks with the Egyptian side to set the bases of coordination between the Syrian and Egyptian armies. Soon after, both sides approved the plan of attacking Israel simultaneously from the north and south. The military operations coordinators initiated the first step early in February 1973 by working within one strategy to train the armed forces and provide them with a variety of equipment and weaponry necessary for the fight this required sophisticated weapons and advanced technological equipment to encounter the Israeli army. The Soviets agreed, in May 1973, to provide Syria and Egypt with the requested weaponry and to finalize the construction of a ground-to-air missile network similar to that available in Egypt. In the meantime Syria received the modern T-62 tanks, modern interceptor modified MIG-21MF planes.

Egypt, on the other hand, got a sufficient quantity of weapons which included planes, tanks, guided missiles and various ammunition. Hence the units dedicated to the war were ready and provided with the sophisticated weaponry awaiting the zero-hour which would be foreseen by such coordinators to be 14h00 on October 6th, 1973:

• Upon realizing, by the morning of October 6th, 1973 that the War was inevitably breaking out shortly, the Israeli Command put at alert only the regular forces and compulsory units of 95,000 men besides the most important personnel of the reserve fighting forces (commanders only ) taking for granted that the regular army, supported by the air force, would be able to quickly deal with the events to take place along the fronts of fight. The Government held a session on October 5th, 1973 attended by the Chief-of Staff, to discuss the extraordinary circumstances and the Arab military movements as indicated by the Intelligence reports the session called for the utmost alert of regular and compulsory units besides the important personnel of the fighting reserve forces only. This implied the excessive self confidence and belittling of the other side strength.

• The high-ranking war generals, headed by the two Generals Moshe Dayan and David Ali’azar, so belittled and completely disregarded the Arab military preparations that they declared that the Israeli army would surely be able to defeat and crush, within 48 hours, any attack through the Suez Canal. This was confirmed by the Israelis on the assumption that it would take Egyptians 24 hours to build up bridges and another 24 hours to cross the Canal, which would give them enough time to call for the strategic Israeli reserve forces to newly defeat the Egyptians and compel them to yield to the Israeli conditions.

• Air photos, taken few hours before the attack, showed the enforcement on the Arab lines and the huge military movements along the other side. The Israeli political officials and war generals did not assume their responsibility and behave as required under such extraordinary circumstances.

All the above however did not mean that Israel was taken by complete surprise , which was clearly indicated by Dayan’s visit on 26 September 1973 to the Occupied Golan due to his fears of renewal fight and at the information he received about Syria’s intention to carry out a limited military action in the north. At the end of such visit, Dayan interfered with the tasks of his subordinate military commanders and instructed the north region Commander to increase the number of forces concentrated in the Golan and to double the number of the tanks and other weaponry at the first front line in order to confront any Syrian attempt.

President Hafez Al-Assad confirmed in this respect that Israel was expecting a battle when he said, "I want to clear a point which must never be obscure to those who want to objectively and impartially write the history of the October War. The Arab attack has not been completely surprising to the enemy. This has been brought to us through the statements of the prisoners of war who have confirmed that their commands have been aware of the attack before it has occurred".

On the afternoon of 6 October 1973, at exactly 14 h 05, the Egyptian Southern Front forces and the Syrian Northern front forces launched the war against Israel on both the Egyptian and Syrian fronts, complete surprise was achieved, giving the Arabs a strong initial advantage and headed to the occupied Syrian Golan and Al-Houleh Plain to bomb their targets. Squadrons of such warplanes succeeded in hitting the Israeli concentrations and camps in Sheria Shafe and Mishmar Hyrden in Al-Houleh plain, whereas many others concentrated their attacks on the Israeli camps and military settlements in the Occupied Golan. At that very moment, the Helicopters full of commandos headed for their targets in the Mt. Hermon "Israeli" impregnable position, the Israeli Forces Head Quarter in Kafr Naffakh and other targets in the Occupied Golan. When the Israeli warplanes interfered, many air battles took place between the Syrian and Israeli warplanes over South of Lebanon, the Golan and Al-Houleh Plain.

The land attack was initiated on the same day by three infantry legions of 60,000 soldiers enforced with 600 modern T-54, T-55 and T-62 Russian tanks. The following forces were left behind, as a reserve of the Command-in-Chief which could be used upon need:

• Two armored legions

• Enforced armored brigade of the Defense Detachments and

• Many infantry battalions enforced with tanks.

The Syrian artillery began the liberation process with heavy shelling of about 1,000 guns of different calibres. The Syrian attack was a blitzkrieg. The Syrian forces, enforced with an Arab Moroccan brigade, advanced in huge numbers succeeding defeating the Israeli tanks. They were encountered on the other side by two Israeli armored brigades , and two mechanical infantry in addition to extra backing troops. The Israeli defensive lines consisted of a long trench, 4 m deep by 4 m wide, with a soil wall along its western side; to prevent the tanks from proceeding, in addition to mine fields and barbed wires. The Syrian commandos, air-borne in MI-8 Helicopters, landed near the "Israeli" impregnable strategically-important position in Mt. Hermon. The attacking force, consisting of two Syrian commando detachments, succeeded in surprising the Israeli forces at two infantry detachments enforced with some armored vehicles. The Syrian force controlled the position with the least losses, captured the defending force and seized the electronic equipment and devices as well as the sophisticated telescopes which were used by Israelis to monitor the movements of the Arab Forces and scout their positions. The Syrian Forces dashed in the Golan along three main axis. According to the analysts, the Israelis were much anxious by the Syrian attack than the Egyptian crossing operation of the Suez Canal and smashing of Bar-Lev defenses Line. The Syrian forces, in the southern sector, penetrated as far as El’al Village ; 32 km behind the enemy lines.

For better understanding of the nature and value of the military operations on the Syrian Front, it is quite vital to quickly review to the situation of this Front in the aftermath of the 1967-War. The Israeli forces built strong defensive posts in the Occupied Golan and anti-tank trenches along the cease-fire line about 1 km away on the Israeli side. It stretched along the confrontation line from the northern to the southern sector and enforced with a parallel soil wall from the Israeli side. Due to its importance, the Israeli forces concentration in such posts was very heavy in order to ward off any Syrian attack and prevent Syrian forces from restoring the Golan, or at least not to give them a place to easily attack such sector. It is important to mention that the fall of such sector would greatly affect the general situation in the whole of the Golan.; because it would give the Syrian force the possibility to descend southwards and turn around the Israeli lines along the mid and southern sectors besides the resultant complications throughout the Heights. Such complications would be obviously embodied with threats to the occupied northern Israel, Al-Houleh Plain and upper Hebron, not to mention the control of water sources emptying into the Jordan River. This sector technically allows the Israel forces free maneuvering and movement; a defensive position could be taken in case of a successful attack and a watchful control of both the Syrian forces and the middle and southern sectors.

Israel began the rapid mobilization of its reserve forces, the highly trained and numerically most important part of its defensive system. But before they could play an effective part, Egyptian armed forces had occupied the east bank of the canal to depth of several miles and by the third day were advancing to the strategic Mitla pass in Sinai at 16h15 on 6 October 1973, the Israeli Broadcasting Service stopped its programs to transmit, in Hebrew, the statement of the Israeli army spokesman who announced that, "The Syrian and Egyptian Forces have initiated at 14h05 today their air and land attacks on the Occupied Golan and Sinai. After a series of air raids on our positions and camps, the Egyptian infantry troops have begun the land attack and succeeded in crossing the Suez Canal in many points. The Syrian forces have begun a tank and infantry attack along the front of the Occupied Golan. Air and land battles are still going on."

The Syrian tactics seemed unexpected to the Israelis in the north with an attack of three infantry legions enforced with 800 tanks, 100 field guns and 100 warplanes, with the objective of quick penetration to the furthest depth and destruction of the Israeli forces available there.

On the south, the Egyptian forces of five legions, 800 tanks and 200 warplanes, were hurled into the battle.

In order to ward off the attacks, the Israeli Command ordered its air force to interfere. 40 minutes after the Arab attack, 70 Israeli warplanes soared in the south to destroy the bridges which were, or being, constructed and hit the Egyptian forces in order to impede their crossing of the Suez Canal. The Israeli objective was to stop the stream of the Egyptian forces across the Canal and keep them confined within the limits which would safeguard the defending forces until the strategic reserve reached.

• The Syrian anti-aircraft defensive network played a magnificent role in the War and achieved great success in the confrontations with the Israeli planes. The losses it inflicted upon them were so huge that the Israeli Air Force Command was quickly compelled to resort to the USA in order to compensate for the great shortage in the number of its planes which made the situation on the Fronts very much critical, confusing and worrying.

• The directed modern ground-to-ground, ground-to-air, air-to-air, air-to-ground and various anti-tank weapons which were successfully used by the two sides along with the astounding results recorded in the War.

• The use of the Arab oil as weapon for the first time in the history of Arab-Israeli conflict resulted in effective and active results. President Hafez Al-Assad said in this concern that, "If this gives any meaning, it is the truth of the Arab unity, and that our Nation is alive. Its unity and liveliness appear most magnificently during catastrophes and hardships". His Excellency confirmed that our steadfastness during the Liberation War started to give the motto of "battle nationalization" its applicable actual meaning. The President thanked the sisterly Iraqi Forces whose soldiers fought as heroes against the enemy and whose bloods mingled with those of their brothers of the Syrian and Moroccan Forces. His Excellency thanked all participating Arab Forces which, by such participation, actually expressed the nationalization of the battle.

The Tishreen War has revealed a series of historical facts, imposed the reorganization of international formulas, established new type of relations and eliminated many false statements. The Tishreen spirit still exists in spite of by opposed powers endless, efforts to eliminate its traces. Tishreen War proved a basic fact embodied by the rejection and confrontation of the aggression. It is still continuing in a way or another. It won’t fade away until it fulfills all its objectives of liberating the territories, restoration of rights and consequently realize the security and peace. Political action came to complement military action, as apart of struggle. It is within this framework that Syria has agreed on the peace initiative based to the two Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and the "land for peace" Principle.

The Israeli concept is related to aggressive expansion. Expressing the Israeli concept of peace, Moshe Dayan said, "The peace that Israel wants was achieved in 1967. We are endeavoring to establish an informal peace with the Arabs. We are not in need of official peace. If we are trying to replace the Big Powers in the Area, we must have canine teeth which should be military, economic and geographical ones". on its head on 6 October 1973; the myth was undone, the earthquake knocked down Israeli made Israel lose its balance. To enable Israel and its army escape the eradicative defeat, America openly and directly interfered on the fourth day of the War. The most modern weapons were abundantly and incessantly sent to Israel from the American arsenal on a flow which was not match able along the history of wars. 

A Glimpse of History

Currently, the number of the people expelled from Golan by Israeli in 1967 has exceeded 400.000, distributed throughout the Syrian cities, in temporary settlements. At a time when primitive man living in the old Stone Age, or what was known as the Paleolithic period, 1600 depended on animal hunting for survival in various part of the world where he was found, It has been discovered that the man living at the same period in south Syria depended on means of agriculture. For Archeologists have proved that it was in Syria that agriculture and the domestication of animals began. This was thanks to the availability of two grains important to early man wild barley and wheat, and the existence of the earliest domesticated animals; goats, sheep and cattle in the same general area. The following period was known as "Neolithic" and can be divided into "Pre-Pottery Neolithic", when man discovered the making of bricks and thus built houses made of bricks. The earliest Neolithic Levels are dated to 7000 BC. And after nearly 1000 year, man molded clay to make pottery.

And just like the rest of Syria, the Golan was inhabited by various people. And it is certain from records which have survived times, that the population of the Golan was of Arab Semitic origin. (Not forgetting the outside foreign invaders that occupied the region from the time to time such as the Pharaons, Greeks, Romans and crusaders). Those Arab Semitic people were the Canaanite, the Amorite around 3rd to 2nd millennium, the Aramaean who appeared towards the end of the 2nd millennium. The Arab-Muslim Liberation of Syria was accomplished easily. Hardly fighters, united in their creed and boundless in their ambition, they permanently removed the region from the Byzantine control. The Muslims fought a triumphant battle in the Yarmouk Valley  the "Yarmouk Battle" in the 7th century, after gaining control over Damascus.

Among the historians and archeologists who reported about the Golan are Schomar confirmed in his study the existence of ancient population settlements in the Golan and listed over 100 archeological sites, (Schomar, The Golan, London 1899, English Edition, P. 304), Oarman defined (in one of his studies) 211 sites that dated back to the Roman and Byzantine Periods. He mentioned the existence of many sites which confirmed that the Golan had been inhabited since the Stone Age. The Golan was mentioned in the region’s history of polities and civilization since the days of Egypt’s Pharaohs, Kings of Al-Sham and Mesopotamia. The Golan was mentioned in the cuneiform documents discovered in Mesopotamia. The Golan was mentioned in Greek and Roman geographical writings, such as those of Flavius Youseifus (73 - 100 AD), Izius of Quissaria (263 - 339 AD) and Saint Jeerom (345 - 420 AD). The Golan was mentioned in many works of Arab geographers, such as Al-Massoudi, Al-Maqdissi, Abi Fida’a, Yacout and others.

There are many other contemporary sources about the Golan, such as R. Dessaut who published a book, in Paris in 1927, about Syria and another, in 1906, about Arabs in Syria before Islam. Mr. Von Onhaim who published in 1941 a book titled the Bedouins in Syria; and Depaont Somar who published in Paris in 1949 a book about the Arameans.

The Golan is a geographical area that represents a region at the core of Natural Syria (i.e. the Sham countries included Syria, Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon). The Golan territory is the heart of AL Sham Countries because it is a part of what is called Middle Syria. The Golan has only experienced so abnormal status, as the current one, when it came under the Crusader invasion of Palestine. The Crusader occupation of the Golan came to an end after a 2-century heroic struggle. Hereunder is a brief summary of the Golan’s historical period:

• During the 3rd Millennium BC the Amorites dominated and inhabited the Golan until the 2nd Millennium when they were substituted by the Arameans who were tribes of Arab origin. No sociopolitical entity had preceded the Amorites, Kan’anians and Arameans.

• In the 2nd Millennium, the Aramean kingdom was established in the Golan. The Kingdom of Aram Soaba’s influence in Albeq’a reached Upper Golan, whereas Rahoub Kingdom dominated Mid Litany River bed, and Bait Ma’keh ruled between Yarmouk Valley to the south and Damascus to the north.

• In 732 BC Damascus was conquered by the Assyrians. The Golan therefore was first annexed to the Assyrian Empire, then to the Caledonian one.

• During the Hellenic (Greek) period, a Kingdom was established in Syria under the Slouches Family taking Antioch as its capital. The Golan was disputed between the Syrian Kingdom and the Egyptian one under Batlimus Family.

• In the 1st Century BC the Anbatian Arabs ruled the Golan and the rest of South Syria from Sinai to Damascus.

• In the 1st Century AD the Romans ruled Syria and dominated over Golan, but the Syrians have by that time much progress in civilization and culture.

• In the 4th Century AD, the Ghassanian Arabs established an Arab Kingdom that included the Golan beside other areas and contributed to the development of the Golan inhabitants. The Ghassanian Arab Princes were independent, but administratively reported to the Syrian State capital in Antioch. It seemed that there was an agreement between the Romans and Ghassanian Arabs in that arrangement.

• Alhareth, the Ghassanian, assumed in 529 AD the position of the FILARKH of the First and Second Palestinian States, spreading his influence as far as the Euphrates and Palmyrian Desert including North Depression, Albalkaa’, Horan, the Golan and Albeqa’ beside the greater part of Lebanon and Palestine. Alhareth was called a King in the Syrianic Sources and, in the Byzantine Sources, a Patriarch was the second rank in the State.

Courtesy: Syrian National Information Center