Barak Armored Brigade – The Peace for Galilee War

The Barak brigade was among the first troops in the Peace for Galilee war. Initially, the brigade broke through the border into Lebanon into the central sector, an area similar in structure and terrain to the upper Galilee in Israel and inhabited by a number of different communities, primarily Shiite Muslims and Christians. From there, the main effort of the war moved to the western sector along the very narrow coastal plain from Sidon to Beirut, an area densely populated by Sunite Muslims.

The geographic and demographic characteristics of the sectors in which the brigade fought – densely populated on the one hand and large areas of intensely – cultivated agricultural land on the other – made regular military combat difficult and facilitated guerrilla warfare. Under these conditions, it was particularly difficult to wage conventional tank warfare. The combat in Lebanon was based on fighting in built-up areas, with close cooperation between tank, infantry, engineering and artillery gun forces.

The mission of the brigade was to destroy the terrorists bases in Lebanon, thereby removing the constant threat on the Israel’s northern villages.

On Sunday, 6 June, the brigade crossed the international border in the Metulla area and started its advance north into the central sector, along the road leading to the Akia bridge on the Litani river via Taiba and Dir Sirian. The force advanced in a brigade column led by a company of the 53rd battalion, followed by the 71st battalion and the brigade advance command group led by the brigade commander. The rear elements of this force were the 12th Golani infantry battalion and the rest of the 53rd battalion companies. Engineering and anti-aircraft troops were alternated along the brigade column. The brigade’s 74th battalion moved along a parallel route, under the command of a Golani brigade. The forces crossed the bridge almost without difficulty, led by the 71st battalion, passing through a number of friendly villages and continuing north.

The first encounter was at Kfar Haruf, where machine guns and RPG’s were fired at the forces. The high level of ethics of our soldiers was first exhibited at this village, where they endangered their lives and prevented firing on innocent civilians. The first injuries suffered by the brigade were in this village.

While the doctor was still busy rescuing the injured and after release from the jam created in the village, the forces continued to bypass the village of A-Kafpur and secured themselves on the ridges above the village. The terrain was difficult for movement, but the problems were overcome with the help of the engineering corps.

The forces continued past the village of Ha bosh, climbing in the direction of the village of Homein-el-Fawka. Heavy firing was experienced when passing this village. However, the brigade commander decided against going into the villages along the line, in order to prevent unnecessary complications. He assumed that the pockets of resistance would fall at a later date. Accordingly, the brigade moved along a narrow path at the bottom of the channel, along the foot of the ridges scattered with villages, an easy target for the terrorist’s fir. It was here that the first of the brigade’s soldiers fell. In the meantime, a force was sent to Ein Zehalta. This was the first encounter of the IDF with the Syrian army. After a short battle, the brigade left its positions to other forces and started its advance in the direction of Sidon.

Most of the way was quiet, with the villages passed receiving the brigade in friendship and happiness. The resistance experienced at Kfar Teisun was easily overcome by the forces.

After two days of exhausting battle, the brigade stopped for a night rest at the entrance to Sidon. Once the reconnaissance company of the brigade found a bypass channel to reach the brigade, this respite was used by the ordnance and logistics personnel to repair and rearm and fuel the equipment.

The following day, the third day of the war, the Barak brigade started its battle for Sidon. Its aim was to put pressure on the enemy’s hold on the north and east of the city, while other IDF forces, including the “loaned” 74th battalion, pressured from the south. The area was full of dense growth and cultivated land. A decision was made to conquer to periphery of the town, hoping that the town to fall easily at a later stage.

Before this, 74th battalion together with the Golani brigade broke through in the south, in the area where the Sidon oil port and refineries are located. Confrontations with terrorists had already started in this area. They were a sign of what was to come. The battalion reached the densely populated Ein Hilwe refugee camp typified by narrow and winding alleyways. The camp contained about 5,000 terrorists who were determined to fight to the end. The battalion tried to conquer the camp three times, without success. The terrorists fought stubbornly, without compromise, causing many losses to the Israeli forces. In its actions, 74th battalion weakened the stand of the fighters in the camp. However, in the afternoon of the following day, it bypassed the camp and turned north along the coastal plain towards Damour. The refugee camp was conquered later in the war, after all negotiations with the inhabitants to surrender failed.

In the evening of Tuesday, 8 June, the Barak brigade went out on the coastal plain line in the direction of Damour, joining up with additional forces along the way. The brigade served as a reserve force in the comparatively simple capture of the city.

When the brigade penetrated north to the periphery of the Kfar Sil, it met up with a fortified formation of the Syrian 85th armored brigade. Kfar Sil is located in a strategically important area, and it was essential to capture the village. At the same time, the cease fire was imminent, and it was clear that the time remaining to defeat the enemy could be measured in hours.

On the morning of Thursday, 10 June, the forces divided into a pincer movement, as planned. The soldiers of the 53rd battalion who were students in the Army affiliated religious academy infiltrated together with Golani into the fortified position while tanks of the 71st battalion covered from on high. A bloody battle was waged in the fortified position, the commander of the company was injured and 8 soldiers were killed. The fighting in a built-up area, the tanks moving in a line through the village and the sources of fire hidden from the eye together accounted for the many losses. The company escaped by retreat and the brigade effort to eliminate the Syrian hold of the Kfar Sil area failed.

However, the fortified position was far too important strategically to be left. On the same day, the 74th battalion was ordered to take part in a battle plan which included making a bypass, and attacking the village from the rear, from above to below. Once a path of about 2 km suitable for the passage of tanks had been prepared, the battalion attacked the village from behind. The tanks fired from a range of about 50 meters, surprising the enemy and destroying the Syrian tanks, one at a time. The battalion gained control of the ridge above the village and towards evening, attacked the village itself. By the morning, the battalion had destroyed 27 Syrian tanks and Kfar Sil was conquered. In the morning, the battalion took positions above the village. A difficult battle of attrition ensued, until the Syrian and terrorist fire was eliminated.

Barak Armored Brigade – The Peace for Galilee War

On 11 June, at the end of the first week of fighting, the brigade was at the suburbs of Beirut. Battalions 71 and 53 were at Duha, and battalion 74 at Kfar Sil. In the following days, the brigade fortified and organized itself to stay. At the same time, the terrorists returned fire on the Israeli forces. The units of the brigade advanced during this fighting and gained control of parts of the Beirut international airport in Hulda and the Science faculty building of the University of Beirut in Reihan. The brigade remained in Beirut for a month, during which the tasks to advance, fortify and organize were divided between the brigade and the Golani brigade.

On Monday, July 12th, the Barak units were transferred from the Beirut sector to the eastern sector. Battalion 74 remained in the coastal area, locating itself in the Damor area. The brigade was located opposite the Syrians in the Jib-Jenin-Sultan Ya’akub area. Ten days after arriving, the brigade participated in a battle in the area. This battle occurred after many Syrian violations of the cease fire, and after the Syrians permitted the terrorists to operate from their sector. The method selected was opening coordinated fire by all forces spread out along the length of the front line. The 53rd Battalion destroyed five Syrian tanks, and the 71st battalion destroyed about 30 tanks and armored combat vehicles.

A few days after this day of battle, during the night of August 3-4, the Barak units returned from Beka to the Beirut area. The IDF, including the Barak units, tightened the siege on western Beirut. IDF operations were simultaneous in two sectors – the north east sector of the city (the museum and the hippodrome) and the south west sector (the airport and surrounding suburbs of Jurj Barjina, Burj el Barajna, El-Uzai, Leilka and others). The Barak brigade participated in the military efforts on the second front. In the first stage, the brigade was active in capturing the airport runways, following earlier operations in this area during June-July during which very small advances on tens of meters each time were achieved. This advance was primarily carried out by the 74th battalion. In one of the battles in this area, the battalion commander was wounded, which resulted in the changing of the battalion with the 71st battalion. As the new battalion was taking its positions, it was attacked. Three of its soldiers were killed, including the commander of one of the companies, and many were injured. The Barak brigade continued its fighting in the area of the airport and the southern suburbs of west Beirut, until the terrorists left Beirut on August 31st.

The brigade remained in Lebanon, both in Beirut and in the eastern sector, for many months after the end of the Peace for Galilee war. After the return of the units to their permanent bases on the Golan Heights, they continued to alternately man the Lebanese border line for many more months.