Barak Armored Brigade - The Yom Kippur War

In this war, Barak Brigade’s operations became part of military history. The brigade suffered heavy losses, to the point that it was almost wiped out. However, it rose from the ashes to become the IDF spearhead into the enclave which threatened Damascus.

Before the outbreak of the war, the front line on the Golan Heights, covering approximately 80 km from Mount Hermon in the north to Ramat Magshimim in the south, was the responsibility of the brigade. Up until the afternoon of the first day of battle when reserve forces arrived, the brigade, together with another regular force, was the only Israeli armored force to face the Syrian attack.

The Yom Kippur opened with a surprise attack, the enemy far outnumbering the Israeli forces in manpower and equipment. At 13.50, reports were received that enemy aircraft had penetrated the whole length of the front. These aircraft began to bomb IDF positions on the Golan Heights. The commander of the brigade, Colonel Yitzhak Ben-Shaham, ordered all his tanks to advance and make contact with the enemy.

Almost 1,200 Syrian tanks, supported by artillery and infantry, broke through the border on the Golan at a number of points. Their main efforts were in the direction of Hushniye-Sindiana-Nafah, in the southern sector. For five days, from Saturday to Wednesday, cruel and bitter battles were fought on the small area of the Golan Heights. On Saturday night, it was decided to divide up the defending forces. Responsibility for the northern sector was given to another tank brigade, while the southern sector remained the responsibility of Barak Brigade, which received a small reinforcement force. The tank forces in the northern Golan Heights, together with forces from battalion 74 and battalion 71, succeeded in preventing the Syrians from breaking through the Kunetra-Masada line. However, in the southern sector, characterized by flat terrain and lacking any natural defenses, the Syrians succeeded in breaking through. For two days, hard and bloody battles were fought to halt the attack. On Sunday afternoon, Syrian tanks reached the area of Nafah. The actual base was practically deserted, held by a small group of forces trying to get the brigade command bunker back in working order. This small group did not succeed in holding back the massive enemy force.

On the afternoon of October 7th, the message “A Syrian force is breaking through at Nafah. It is already at the fences” was received in the brigade commander’s tank. The brigade commander knew that if the Syrians captured Nafah, not only would the largest army base in the Golan Heights have fallen, but also he and his forces would be encircled by the enemy. He immediately transmitted an order to the 5 tanks in his immediately vicinity to advance and come to the aid of Nafah. The brigade commander, his deputy and the brigade operations officer were killed in the breakthrough attempt. A single tank, commanded by armored corpsman “Zvika” who had previously fought alone on the TAP line, and has succeeded in hitting many Syrian tanks. In an outflanking movement, it penetrated the camp, ran amok between the buildings firing its machine gun in every direction, until the last of the Syrian infantry were either killed or retreated.

At the same time, a reserve unit tank force arrived and drove back the Syrians to their lines. At 3.00 in the afternoon, the Nafah camp was once again in IDF hands, and the Syrian attempt at a deep penetration of the Golan Heights had been foiled.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Syrians were pushed back over the border. Throughout this time, the brigade organized forces from tanks that had been hit and repaired, sending them back into battle. On Wednesday, it was the brigade’s tanks, under the command of another brigade, which opened fire on the border line and first broke through into Syrian territory, in the Jubeta el Hashab village. The fighters of the brigade, who during the war stood opposite the Syrian tanks in order to prevent the enemy from utilizing their quantitative advantage and breaking through the lines, now reorganized to participate in the war of attrition. The Barak brigade were the last IDF troops to leave the Syrian enclave.