On 6 October 1973 the Syrian 7th Infantry Division attacked the Israeli 7th Armored Brigade in the Golan Heights. The Syrians launched simultaneous attacks in the north and the south and the Syrians attacked the two Israeli brigades and eleven supporting artillery batteries with five divisions (the 7th, 9th and 5th, with the 1st and 3rd in reserve) and 188 batteries. They began their attack with an airstrike by about 100 aircraft and a 50-minute artillery barrage. When the battle began, approximately 400 of those tanks were T-62s, the most modern Soviet-bloc tank at the time,. The Syrian plan called for its 5th, 7th and 9th mechanized infantry divisions, in BTR-50 armored personnel carriers (APCs) supported by 900 tanks, to breach the Israeli lines, opening the way for the 1st and 3rd armored divisions to move in with their 500 tanks to capture the entire Golan Heights before Israel had a chance to mobilize. The Syrian plan called for its 5th, 7th and 9th mechanized infantry divisions, in BTR-50 armored personnel carriers (APCs) supported by 900 tanks, to breach the Israeli lines, opening the way for the 1st and 3rd armored divisions to move in with their 500 tanks to capture the entire Golan Heights before Israel had a chance to mobilize.
The Syrians started the offensive and mine-clearing tanks and bridge-layers led the way to overcome the Israeli obstacles. The Syrians gained much ground at the start, but failed to move tanks across the anti-tank ditch. They penetrated the Israeli defenses at night with the help of night vision equipment—equipment that the Israelis lacked. Initially, Israel was able to deploy only 176 tanks:. The next day, the Syrians mounted a second attack, and at one point in the engagement less than forty Israeli tanks were facing approximately 500 Syrian tanks and the Barak Brigade had only 15 serviceable tanks.
. Every Israeli tank deployed on the Golan Heights was engaged during the initial attacks.
Reservists were alerted and began to arrive at the scene and were sent to the front as soon as they arrived at army depots, without waiting for the crews they trained with to arrive, machine guns to be installed on the tanks, or taking the time to calibrate the tank guns (a time-consuming process known as bore-sighting). The Syrians had expected it to take at least 24 hours for Israeli reserves to reach the front lines; in fact, reserve units began reaching the battle lines only 15 hours after the war began. Israeli reserve forces approaching the Golan Heights were subjected to Syrian artillery fire directed from Mount Hermon.
On the second and third day, Syrian forces suffered heavy losses as Israeli tanks and infantry fought desperately to buy time for all the reserve forces to reach the front lines, and conducted stopgap blocking actions whenever the Syrians were on the verge of breaking through. However, the Syrians pressed the attack in spite of their losses, and the vastly outnumbered defenders lost numerous tanks. By the afternoon of October 9, the 7th Brigade was down to six tanks protecting what was for all intents and purposes a clear path into Israel’s north.
On the fourth day, the 7th Brigade received a small reinforcement force when it less than a dozen operating tanks and almost out of ammunition. The Syrians, exhausted from three days of continuous fighting and unaware of how close to victory they actually were, turned in retreat. Hundreds of destroyed tanks and APCs littering the valley below the Israeli ramparts were testimony to the horrible destruction that had taken place there. Within 5 days, the Syrians had lost almost 1,000 tanks. The Syrians retreated for reasons that are still debated.
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