I served in the Israeli armored Seventh Brigade as a captain of the Medical Corps during the Yom Kippur War.
On October 6, 1973, the Syrian 7th Infantry Division attacked the Israeli 7th Armored Brigade, comprised of only two tank battalions, in the Golan Heights. The Syrians launched simultaneous attacks from the north and from the south. They 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.
The Syrians began their attack with an airstrike of about 100 aircrafts and a 50-minute artillery barrage. At the start of the battle, approximately 400 of the Syrian 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. Initially, Israel was able to deploy only 176 tanks.
The Syrians started the offensive. 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.
The next day, the Syrians mounted a second attack. At one point in the engagement less than forty Israeli tanks were facing approximately 500 Syrian tanks; 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 quickly began to arrive at the scene. Immediately upon arriving at army depots the reservists were sent directly to the front lines; they did not have time to wait for the crews they trained with, machine guns to be installed on the tanks, or even calibrate the tank guns (a time-consuming process known as bore-sighting). The Syrians expected that it would take at least 24 hours for Israeli reserves to reach the front lines. 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. Stopgap blocking actions were conducted whenever the Syrians were on the verge of breaking through. However, in spite of their losses, the Syrians continued to press the attack. The vastly outnumbered Israeli defenses lost numerous tanks. By the afternoon of October 9th 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; it now had less than a dozen operating tanks and was 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.