הקרב על דגניה עימות מול טנקי אוייב 1948 מלחמת השחרור
Syrian armored truck hit by the IDF near Degania .The Sea of Gallile is in the back along the Golan
Golani brigade visit the site when the war was over
The Battles of the Kinarot Valley , is a collective name for a series of military engagements between the Haganah and the Syrian army during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, fought between May 15–22, 1948 in the Kinarot Valley. It includes two main sites: the Battle of Degania-Tzemah, and battles near Masada-Sha'ar HaGolan. The engagements were part of the battles of the Jordan Valley, which also saw fighting against Transjordan in the area of Gesher.
The battles began shortly after the Israeli declaration of independence, when Syria shelled Ein Gev on the night of May 15–16. They were the first military engagement between Israel and Syria. On May 18, Syria attacked the Israeli forward position in Tzemah (Samakh), and on May 20 attacked Degania Alef and occupied Masada and Sha'ar HaGolan. The attack on Degania Alef was a failure, after which the Syrian forces attempted to capture Degania Bet. After reaching a stalemate, they retreated to their initial position in Tel al-Qasr, where they remained until the end of the war.
The campaign was perceived as a decisive Israeli victory, causing reorganizations in the Syrian high command and tales of the heroics in Degania becoming popularized in Israel. However, Syria made a small territorial gain and certain actions were criticized within Israel, such as the retreat from Masada and Sha'ar HaGolan.
The first stage of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, referred to as the 1947–1948 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine, started following the ratification of UN Resolution 181 on November 29, 1947, which granted Israel the mandate to declare independence. Despite the Arab states' threats on the Jewish population of the British Mandate of Palestine should they declare independence, as well as the American truce offer, the head of the Provisional State Council, David Ben Gurion, declared independence on May 14, 1948. On the night between May 14 and 15, the states of Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen invaded the newly-created state.
During the days prior to the declaration of independence, the Arab states surrounding the Mandate of Palestine massed their forces at the borders in preparation for the scenario. According to the Arab plan, the Syrian army was to attack the new state from southern Lebanon and capture Safed. As such, the Syrians massed their forces in that area; however, after they found out that Lebanon did not wish to actively participate in combat, their plans changed to an attack from the southern Golan Heights on Samakh (Tzemah) and later Tiberias. The Syrian force assembled in Qatana on May 1. It moved on May 12 to Beirut and to Sidon on May 13, after which it headed to Bint Jbeil. After the sudden plan change, the force moved to Nabatieh, and proceeded around the Finger of the Galilee to Banias and Quneitra, from which the eventual attack was staged.
According to plan, the Syrians attacked from the southern Golan Heights, just south of the Sea of Galilee through al-Hama and the Yarmouk River, hitting a densely-populated Jewish area of settlement. This came as a surprise to the Haganah,which expected an attack from south Lebanon and Mishmar HaYarden. The Jewish villages on the original confrontation line were Ein Gev, Masada, Sha'ar HaGolan and both Deganias.
On Friday, May 14, the Syrian 1st Infantry Brigade, commanded by Colonel Abdullah Wahab el-Hakim, was in Southern Lebanon, positioned to attack Malkia. That day Hakim was ordered to return to Syria, move south across the Golan and enter Palestine south of the Sea of Galilee through Tzemah. He began to advance at 9:00 AM on Saturday. He had only two of his battalions, and they were exhausted.
At the onset of the invasion, the Syrian force consisted of a reinforced infantry brigade, supplemented by at least one armored battalion (including Renault R35 tanks) and a field artillery battalion. The troops moved to Kafr Harib and were spotted by Haganah reconnaissance, but because the attack was not expected, the Israeli troops did not attack the invaders. At night between 15 and 16 May, the bulk of the Syrian forces set up camp in Tel al-Qasr in the southwestern Golan. One company with armored reinforcements split up to the south to proceed to the Jewish Water Institute on the Yarmouk riverbank.
The Haganah forces in the area consisted of several units from the Barak (2nd) Battalion of the Golani Brigade, as well as the indigenous villagers, including a reduced Guard Corps (HIM) company at the Tzemah police station. The commander of this force was the deputy of Avraham Yoffe, the battalion commander.On May 13, the battalion commander declared a state of emergency in the area from May 15 until further notice. He authorized his men to seize all necessary arms from the settlements and urged them to dig in and build fortifications as fast as possible, and to mobilize all the necessary work force to do so.
Breakdown of the battles on May 16
On Saturday night, May 15, the observation posts reported many vehicles with full lights moving along the Golan ridge east of the Sea of Galilee. The opening shots were fired by Syrian artillery on kibbutz Ein Gev at approximately 01:00 on May 16. The following day, the Syrian company which split from the main force attacked the Water Institute, where every worker was killed except one. The company then proceeded towards Sha'ar HaGolan and Masada. Its advance was halted by the village residents as well as a platoon of reinforcements armed with 20 mm cannons. The company retreated to its position and commenced artillery fire on the two kibbutzim. An Israeli reserve unit was called in from Tiberias. It arrived after twenty minutes and took positions around the town. At that point, Tzemach was defended by three platoons from the Barak battalion and reinforcements from neighboring villages.
This development gave the Israeli forces time to organize their defenses at Samakh (Tzemah). During the course of May 16, Israeli gunboats harassed the Syrian positions on the southeastern Sea of Galilee shore. Meanwhile, Syrian aircraft made bombing runs on Masada, Sha'ar HaGolan, Degania Bet and Afikim. The attack on Tzemah resumed on May 17—the Syrians set up their positions in an abandoned British military base just east of the village and in "The Quarantine" (an installation that checked for contaminated cattle), while the Israeli forces entrenched in the actual village and its police station, which had been abandoned by the residents in April 1948, with British escort. A Syrian force attempted to surround the Israelis by crossing the Jordan River to the north of the Sea of Galilee, but encountered a minefield in which a senior Syrian officer was wounded.
This additional reprieve allowed the Israelis to evacuate the children, elderly and sick from the Kinarot Valley, as well as conduct maneuvers which feigned massive reinforcements in the Poria-Alumot region.In the panic of surprise, many men also tried to flee the frontal villages, but blockposts were set up near Afula and Yavne'el by the Military Police Service's northern command, under Yosef Pressman, who personally stopped buses and allowed only the women and children to proceed to safety.
Breakdown of the battles on May 18–19 (Battle of Tzemah)
On the morning of May 18, the Syrian 1st Brigade, now commanded by Brigadier-General Husni al-Za'im and consisting of about 30 vehicles, including tanks, advanced west towards Tzemah (Samakh) in two columns—one across the coast, and another flanking from the south. A contingent was allocated further south, in order to secure the safety of the main force by flanking Sha'ar HaGolan and Masada from the west. It entered a stalemate with a new Israeli position northwest of the two villages. The coastal column shelled the Israeli positions and inflicted enormous damage, due to the Israelis' lack of time to properly dig in. Reinforcements from the Deganias arrived but were immediately hit by the Syrians and did not significantly affect the battle. After the second column reached Tzemah, the Haganah retreated, fearing a cut-off of its retreat route to the Deganias by the latter column. The retreat was disorganized and heavy Israeli casualties were recorded as Tzemah's police station fell.
On the same day, Syrian aircraft bombed the Israeli village Kinneret and the regional school Beit Yerah, on the southwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. By evening, Tzemah had fallen and a new Israeli defensive line was set up in the Deganias, facing the Syrian counterparts. At night, a Palmach company attempted to recapture Tzemah and assaulted the police station, but were warded off. On the morning of May 19, a message was sent to Masada and Sha'ar HaGolan to prepare for an evacuation, although when the final order was given to stay put, the villages had already been abandoned, mostly to Afikim. At 8:00 AM the Syrian troops captured the villages without a fight. The villages were subsequently looted and destroyed by the Syrians.
The counterattack on the police station failed but delayed the Syrian attack on the Deganias by twenty-four hours. In the evening of May 19, a delegation from the Deganias arrived in Tel Aviv to ask for reinforcements and heavy weapons. One of its members later wrote that David Ben-Gurion told them he could not spare them anything, as "The whole country is a front line". He also wrote that Yigael Yadin, the Chief Operations Officer of the Haganah, told him that there was no alternative to letting the Arabs approach to within twenty to thirty meters of th gates of Degania and fight their tanks in close combat.
Breakdown of the battles on May 20–22 (Battle of Degania)
After the fall of Tzemah, the Haganah command realized the importance of the campaign in the region, and made a clear separation between the Kinarot Valley and the Battle of Gesher to the south against Transjordan. Moshe Dayan was given command of the Kinarot campaign, and a company of reinforcements from the Gadna program was allocated, along with 3 PIATs. Other reinforcements came in the form of a company from the Yiftach Brigade and another company of paramilitaries from villages in the Lower Galilee and the Jezreel Valley. The Palmach counterattack on the police station on the night of May 18 gave the Israeli forces an additional day to prepare defense and attack plans.
The Israelis called the reinforcements assuming this was the main Syrian thrust. The Syrians were not intending to carry out any further operation south of the Sea of Galilee and planned to make their main effort further north, near the Bnot Ya'akov bridge. On May 19, the Iraqis were about to drive west through Nablus toward Tulkarm, and asked the Syrians to make a diversion in the Degania area to protect their right flank. The Syrians complied, their main objective being to seize the bridge across the river north of Degania Alef, thus blocking any Israeli attack from Tiberias against the Iraqi line of communications.
Heavy Syrian shelling of Degania Alef started at about 04:00 on May 20 from the Tzemah police station, by means of 75 mm cannons, and 60 and 81 mm mortars. At 04:30 on May 20, the Syrian army began its advance on the Deganias and the bridge over the Jordan River north of Degania Alef. Unlike the attack on Tzemah, this action saw the participation of nearly all of the Syrian forces stationed at Tel al-Qasr, including infantry, armor and artillery. The Israeli defenders numbered about 70 persons. At night, a Syrian expeditionary force attempted to infiltrate Degania Bet, but was caught and warded off, which caused the main Syrian force to attack Degania Alef first. At 06:00, the Syrians started a frontal armored attack, consisting of 5 tanks, a number of armored vehicles and an infantry company. The Syrians pierced the Israeli defense, but their infantry was at some distance behind the tanks. The Israelis knocked out four Syrian tanks and four armored cars with 20 mm cannons, PIATs and Molotov cocktails. Meanwhile, other defenders kept small arms fire on the Syrian infantry, who stopped in citrus groves a few hundred meters from the settlements. The surviving Syrian tanks withdrew back to the Golan. They left behind a number of lightly damaged or otherwise inoperable tanks that the Israelis managed to repair.
Despite the Syrian superiority in numbers and equipment, the destruction of a multitude of armored vehicles and the infantry's failure to infiltrate Degania Alef was the likely cause for the retreat of the main Syrian force to Tzemah. A less-organized and sparsely-numbered armored and infantry force forked off to attack Degania Bet. Eight tanks, supported by mortar fire, moved within 400 yards of the settlement defense, where they stopped to provide fire support for an infantry attack. The Syrians made to failed attempts to breach the Israeli small arms fire defense and gave up the attempt.
While the battle was taking place, a delegation from the Deganias travelled to the government headquarters in Tel Aviv to request weapons and reinforcements. The General Staff Chief of Operations Yigael Yadin denied the request, but was compelled to provide (for just 24 hours) four newly-received Napoleonchik field cannons, by Prime Minister David Ben Gurion. The artillery reached the front in the middle of the day and was placed on the Poria-Alumot range. It was the first Israeli artillery to be used in the war. While the soldiers who operated the cannons (still lacking sights) were not proficient in handling them, an acceptable level of accuracy was achieved after practice shots into the Sea of Galilee. The artillery fire took the Syrian army by complete surprise, and the latter decided to regroup and retreat to Tel al-Qasr, also recalling the company at Sha'ar HaGolan and Masada.
There were two reasons for the Syrian withdrawal. A Palmach battalion from the Yiftach Brigade had been sent by boat during the previous night across the sea to Ein Gev. It climbed up the Golan and carried out a counter raid at dawn on Kafr Harib, threatening the line of communications of the 1st Brigade. The second reason was that they were running out of ammunition: Husni al-Za'im had been promised replenishment, and attacked Degania short of ammunition. Za'im ordered a withdrawal when his troops ran out of ammunition. The replenishment was instead sent to the 2nd Brigade further north. The Israelis were not aware of this, and attributed the Syrian withdrawal to surprise at the Israeli artillery fire.
Aftermath and effects
On May 21, Haganah troops returned to Tzemah and set up fortifications, The damaged tanks and armored cars were gathered and taken to the rear. The settlers returned that night to identify the bodies of their comrades in the fields and buried them in a common grave in Degania. At dawn on May 21, the Golani staff reported that the enemy was repelled but that they were expecting another attack. The full report read:
“ Our forces repelled yesterday a heavy attack of tanks, armored vehicles and infantry that lasted about 8 hours. The attack was repelled by the brave stand of our men, who used Molotov cocktails and their hands against the tanks. 3" mortars and heavy machinery took their toll on the enemy. Field cannons caused a panicked retreat of the enemy, who yesterday left Tzemah. This morning our forces entered Tzemah and took a large amount of booty of French ammunition and light artillery ammunition. We have captured 2 tanks and an armored vehicle of the enemy. The enemy is amassing large reinforcements. We are expecting a renewal of the attack.
On May 22, villagers returned to Masada and Sha'ar HaGolan, which had been largely destroyed. Expecting another attack, reinforcements from the Carmeli Brigade took up positions in the two villages.
Preserved Renault R35 tank captured by Israel in Degania. The PIAT's hit can be seen at the top of the turret.
In the wake of the fall of Gush Etzion, news of Degania's successful stand (as well as that of Kfar Darom) provided a morale boost for other Israeli villages. The success of the Napoleonchik field cannons prompted the Israeli high command to re-use two of them in attempts to capture Latrun. The flight from Masada and Sha'ar HaGolan, on the other hand, stirred controversy in the young state, fueled by news of the Kfar Etzion massacre just days before, and the Palmach issued a newsletter accusing them of abandoning national assets, among other things. These accusations were subsequently repeated in media and in a play by Yigal Mossensohn, and a campaign was started by the villagers to clear their name.
The battles of the Kinarot Valley were the first and last of the major ground engagements between Israel and Syria to the south of the Sea of Galilee, although minor patrol skirmishes continued until the first ceasefire. Despite the Syrians holding Tel al-Qasr, which was part of the British Mandate of Palestine and the Jewish state according to the UN partition of 1947, the offensive was considered a decisive Syrian defeat by both sides. The Syrian defense minister Ahmad Sharabati and Chief of Staff Atafa blamed each other, the latter resigning and the former being dismissed by the prime minister as a result of the battle.
First tank kill controversy
The first Syrian tank damaged near Degania Alef's gates, which has been preserved on the location, was the subject of a historiographic dispute when Baruch "Burke" Bar-Lev, a retired IDF colonel and one of Degania's native defenders at the time, claimed that he was the one who stopped the tank with a Molotov cocktail However, his account was rebutted by an IDF Ordnance Corps probe, which in 1991 determined that a PIAT shot had killed the tank's crew. Shlomo Anschel, a Haifa resident who also participated in the battle, told Haaretz in 2007 that the tank was hit by PIAT fire from a Golani soldier, and that the Molotov cocktail could not possibly have hit the crew
Type Light tank
Place of origin France
Used by Syria during 1948 war
The Renault R35, an abbreviation of Char léger Modèle 1935 R or R 35, was a French light infantry tank of the Second World War. Designed in the mid-1930s, it was the most numerous French tank in the early stages of the conflict. It was also used by other armies and sold to Syria in large numbers