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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Al-Jazeera special on the Golan

Al-Jazeera's English news did a special report on the Golan Heights this week.

Hat Tip: Syria News (that ought to get me some mail :-) (No, Mr. Chinless Ophthalmologist, the blog owner does not know me, has no idea who I am and probably never realized that blogspot accounts in Syria can be accessed from Israel, so please do not harass him or throw him in jail. I am old enough to be his father)!

The first part of this 'documentary' is almost fair, while the second part has a lot more references to 'Israeli propaganda' thrown in as if ruins from 2000-3000 years ago could be manufactured. But they show a bunch of scenes from Katzrin (the main town in the Israeli Golan) including the new IMax theater. There's a fair amount of interview time with Avigdor Kahalani, whom they describe as a "Six Day War veteran" without noting that he was an MK for several years and that he is a war hero for single-handedly holding off tens of Syrian tanks at the Valley of Tears (Emek Habacha) at the outbreak of the 1973 war. Wikipedia's description - linked above - is grossly understated. Here's a much better one from an online forum:
In the northern half of the front, there was the 7th brigade, and at the place of the main syrian effort, along the main road from Damascus to the Jordan valley, a huge Syrian force was stopped by the 77 tank battalion of Lt. Col. Avigdor Kahalani (Now Brig. Gen. Ret.) Kahalani's tanks, dug in high placed firing positions, destroyed hundreds of Syrian targets in about 48 hours of fierce fighting, massively outnumbered. the huge Syrian force kept advancing towards the smaller Israeli force, and at some point, at the peak of battle, Kahalani noticed that some of his tanks, afraid of being overrun by the approaching enemy, started retreating. Knowing that if the enemy force would capture the high hills line which his force held, they would quickly destroy all the retreating force. Since radio chat failed to persuade the tanks (some of them already with no more ammo. After many hours of firing) to stop retreating, Kahalani made an act of brave self-example, he called his tanks by radio again, and said "we are better than they are, let's storm them" and then moved his tank to the highest position, and there, fully exposed to the enemy force started firing directly at the approaching enemy tanks. This act of tremendous bravery and leadership, worked both ways. The Syrian force, which so far suffered heavy losses but knew that they're fighting an un-backed Israeli front line force, thought that an Israeli re-inforcement force has arrived and begins to take positions on top of the ridge, and the retreating tanks, returned and re-took their firing positions. Seeing "new" tanks firing from the ridge top. the Syrian force decided that it's time to retreat due to the heavy losses suffered so far. It was the "straw that broke the camel's back" and the Syrian force, the main invading force, started retreating, leaving about 300 burned tanks and armored vehicles behind. For these acts of bravery, leadership, and the tremendous fighting performance of his battalion, Lt. Col. Kahalani was also awarded the highest medal. Kahalani's gunner himself destroyed 17 Syrian tanks in this battle, one of them from range of 3 meters. however there was a problem with aiming. It was in the middle of the night, and the gunner just didn't see anything, Because the sights were filled with darkness, which was the Syrian tank. The gunner asked twice for range and directions, and was answered by kahalani "CLOSE!!!", seeing that the gunner is not firing, kahalani, who remembered being hit and suffering 60% skin burns when his tank was hit in the 1967 six days war, finally kicked the gunner's back and shouted "JUST FIRE!!!" (and was temporarily blinded by the flash of the close hit at the enemy's turret.)
A couple of observations about the report. First, while I knew that the Golan provides about 30% of Israel's water, I had no idea that most of the water actually goes to Syria and Jordan (not to mention the Lebanese diversion of the Hezbani River further north which goes unmentioned). Water is a major source of conflict in these parts. Second, you will note that Israel allows its Golan Druze to visit Syria, but what is left unsaid is that Syria does not allow its Golan Druze to visit family in Israel. The Quneitra story is something I discussed a bit earlier this week. And finally, given the current border lines, other than access to water sources, it's not clear to me what the strategic value of the Golan is to Syria, whereas the strategic value of the Golan to Israel should be obvious to anyone who stands on the eastern edge of the Kineret and looks eastward.

I know that there are at least one or two people from the Golan who hit this site regularly. Please feel free to comment on anything I missed. And without further ado, here are the videos:


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