'Our Flags Are Waving': New Footage and Audio From the Bloody Battle to Retake the Hermon in 1973

The IDF archive releases audio and video of the recapturing of the northern mountain from Syrian troops, in an operation in which 56 Israeli soldiers were killed

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(Seated from the left) General Ezer Weizman, Chief of Staff David Elazar, Commander of the Southern Command Shmuel (Gorodish) Gonen, (standing next to him) General Rehabam Ze'evi, in the war room at the Umm Chitna base in the Sinai Peninsula, October 1973
(Seated from the left) General Ezer Weizman, Chief of Staff David Elazar, Commander of the Southern Command Shmuel (Gorodish) Gonen, (standing next to him) General Rehabam Ze'evi, in the war room at the Umm Chitna base in the Sinai Peninsula, October 1973Credit: IDF Spokesperson
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

Forty-nine years after the Yom Kippur War, the Israel Defense Forces and Defense Establishment Archive released on Sunday a film chronicling the capture of the Mount Hermon outpost on October 22, 1973 – one of that war's bloodiest battles.

The video and its audio provide a rare glimpse into an operation dubbed "Operation Dessert," to retake territory captured by the Syrians.

An officer distributes mail from home to soldiers on Mount Hermon during the Yom Kippur War.Credit: Eitan Harris / GPO

The newly-released archival footage is accompanied by recordings of radio communications from the battle, featuring the voice of Golani Brigade reconnaissance unit commander Shmaryahu Winnik, moments before he was killed.

Syrian tanks damaged in the Yom Kippur war in the Golan HeightsCredit: Roman Frister

In the background are sounds of fierce combat that, at its end, saw the Israeli flag raised over the outpost.

On October 6, 1973, the first day of the Yom Kippur War, the Syrian army seized the Hermon outpost, killing 13 Israeli soldiers; others were captured or fled. Two days later, the army launched an assault to recover the outpost. It was unsuccessful, and ended with 23 Israeli troops dead and many more wounded.

Two weeks later, toward the end of the war, the 51st Battalion of the Golani Brigade set out on Operation Dessert to recapture the site. They accomplished their mission, but at a high cost – 56 soldiers were killed, including several officers, and dozens more were wounded.

The Israeli flag waving over the recaptured Hermon Fortress, on October 13, 1973.Credit: Gad Bitner / GPO

Over the course of the battle, until the Israelis raised their flag over the outpost, combatants exchanged messages over the radio about evacuating the wounded soldiers.

“I want you to bring me those [vehicles] as soon as possible.…to evacuate quite a few wounded soldiers," the voice in the archival material says.

Soldiers during the Yom Kippur WarCredit: HARIS EITAN

"Attention, I have multiple wounded.…send a few [soldiers] who can carry stretchers.…right now we’re passing them to the rear.… transferring them is pretty complicated, because we’re under fire.”

The recordings also touch on the battle itself: "We’re fighting, it’s going pretty hard. We’re firing a lot – we're firing as much as we can, but it’s not enough.… It's going tough, but we’ll manage, it will be okay, over...”

A tourist looks out over the Hermon mountain range, which is now a resort area, in 2021.Credit: Gil Eliyahu

The audio also includes an exchange about Winnik, who had been badly wounded in action. His soldiers said that his last words were “we have to take the Hermon,” and that he continued to fire even after he was wounded. Winnick was posthumously awarded the IDF’s Medal of Distinguished Service.

The end of the footage shows the Israeli flag flying over the outpost. The sound clip over it, from the end of the battle, says “The Hermon... is in our hands... we are up here and our flags are flying in the wind. Well done.”

One of the terms for Mount Hermon – "the eyes of the country" – was coined by Benny Massas, then a soldier who fought in the operation.

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