Victory or death
Below, some of the commanders and men of the October War recall the heady days of heroism and sacrifice, as well as the expert planning and plain dedicated hard work, without which October '73 would have been impossible
The capture of Col. Assaf Yagouri, commander of the Israeli 190th Armoured Brigade, was one of the most successful and illustrious operations of the October War. One of its chief effects was to lift the morale of the armed forces and the Egyptian people, who, on the morning of 10 October, opened their newspapers to jubilation at the events of the previous day.
The columns were filled with reports of the ferocious battles that had been waged against the enemy's counter-attacks in the Sinai. At first light on the morning of that momentous day, Egyptian forces had destroyed an entire Israeli brigade and taken its commander and hundreds of enemy soldiers captive. Later that afternoon, 102 enemy tanks were destroyed in fierce clashes with two Israeli brigades in the central and southern sectors.
The sixth of October was not the first time Egyptian forces had crossed the Canal. Brig. Gen. Youssri Emara's platoon had run raids across the canal and into the Sinai on several occasions, capturing a number of enemy soldiers in the process. On 6 October, the General recalls, "Cries of 'God is Great' thundered in the air. Col. Hamdi El-Hadidi, who was brigade commander at the time, had crossed the canal to bring back the rubber boats in order to take another wave of soldiers to the other side. I will never forget the scene of hundreds of soldiers rushing to jump into the boats and move forward as the engineers, knee-deep in mud and water, pummelled the sand barrier with their hydraulic guns. I saw the first Egyptian flag lifted over the Sinai as the troops, their morale growing with every moment, chanted Quranic verses inspiring our forces to advance to victory or to die."
On the third day of the war, the enemy had begun to move in its strategic reserves. Brig. Gen. Emara continues, "we continued to press forward, destroying all enemy tanks, artillery and soldiers that came in our way. At the same time, the fourth brigade which was advancing parallel to us, had managed to demolish the enemy at Tibbet Al-Shagara. We received orders to turn east and, as we advanced, I began to count the enemy losses on the road from where I was sitting on the camouflage net on the jeep. Suddenly, I heard gun fire and felt a bullet tear through my left hand. I looked and saw a group of enemy soldiers, led by the man who shot me. We opened fire on them and rushed to attack. Soon, four enemy officers emerged to announce their surrender. Among them was Assaf Yagouri."
Brig. Gen. Emara did not even notice the extent of the injury to his left hand until after the prisoners had been transferred behind the lines. He was taken to hospital and it was only there that he learned the identity of the man he had captured. He was later awarded the military star of honour, the medallion for those wounded in action and, in 1991, the badge of long and model service.
By Interviewed by Galal Nassar