Draft98

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CHAPTER 98

Shyla drew a shift on the evening of June 4, 1967 that went past mid- night and even a bit past dawn on the following day. The Egyptian air force possessed seventeen airfields and she worked every one of them. Fortunately, the idiotic way the Egyptians parked their bombers and fighters made her job much easier than she feared it would be.

The fools literally arranged their ready aircraft in neat squares with impressive military precision, if not much in the way of military wis- dom. When Shyla saw the situation she realized she could accomplish her mission by simply working the perimeter of the squares rather than bagging every plane.

The charges she used were about the size of the clay pigeons used in shooting practice, and they were even made of clay, with a magnet em- bedded in it. Every time Shyla said, "Pull!" one of them would appear at her feet. Sometimes the guards who patrolled the parked planes would hear her say that, but of course they would see nothing, because it was Shyla's talent that she could be invisible to the human eye.

One time Ithuriel pointed out that when Shyla was invisible she must also be blind, but this wasn't the case, and she had no idea how Chokhmah arranged that it should be so, assuming Ithuriel was not just pulling her leg.

Shyla took the charges and put them on the pylon of the forward land- ing gear where it emerged from two hinged panels on the front of the plane. Only a thorough inspection by a pilot or a mechanic would have revealed them, certainly not by untrained guards. The idea was to render the planes nose-down after detonation. With twenty planes pre- pared in this way, a square of thirty-six would be taken completely out of action. The ones that were not disabled would be trapped in place by the ones that were, so closely were they positioned.

When Shyla said, "Reset!" she was whisked to another airfield to eval- uate the layout and repeat her performance. A half-hour after sunset on the 5th of June she had completed the set parked at the Arish air- field, the one the Israelis wanted to leave with its runways intact to use after the immanent war. From a safe distance she gave the order to detonate and witnessed the two long rows of planes immediately go nose down on the tarmac.

Shyla knew that the same scene was repeated, simultaneously, at six- teen other airfields across Egypt.

From Israel's point of view the cause of the 1967 war was exactly the same as the cause of the Suez War in 1956. President Nasser had rolled the dice one more time. The Strait of Tirin was once again blocked by the heavy guns of the fortress at Sharm el-Sheikh, choking off the southern Negev town of Eilat from access to the open sea. And Israel viewed this again as the trigger to go to war.

The only astonishing thing was how the Arabs had forgotten that in the eleven years since the Suez thing. But sometimes a deterrent needed refreshening.

Rav seren Judith Margolies received the phone call she was expecting from her contacts in the B'nei Elohim and reported to the other offi- cers in the Kirya, the sprawling IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv. Orders were given to four Israeli air force fighters flying on Combat Air Patrol (CAP) to turn north in the Mediterranian until, it was estimat- ed, they had disappeard from Egyptian radar. They were already hover- ing on the edge of view. Then the planes descended to just sixty feet "off the deck" to avoid radar and SA-2 missiles and turned south toward Egypt.

Their mission was to evaluate the massive damage that Judith had as- sured Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, in the final four days of planning for the war, would be inflicted by the B'nei Elohim.

When the fighter pilots saw what Shyla had done they were quite satis- fied. They had been briefed that should the B'nei Elohim prove suc- cessful they were to fly to the airfield holding the greatest number of large bombers, the ones capable of striking Israeli cities, and inflict as much damage as possible.

The rest of Israel's entire air force, just two hundred planes to the Arab's five hundred, were then scrambled for the first wave.

In just a quarter of an hour on the morning of June 5 hundreds of Egyptian warplanes were mortally crippled, and a new type of bomb pro- duced in collaboration with France tore up the airfields where the planes were parked. The bombs descended by parachute until they were pointed nose down, then a rocket engine drive them into the concrete of the runways. When they exploded they shattered the runways right to the foundations and made them useless without time-consuming re- pairs.

When the first wave returned to Israel, ground teams had been trained to refuel the planes and get them back into the sky in under ten minutes. So a second wave followed hard after the first attack. A third wave of fifty sorties were sent to polish things up. When it was over, Egypt had lost 293 planes to Israel's nineteen.

President Nasser called King Hussein of Jordan but told him nothing of the sudden and inexplicable loss of his entire air force. He told the king it was the Israeli air force, rather, that had been completely destroyed. Proceeding on the basis of this misinformation the king ordered his troops to cross the border and his planes to begin bombing targets in Israel. Syria and Iraq attacked at precisely the same time.

Within two hours, Israeli warplanes drove back the invading forces and destroyed the bulk of Syrian and Jordanian air assets with aerial dog- fights and ground attacks. A grand total of four hundred Arab aircraft were destroyed in the first day of fighting, leaving them with only a hundred operational planes, but there remained very few operational runways from which to launch them. That fact alone decided the ulti- mate outcome of the war.

On June 6th Nasser made another phone call to King Hussein to tell him American and British planes had destroyed his entire air force on the first day. Nasser half-believed it himself. He still had no idea it was the B'nei Elohim who prepared the attack. Nasser had no idea the B'nei Elohim even existed. To admit the Israelis had somehow decapi- tated his entire air force would imply that mere Jews were militarily superior to Arabs, which was, of course, utterly unthinkable. So it must have been the Anglos, or so went his thinking.

On the 8th of June the officer commanding Alef Battalion, Third Compa- ny, Rav seren Judith Margolies, lay atop a sand berm and looked across the Suez Canal at the former British airfield of Deversoir, or Duweir Suweir as the enemy called it, which lay on the northwestern shore of the Great Bitter Lake at the place where it narrowed to form the canal once more.

The canal-crossing operations originating on there were intense. Poor planning had caught up to the Egyptians and they now knew the fragil- ity of the thread on which the entire war now hung. It turns out that troops need to drink water, and in the scorching desert of the Sinai Peninsula, doubly so.

Judith took aim at a water tower with her Anti-Tank Guided Missile and fired. The trick was to keep the target centered in the cross- hairs until it hit. This could be difficult with the intense pressures of combat, but Judith's people had earned their reputation by their steely cool under fire. Her missile hit, becoming one of five to hit that tower. Judith dropped the firing mechanism and turned south to reach the prearranged marshalling point in the rear.

Captain Shaul Ben-Elissar found a parked water truck in his sights, and successfully took it out before following Judith. The truck was not armored, certainly not to the 30 centimeters of steel which the ATGMs were capable of penetrating.

Sergeant Binyamin Gafhi fired and hit a raft returning across the mouth of the canal where it entered the Great Bitter Lake, making it unavailable to pick up one of the parked water trucks.

Private Marina Merom fired her missile. The rocket screamed away, spooling out a fine guidance command wire behind it. Using electrical signals sent down that wire, Marina carefully kept her crosshairs on target and struck a steel aqueduct pipe. It would soon be field-re- paired, but not quickly enough to help the Egyptians trapped on the other side of the canal.

By that time the Egyptians realized the threat was coming from a levee bordering the lake and directed fire southeast. The sand erupted with artillery fire. Private David Zismann was killed before he could shoot his ATGW.

Corporal Dalia Bibi squeezed the trigger on her missile launcher, but nothing happened. The weapon was a dud. Cursing, she dropped it joined the flood of Alef Battalion personnel making a hasty retreat.

Private Uzi Herschson advanced closer to Deversoir to get inside the 2,500 meter range of his weapon. There he struck a large raft with a water truck on board.

Lieutenant Noami Meridor, rattled by shrapnel dinging the sand nearby, couldn't keep her target centered and missed. Her missile struck the ground inside the old airfield and exploded, but still she contributed to the fog of war and served as suppressing fire to keep the Egyptians from retaliating effectively.

Captain Maxim Shahal wiped out a large crane truck which was busy at- tempting to right a water truck overturned by an earlier blast.

Sergeant Yossi Levi hit the hardest target of all, a water truck which was moving down a street, attempting to get out of Deversoir to cross the canal somewhere to the north.

The ATGW attack fell silent. Nearly a thousand wires lay on the sands and in the saltwater between the levee and Deversoir. Judith's raid was complete. In roughly one half-hour's work, she had ensured a swift denouement to the war that would keep the lives of many Israeli sol- diers out of danger.

Not all the water supplies were destroyed, but enough to ensure that only the Egyptian officers would taste fresh water in the desert to- morrow. When rumor of this got out, they would have a full-scale muti- ny on their hands. The Egyptian beachhead would disintegrate before the two-pronged advance of Israeli tanks. Racked by thirst, entire brigades of Egyptians would willingly surrender just for the hope of a mouthful of water.

By the evening of June 10 it was all over. After only six days of hard fighting, Israel possessed three times the territory she did before the war.

No Egyptian forces of any strength remained to prevent Israel from reaching Cairo if they chose to do so, which they did not. Egypt's infantry had been reduced to thousands of thirsty, barefooted strag- glers walking west to cross over the Sinai Canal, swimming if need be. As long as they kept moving west, the IDF let them go. Israel was al- ready burdened with 7,000 Egyptian prisoners as things already stood.

The whole Sinai peninsula was annexed by Israel, which completely iso- lated the Gaza Strip. Sharm was abandoned by the Egyptians in the face of another strong amphibious assault. A chain of Israeli fortresses designed to block any future Egyptian attack was built along the east bank of the canal. This was called the Bar-Lev Line, but it would nev- er be staffed by appropriate numbers of Israeli troops, and this fool- ish policy would allow Egypt to attack once more in 1973.

The ancient capital of Jerusalem fell completely into Israeli hands after nearly two thousand years. Jordanian forces were driven east across the Jordan River, leaving the entire West Bank, also called Judea and Samaria, under Israeli occupation. The State of Israel now controlled the lives of a million Palestinian Arabs, and this was to come with its own host of problems for decades to come.

Syria lost their territory in the strategic Golan Heights. A helicop- ter took IDF soldiers to the summit of snowy Mt. Hermon to take pos- session of the radar facilities there. This broad and tall mountain, whose snows were the source of the Jordan River, would become the eyes and ears of Israel.

Total Israeli losses were about seven hundred dead. This butcher's bill was far smaller than had been feared on the eve of the war, but it was still a heavy burden for their families and communities to bear. Arab losses were much higher. In the Sinai alone there were 15,000 Egyptian corpses left unburied on the desert sands.

Israel, despite her relatively small population, had stabilized as the regional superpower of the Middle-East. A roughly equal number of Jews dwelt in the United States, where they lived in conditions that were much safer than in Eretz Yisrael, but they were still of the Diaspora. They weren't home, in the land that had been promised to Abraham, and if the Jews learned anything over the previous three thousand years, they had learned that seemingly favorable conditions abroad were li- able to change precisely because they, as a tribe, as a people, never changed. Something buried deep inside the rest of humanity could never accept that.

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