JERUSALEM (VosIzNeias) — IAF pilot Yiftach Spektor couldn’t believe his bad luck. The 107 Phantom squadron leader had been assigned a key mission on the fourth day of the Yom Kippur War: To bomb the Syrian petrol reserves and other key buildings situated near the Syrian Army’s HQ in Damascus. The goal of the mission was to destroy the infrastructure on which Syria’s war-making capacity depended, targeting strategic targets in Syria such as its oil industry and electricity generating system.
The first target was to be the Syrian General Staff Headquarters in the prosperous Abu Rummaneh district of Damascus. The raid was to disrupt Syrian command and control, but would also serve to deter Jordan from joining the war and would prove that despite the blows the IAF had suffered, it would not be deterred from taking the war to Syria. However Spektor encountered heavy cloud cover over the target and could not find any way of penetrating the clouds and hitting the targets without exposing himself to murderous anti-aircraft fire.
Spektor’s squadron had been preceded by 119 squadron led by Arnon Lavoshin. Unlike Spektor, Lavoshin’s squadron had been able to find a hole in the cloud cover and emptied their payload over the Syrian Army HQ, causing heavy damage and loss of life. Unknown to the Israeli pilots, the Israeli prisoners of war were being held in a building inside the compound, the only building left standing after the attack. The Syrians were stunned and could not fathom how the Israelis knew exactly where their POW’s were being held and how they managed not to bomb them.
Yet Spektor was frustrated and also did not know what to do with his squadron’s payload of bombs. He radioed HQ for advice and was told to drop his bombs on the Syrian tanks pouring into the Southern Golan Heights. After suffering heavy losses on the first days of the war, with the Syrians breaking through Israeli lines and moving towards the Kinneret, the Israelis had launched a counterattack the previous day, led by Moshe Peled’s 146th Division and Dan Lanner’s 205th division. Yet the Israelis were outnumbered by 10 to 1 and their attack was met by fierce resistance from the Syrian divisions.
Spektor arrived at the scene just as a long column of Syrian tanks was preparing to enter the battle zone and engage the Israeli forces. After identifying the column, Spektor and his fellow pilots attacked the Syrian division, causing heavy losses and leaving the Syrian lines in disarray. The Israeli tanks continued their counterattack unimpeded and crushed the Syrian advance.
Had Spektor not encountered cloud cover, he would have hit targets already attacked previously and would probably have killed the Israeli POW’s being held there. Instead, providentially, he was able to intervene at a crucial moment in the attack in the Southern Golan Heights and affect the course of the battle. Although not recognized as such, this was clearly one of the many miraculous events of the Yom Kippur war, enabling Israel to defeat its enemies despite their coordinated surprise attacks on two fronts.