Glimpses of Epic of 8-Year Holy Defense (36)
In the previous program we talked about the first phase of Bayt ul-Moqaddas operation and how the Iranian forces crossed over Karun River by constructing five floating bridges. One of the most difficult stages of this operation, which was aimed at liberating Khorramshahr, was to cross the river through a surprise attack to reach the back of the Iraqi defense lines. Let us continue the account.
In the first night of the operation, thousands of the brave and selfless combatants had to walk nearly 24 kilometers to get to Ahwaz-Khorramshahr road. A fierce fighting broke out between the Iranian forces and the occupying forces of Iraq. The Ba'athist enemy enjoyed advanced military equipment and stronger fire support than Iran. In the counterattack to retake Ahwaz-Khorramshahr road, the Iraqi tanks succeeded in reaching the road. After walking 25 kilometers, the Iranian brave combatants had only individual weapons for defense. Thus, the battle was the scene of man vs. tank fight. In the Bayt ul-Moqaddas operational area, Iraq had 2700 tanks and personnel carriers.
Had it not been for the bravery, resistance and faith of Iranian youths, Bayt ul-Moqaddas operation would have been doomed and the predictions and designs of the Iranian commanders would be nill. Bayt ul-Moqaddas operation was staged in 4 stages and it took 26 days to liberate Khorramshahr road. In view of the vast operational area and the Ba'athist enemy’s defense strongholds, every stage of Bayt ul-Moqaddas was in fact a major operation itself. Continuation of the operation was discussed at a meeting in the second night. There were two opinions. Some believed that the enemy was getting prepared for a counterattack in the second night so it had retreated its troops and would return to its positions the next morning. Others believed that the combatants should block the routes of penetration just to stabilize Sarpol region.
After discussions, it was decided to cover the routes of penetration as the first priority. Accordingly, Najaf 8 Brigade and Vali Asr 7 Brigade were assigned to repair the 10-kilometer penetration route which had been built in Ahwaz-Khorramshahr road. Having blocked the penetration route in Sarpol region, views were exchanged with the presence of commanders in Karbala Central Headquarters. Colonel Ali Sayyad Shirazi, then commander of the army’s ground force, said: "The objectives of the mission that brother Rezaei and I spoke about include the destruction of enemy forces, pushing back the enemy from the occupied regions and advancing toward Shalamcheh to tighten the noose around Khorramshahr."
The reconnaissance operations and studying the aerial photographs revealed that the Ba'athist army had built seven anti-aircraft defensive lines in the north of Khorramshahr, and by impounding at the entrance of Khorramshahr, had created a huge barrier to hinder Iran's advance towards the city. After reviewing different opinions on the siege and occupation of Khorramshahr, there were two general views. First, advancing the border to have more access to the enemy lines. The second view was focused on advancing towards Khorramshahr from the west of Ahwaz-Khorramshahr road. Finally, the first opinion was approved. The experiences of the first phase of the operation showed that the Ba'athist enemy had strongly concentrated in the west of Ahwaz-Khorramshahr and in the general area of Shalamcheh. Therefore, any attempt to enter Khorramshahr was useless without destroying the enemy in the west of the road.
The second phase of the operation started 6 days after the first one at 11.30 pm, May 6, 1982. In this phase, the Iranian combatants began advancing to the border line from Ahwaz-Khorramshahr road, west of Karun. Simultaneously, the Iraqi 6th division was besieged and on the verge of total annihilation. Thus, the Iranian forces managed to be stationed along 17-kilometer border line, and Iraqi forces retreated from Jufair, Karkheh Kur, Hoveize regions and Hamid garrison only to be concentrated in Shalamcheh-Khorramshahr axis. But the second phase began when the Ba'athist enemy was well aware of the objectives of Bayt ul-Moqaddas operation and its axes.
One week after the start of the operation, the Iraqi army deployed a lot of equipment between the international border and the Ahwaz-Khorramshahr road. As the Iranian combatants marched to the border region they faced a big number of tanks, personnel carriers, artillery fire and infantry units of the enemy. At the very first hours, the forces of Fat’h headquarters made their way into the border post, but the forces of Nasr headquarters were delayed and could not join the forces of Fat’h headquarters and had to deploy along the road of posts, because they had mistaken it with the border embankment. Therefore, Nasr headquarters was trapped in a bad crisis. The Ba'athist forces attacked the positions of Nasr headquarters in the north of their front from the south and Shalamcheh area, and restored a large part of the captured positions of Nasr headquarters. In this critical situation, all commanders of Karbala and Fat’h headquarters gathered in the commanding trench of Nasr headquarters to find a solution. The Iraqi army launched a counterattack on the combatants of Mohammad Rasulollah 27 and Valiasr 7 Brigades and Hamza 21 division with full power.
Sounds of bullets, artillery shells and fire of RPG7 were heard everywhere. The commander of Mohammad Rasulollah Brigade Ahmad Motavasselian, over his wireless told the IRGC commander: “Listen to what's going on. All commanders and officials of the brigade, including Haj Hemmat and Mahmoud Shahbazi, are fighting the enemy. I am just beside the wireless."
It was the war of man vs. tank. At that moment, a brave Basiji, by throwing a grenade into the personnel carrier of the commander of the Ba'athist 24th mechanized brigade, captured him. Of course, the Iraqi commander was killed after a few hours due to the injuries caused by grenade. It was a very tough situation. The severity of clashes and the critical condition of the fronts were reported over the phone to Imam Khomeini's son, Haj Ahmad, to inform the Imam. The Imam said: “Tell the combatants to resist.”
Less than five hours from the announcement of Imam's message, the enemy’s counterattack was confronted by Iranian forces. As a matter of fact, Imam Khomeini's message, as usual, breathed a new spirit in the brave combatants leading to the defeat of the enemy forces. As it got darker, Saddam's army weakened as the tanks and artillery couldn't fire at night. This made the Iranian combatants safer against the enemy and their mobility increased. Iranian combatants succeeded to get to the Iraqi border post with a 12-kilometer advance on Ahwaz-Khorramshahr road at the Zaid checkpoint area. A large number of the enemy’s tanks and personnel carriers were destroyed or taken as booties. Iran's combatants were able to cross the border in the heart of the enemy lines.