Glimpses of Epic of 8-Year Holy Defense (37)
In the previous program we talked about the second phase of the great Bayt ul- Moqaddas operation which was aimed at liberating Khorramshahr.
In the first phase of this operation, thousands of Iranian combatants, crossed over Karun River via 5 floating bridges and walked 25 kilometers to reach behind the Iraqi forces. One of the outstanding features of Bayt ul-Moqaddas operation was that thousands of combatants crossed over the river via floating bridges which were just put together within a few hours.
The second phase of the operation began 6 days after the first phase at 11:30 pm, i.e. on May 6, 1982. In this phase, the advance of the Iranian forces towards the border strip began from Ahwaz-Khorramshahr road in west of Karun River. With the start of the second phase, the Ba'athist forces, who were concerned about further support, retreated from the west of Ahwaz-Khorramshahr road. While retreating, the Iraqi army faced with problems due to the existence of border stronghold and several trenches so that a number of its tanks fell into the trenches. The tactic of the Islamic Iran’s combatants in crossing the river had thoroughly astounded the enemy to the extent that the Iraqis lost the initiative and were morally in a very critical condition. In view of this, the second phase of the operation was designed and the Muslim combatants successfully reached the international borders. As the objectives of the second phase were attained, the Ba'athist army felt threat from three sides. Thus the maintenance of Iraqi 5th and 6th division was exposed to serious threat. Moreover, the city of Basra was exposed to the brave Iranians with no strong defensive positions to support it.
The Iraqi army's command was dumfounded: whether to make effort to recapture the lost areas and keep Khorramshahr or to concentrate its endeavor on preservation of Basra and preventing it from falling in the hand of Iranian combatants. If the Ba'athist commanders decided to recapture the lost regions and preserve Khorramshahr, they would lose Basra and destroy their forces. And if they decided to preserve Basra, they should immediately take action to save their forces in the occupied territories. They chose the second way and ordered the 5th and 6th divisions to withdraw. The goal of the Iraqi army was to save the two units from the risk of siege and annihilation to pave the way for further bolstering of Basra defense lines.
The withdrawal began in the early hours of May 8, 1982; but due to rashness, resulted in the captivity of a large number of Iraqi forces and leaving behind a large amount of equipment and facilities. The troops of Iran’s Quds headquarters immediately chased the enemy forces and liberated Ahwaz-Khorramshahr road and Jufair and Hamid garrisons and Huveizeh region. The Ba'athist forces were retreating in such a hurry that some of them were taken captives by the Iranian forces because most of them were asleep and had not yet been informed about the Iranians' assault. Rahim Safavi, then deputy of the operation in Karbala headquarters, said: "With the first move, we got to Ahwaz-Khorramshahr road and with the second move we were at the border. Therefore, the enemy anticipated that with the third move its maintenance would be cut off; so, it retreated to save its forces." Regarding the second reason for withdrawal of the Ba'athist forces, Rahim Safavi stated: "The enemy could see the direction of attack towards Basra and its forces in the north and south of the region lacked the reason for being there; hence, it withdrew its forces to defend Basra."
At the second phase of Bayt ul-Moqaddas operation, there was no use in the resistance of the Iraqi Ba'athist forces in Khorramshahr who were under the siege of Iranian forces. At the second phase of Bayt ul-Moqaddas operation, the commanders and designers of the operation achieved all of their objectives with the bravery and epic heroism of thousands of Iranian volunteer forces (Basijis). The first goal of this operation was to reach the international border. The second goal was to tighten the siege of Khorramshahr and force the Ba'athist enemy to gradually evacuate its forces from Khorramshahr. The third goal was to force the enemy’s 5th and 6th mechanized divisions to withdraw from Hoveizeh region, Hamid garrison and the outskirts of Ahwaz.
The 4th goal was to liberate Ahwaz-Khorramshahr road and the 5th goal was to solve part of the problems of the Iranian forces' logistics and maintenance that relied on the Karun River. With the full liberation of Ahwaz-Khorramshahr road during the first and second phases of Bayt ul-Moqaddas operation, nearly 5000 square kilometers of the occupied regions were liberated and, besides killing and injuring a large number of Iraqi forces, 9075 of these occupying forces were taken captives.
With the end of the second phase of Bayt ul-Moqaddas operation, the army and the IRGC top commanders immediately held a meeting at Karbala central headquarters to analyze the enemy’s withdrawal and take the necessary decisions on continuing the operation. During the meeting, the commander of IRGC Nasr headquarters, Martyr Hassan Baqeri, announced the news of evacuation of Khorramshahr from the Ba'athist enemy. The commander of IRGC Fat’h headquarters, Gholamali Rashid also concluded that all efforts of the Iraqi Ba'athist commanders were focused on preventing the advance of Iranian forces towards Shalamche. Accordingly, as a result of the enemy's escape and retreat, it was decided to accelerate the implementation of the third phase of the operation. Then IRGC commander Mohsen Rezaei opined that the enemy's retreat was conducted with the aim of political propaganda; hence, the third phase of the operation should begin as soon as possible. The Ba'athist forces of Iraq, after their retreat and escape, were stationed in Shalamche to create a strong bulwark against any likely offensive by Iranian combatants to capture Basra. This was carried out to both give good support and maintenance to their forces stationed in Khorramshahr and focus on any move on the side of Iran.