Glimpses of Epic of 8-Year Holy Defense (38)
In the previous program we talked about the second phase of Bayt ul-Moqaddas operation. In this phase of operation, commanders and designers of the operation achieved all of their objectives with the bravery of thousands of Iranian young volunteer (Basiji) forces. Immediately after the end of the second phase of this great operation, the third phase began to deal further blows to the tottering Ba'athist enemy.
The Karbala 25 and airborne 55 brigades as well as Imam Hussein 14 and Najaf 8 brigades launched their attack through Bubyan axis and from the north to the south along Shalamcheh border to advance toward Bovarian Island in order to finish the job by conquering Khorramshahr. However, these moves were encountered by the Iraqi army's resistance. Thus, although some of the Iranian forces approached Shalamcheh, no success was obtained yet.
During this phase of the operation, part of the Iraqi military units sustained heavy casualties. Martyr Hussein Kharrazi the commander of Imam Hussein 14 brigade said: “According to the Iraqi captives, we destroyed our enemy's force up to some 70 to 90%, and destroyed about 100 tanks and personnel carriers of the enemy.” Since the Iranian forces were at risk and surrounded on both sides, and there were no fresh forces to be replaced, they returned to their previous positions. Under these conditions, the halting of operation for some 13 days led the commanders to explore a new strategy for attacking and liberating Khorramshahr. Different approaches were proposed.
The experiences achieved from the previous operations urged the IRGC to expand its structure for recruiting more Basiji forces. It was also necessary to further bolster the organization of the operating units to support artillery fire and to use armored forces, as the continuation of battle was not practical through mere reliance on the infantry. Several meetings were held to discuss training of the new staff to replace the martyred commanders and forces and to compensate for the weak points in engineering, fire, armored, medical, reconnaissance, etc.
Moreover, the simulation of the 4th phase of the operation was illustrated and the enemy’s efforts to strengthen its positions were analyzed. In these meetings, the commanders often believed that the enemy's resistance in Khorramshahr was basically done for the purpose of gaining time to evacuate its forces. Considering the reduction of combat power, the prolongation of the operation and the weakening of the units, a new solution had to be taken into consideration.
At this point, over 5,000 square kilometers in the south of Ahwaz had been cleansed of occupying forces and nearly 7,000 Ba'athists were taken as captives. But the liberation of Khorramshahr was the prime aspiration of the Iranian brave combatants as well as the wish of the Iranian nation as it would symbolize the prowess of the Iranian nation's victory over the Iraqi dictator and its western and eastern supporters and regional cohorts. This made the commanders and military advisors think of fresh strategies and tactics. Although 23 days of war of attrition had undermined the forces to some extent, they had to recollect their last efforts and with reliance on the divine assistance exert their utmost to achieve the ultimate goal of the operation: the liberation of Khorramshahr.
Now that the Ba'athist army was psychologically disturbed, if Khorramshahr was not liberated by Iran's brave combatants, the Ba'athist army would find the chance to strengthen its defense lines to preserve Khorramshahr. Thus, by constructing new trenches and channels, and erecting obstacles and fortifications, it would be enabled to block the road to Khorramshahr and turn it into an impenetrable fortress. At this phase of the operation, the Muslim combatants had reached behind Khorramshahr along the border and had to use the golden opportunity to liberate the city, but there was no fresh power to continue the battle and end the occupation of Khorramshahr.
The enemy took all its measures and left no stone unturned to keep Khorramshahr. In addition to military actions, the enemy did its best to raise the morale of its demoralized and horrified forces and give them incentive to stay in Khorramshahr. On May 23, 1982, just one day before launching of the final attack of Muslim combatants on the Ba'athists in Khorramshahr, the Iraqi army distributed an announcement among its forces stationed in and around the city. The announcement had stressed that defending Khorramshahr and its suburbs was like defending Baghdad and its suburbs and all Iraqi cities. It also likened Khorramshahr to a pillow on which Basra had rested, and it was emphasized that if Khorramshahr fell in the hands of the Iranian forces, the gates of catastrophe would be opened to Iraq. In a letter to the commander of the third corps, Saddam wrote: "The security and stability of Basra without Khorramshahr is at stake."
Despite all restrictions and tiredness of the forces, the 4th phase of Bayt ul-Moqaddas operation was launched, with the divine grace and help, for the ultimate liberation of Khorramshahr. The units of Fat’h headquarters, succeeded in destroying the Ba'athist forces at sunrise at the police station in Khorramshahr. The forces of Fajr headquarters also managed to capture the strategic bridge (Pol-e Nou) and move toward Arvand River. On another front, the forces of Nasr headquarter advanced along the border and moved southwards by destroying the enemy units and cleansing the area.
Thus, the siege of Khorramshahr was completed, but the enemy forces continued to resist inside the city. The strict order of command of the Iraqi forces for resistance and the promises of commander of Iraqi forces in the city Col. Ahmad Zidan, to send aid and support broadcast on radio, played a major role to encourage the Iraqi forces to resist in Khorramshahr. In this situation, the Iraqi headquarters withdrew its troops from Ahwaz-Khorramshahr road to re-organize them and break the siege of Khorramshahr. But the enemy forces were too demoralized in the face of the blitzkrieg of the Iranian selfless combatants to be lured with any temptations.
On May 23, 1982, the siege of Khorramshahr was tightened and part of the enemy’s forces was taken captive. Ahmed Zidan, the commander of the forces stationed in Khorramshahr, stepped on a landmine and was killed. Some enemy forces tried to cross Arvand River by any means possible such as the wheel tires and water flasks. Some of these forces were drowned in water. Others were still waiting. It didn't take long that the voice of Muslim combatants was heard through the speakers. So, the remaining Iraqi forces, desperate of getting any aid or crossing the Arvand River, had to surrender.
It was around 10 a.m. May 24, 1982, that the countless trembling Iraqis could be seen holding their hands on their heads or copies of the Qur'an and photos of Imam Khomeini while they were chanting: Death to Saddam. They all gave in to the brave Iranian forces. Contrary to the whims of the Ba'athist enemy who was ambushed at the east, north and south of the city, the Muslim combatants entered the city from the west (the side where the enemy had occupied the city). Thus the Iranian forces liberated the city and destroyed Ba'athist forces and captivated many of them. Khorramshahr collapsed after 34 days of stiff resistance and selfless steadfastness of martyrs, but was liberated within 48 hours after 575 days of occupation. In their first action after the liberation of the city, the Iranian Muslim combatants held thanksgiving prayer at the Jam’e Mosque of Khorramshahr.