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IDF Infantry Corps:
Golani Infantry Brigade


IDF Infantry: Table of Contents | Paratroopers | Special Forces


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Formation

Golani Insignia
Golani Brigade Logo

The Golani brigade was formed on February 22, 1948, when the Levanoni brigade deployed on Israel's Lebanese border was divided into two smaller brigades. Golani was stationed in the valleys and hills of the Lower Galilee in northern Israel. Its soldiers included members of the Haganah, residents of settlements in the areas of combat, and enlisted men from all over the country.

Prior to Israel's Declaration of Independence, the soldiers of the brigade fought in the areas of Mishmar Ha'emek, Tiberias, Migdal, Zemach and Rosh Pinna. Their mission was to defend the Upper Galilee and the Galilee valleys. They also participated in the victory at Safed in Operation Yiftach. They captured Arab Sejera, and Bet Shean and its environs.

The War of Independence

Upon the official proclamation on the founding of Israel, seven Arab national armies invaded the country. In the north, this included the Syrian, Iraqi, and Lebanese armies as well as the Kaukji irregulars.

The Golani brigade was deployed to face this threat, although it had severely depleted ranks and was short of arms. New arrivals to the State of Israel were thrown into the fray and many immediately joined the Golani brigade.

The new refugee recruits, though fiercely loyal to the country and proud of their Judaism, were reluctant soldiers. There were economic and social problems 'at home' in the transit immigrant camps. The standard of army equipment was poor. The available weapons were Czech rifles, with a built­in magazine that held only five rounds, and Sten machine guns, which were originally designed as cheap throwaways for British paratroopers to use until their 'real' weapons were dropped. As for transport, each battalion had one station wagon, a tender van, and a single truck. One company had their leave stopped by their commander because they dared respond to the battalion CO's interest in their problems by showing him boots that were tied with string to stop the soles from dropping off.

However, the Golani Brigade succeeded in bringing the Syrian columns of armor and infantry to a halt, sometimes through the use of Molotov cocktails and face­to­face combat. Iraqi forces were halted in the Jordan Valley. The guerilla, improvisational tactics that prevailed in the pre­State era were grafted with the Brigade commander's experience in the British Army to set the tone of Golani combat doctrine.

The Golani brigade took part along with the Seventh armored infantry brigade, and the Carmeli brigade in Operation Dekel (in the Galilee). In this operation, the forces involved captured the Nazareth area from Kaukji's irregulars. Golani troops, now incorporated into the newly­formed Israel Defense Forces participated in activities to gain control over the entire Galilee in what was called Operation Hiram. This involved counter­thrusts that penetrated as deep as the Litani River in Lebanon.

The Golani brigade also took part in Operation Assaf to take control of the western Negev, and also participated in Operation Horev in which the Egyptians were repelled from Israeli territory. Golani's final mission in the War of Independence was the successful seizure of the Negev in Operation Ovdah. Golani participated in the capture of the Southern Negev, all the way down to the Red Sea at Eilat.

Retaliatory Actions

After the war, a large number of new immigrants were absorbed into the brigade, some of whom could not speak Hebrew. The newly­reorganized brigade went into action against the Syrians in 1951, after the Syrians gained control of Tel­Mutila in the north. The Golani force involved suffered high casualties.

The next time Golani went into action was in October 1955 in coordination with the Paratrooper Brigade. Their mission was a retaliatory raid across the border from Nitzana, following recurrent Egyptian provocation.

One month later, they carried out an outstanding joint operation with the Paratroopers against outposts which threatened the Sea of Galilee region.

The 1956 Sinai Campaign

Israel undertook the 1956 Sinai Campaign in response to developments in the international arena. Golani's mission was to capture the Rafah area, in order to provide Israeli armored forces with a clear road into Egyptian territory.

Golani's next major activity was in 1960. Following continued Syrian harassment of farmers in the demilitarized zone in northern Israel, a Golani force attacked a Syrian outpost at Tawfiq. Two years later, they carried out another attack against the Nukeib outpost in Syria.

From 1965, the brigade was integrated into ongoing anti­terrorist operations including Shune and Kilat in Jordan, and Hilweh in Lebanon.

The 1967 Six Day War

In the Six Day War, Golani troops fought in the Jordan/Syria sector. In Nablus they took part in house­to­house fighting, while on the Golan Heights the brigade was involved in heroic battles at Tel Azizyat and Tel Fahr [see below.] Elsewhere, Golani troops supported armored forces as in the capture of Zaurah and the Banias. Elements of Golani's Gideon Battalion landed by helicopter on Mt. Hermon.

Golani was now given a new role. The brigade began to reinforce outposts along the Suez Canal, patrolling the length of the new border, and pursuing terrorists into South Lebanon.

The 1973 Yom Kippur War

Just before hostilities broke out, Golani troops were sent to man outposts in the northern sector of the Golan Heights. When war broke out, these outposts came under attack from Syrian infantry and armor, and were subject to air strikes. Golani troops blocked possible transportation routes available to the Syrians, and then went on to take part in joint operations with IDF armored forces. After regaining territories up to the cease­fire line ("the purple line"), Golani joined Rafael Eitan's division in its thrust into the Syrian heartland.

During the early stages of the war, the Mt. Hermon outpost, known in Israel as "the eyes of the State," was captured by the Syrians. Due to the strategic importance of the outpost, high priority was placed on its recapture. Golani troops successfully undertook this difficult mission on 22 October. They suffered high casualties in this battle.

Golani at Entebbe

For years Golani was upstaged by the more glamorous, red bereted paratroopers. The Golani brown berets received recognition as an elite force in the 1976 Entebbe Operation. Golani units participated in the spectacular rescue of Israeli nationals after their plane had been hijacked to Uganda. This was not a prize for past achievement but simply acceptance that only the best would go on this mission, and Golani were the best.

Lebanon

In 1978, following the terrorist attack on the Haifa­Tel Aviv highway, the IDF launched Operation Litani. The objective of the mission was to repel terrorist organizations beyond the Litani river in Lebanon. It was an inter­arm action, in which a major component were the ground forces. The operation enjoyed only limited success, as the terrorist threat was not completely removed.

Continued problems with terrorist incursions from the northern border led to Operation Peace for Galilee (later known as the Lebanon War). The Golani brigade fought on the Nabatiye Heights and in Kfar Sil, but the battle for which Golani became famous in Lebanon was the capture of the Beaufort outpost ­ a military fort dating back to the crusader period (12th century), that was used as a terrorist base.

Since the Lebanon War, Golani has continued to be a volunteer elite infantry force. They share the humdrum work of patrolling Israel's borders and facing the dangers of Lebanon together with the Paratroopers and other volunteer units.

The Battle of Tel Fahr

The Golani brigade was deployed along Israel's northern borders. In the period prior to the Six Day War the Syrians built a complex system of outposts and fortifications facing the Syrians. Two positions, Tel Azizyat and Tel Fahr were part of this system. Tel Azizyat was taken by a flanking maneuver.

On 9th June, 1967 at 14:00 hours, at the same time as armored and infantry forces crossed over the "green line" (1948 cease­fire lines) a Golani's Barak battalion made their way by mechanized transport to Tel Fahr. The battle plan was to outflank Tel Fahr but the designated approach proved to be inaccessible to the force's vehicles. A new plan was therefore decided upon which required a frontal assault.

Throughout the force's approach, it suffered attacks from outposts around the route. Upon the forces' arrival at the Bourj­Babil ­ Tel Fahr junction at 14:30, the battalion commander decided to assign part of his force to attacking the Bourj­Babil outpost, which was firing heavily upon the battalion, and preventing it from carrying out its attack effectively. Despite this, the force pressed forward, abandoning damaged and destroyed vehicles along the way.

Upon reaching the foot of the hill on which the outpost was located, the force left its vehicles to approach the outpost on foot. The force was divided into two groups, with each group attacking one of the two peaks on which the outpost was situated. Upon reaching the outer perimeter of the fortifications some soldiers flattened the barbed wire coils by lying down on the wire, thus allowing their colleagues to step on them and proceed into the fort.

The combat then moved to the trenches, where fighting was at short­range, with very high casualties. Many soldiers, including the battalion commander, were hit by Syrian fire.

Six hours after crossing the border, a mechanized force in tracked vehicles arrived at the southern side of the outpost, and a reconnaissance group under the command of the brigade commander arrived at the northern side along with the group assigned to capture Bourj­Babil. Within another half an hour, Golani troops had gained control of Tel Fahr. Thirty-four soldiers fell in the battle: of these were 23 enlisted men and officers of the Barak Battalion.

Battalions of the Golani Brigade

Barak Battalion: The Barak Battalion is one of the two original battalions of the Brigade. When the historical '4th Plan' was put into effect, the battalion oversaw the protection of the Sea of Galilee district. The battalion is named after a Biblical general and judge of the nation of Israel - Barak. Among many famous battles of the battalion: Ein Gev, Gesher, Sajra, the capture of the Tzemach structure, and the skirmish in Tiberius during the War of Independence. In addition, one of their more famous battles is the battle of Tel Fahr in the Golan Heights, in the Six Day War. The battalion is also famous for the 'Blue Brown' operation of 1988, and many other campaigns.

Gideon Battalion: The Gideon Battalion is also one of the original battalions of the brigade. It has taken charge of the Gilboa region since its founding. It takes its name from the Biblical General and Judge of the Nation of Israel - Gideon. Among the many famous battles in which the Battalion took part: the battle for Jenin , the 'Asaf' operation during the War of Independence, the capture of the Banias structures during the Six Day War, and the battle of position 107 in the Yom Kippur War.

The "First Breaches" Battalion: This battalion was the first Givati Brigade battalion; it joined the Golani Brigade in 1956. The name of the Brigade was derived from the 'Yoav' operation of 1948. Its purpose was to weaken the fortifications of the Negev, provide a path for the rest of the Israeli forces, and to break the Egyptian army. The battalion took the first steps toward blazing a path for the rest of the forces, and was therefore called 'The First Breaches' battalion. Among its famous battles is the conquest of Rafah during the Sinai Campaign, the capture of Tel Azazit during the Six Day War, and the taking back of the Hermon during the Yom Kippur War.

The 'Egoz' Special Forces Unit: (Guerrilla and Urban Warfare Unit) The initial purpose of the unit, which was originally founded in 1956, was to execute missions far behind enemy lines. Later, the unit was disassembled and re-established a number of times. Since August of 1995 the unit started taking enlistees from the Golani Brigade who had passed a rigorous selection and evaluation regimen. Their training includes navigation, snow training, anti-terror training, a parachuting course, and more. After this process comes to a close, the soldiers execute ambushes and special missions deep into Lebanese territory. The unit specializes in guerrilla warfare, studying rough terrain warfare, scouting, camouflage, and ambush strategies. The unit received citations from the Chief of General Staff.

The Golani Reconnaissance Unit: The soldiers of this elite unit undergo thorough and demanding training. They have an extremely high level of physical and combat competence, which allows them to embark on varying missions beyond the border and in the region of the Green Line. The warriors have twice the reason to be proud of where they serve - they are the elite of the brown berets, the Golani soldiers.

Even during the days when the state was still in its infancy, Rafi Kotser commanded a special division of elite soldiers (the 'commando' division) in the 'Barak' Battalion, and the story of the elite unit does not stray too far from that of the entire Brigade. The elite unit was generally deployed only when the commander of the brigade gave the order. When they were put into action they would undertake such missions as special general defense missions, infiltrations, capture, reconnaissance missions, and confrontations with terrorists. They were also used many a time as the spearhead of major operations, and significant battles. Among them were the battle of Nokiev, Tel Fahr, Beaufort, and others.

The Special Communications Unit: The soldiers of the communications unit undergo the routine training of all Golani soldiers and take an instructional communications course for an additional three months. Upon returning to the brigade, each soldier practices his specialization, given to him during the course. These include: Wireless Equipment Operator, Communications Technician, Code Breaking, etc. In addition to their specialization training, the communications soldiers participate in arduous treks and infantry training exercises with all of their equipment on their backs.

The Combat Engineering Unit: The soldiers of the unit must undergo different sorts of training, including detonation, engineering, mines, and tunnel-making. In wartime, the engineering unit is designated to lead the forces of the Brigade, neutralizing mine fields, creating new pathways, capturing bridgeheads, and more. The soldiers of the unit carry heavy mines on their backs, in addition to heavy engineering and other equipment. This requires them to be physically able and in constant shape.

The 'Orev' Anti-Tank Unit: The main characteristic which sets this unit apart from the rest is its unique anti-tank and anti-armor capabilities. They carry anti-tank missiles on their backs, taking charge of the specialized gear dedicated to the entire division. They use the TAW missile, known in the IDF as the Orev missile. Due to the heaviness of the equipment they carry, they are constantly demanded to be in prime physical condition.


Sources: Israel Defense Forces

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