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The War of Independence: The Battle for Degania

(May 20, 1948)

The Syrian attack on Degania A and Degania B began at dawn of 20 May 1948. The main objectives of the Syrian advance were the Jordan river bridges north of Degania A. After shelling the center of kibbutz by mortars and tank guns which continued even during the fights. An integrated Syrian force comprised of tanks, armored cars and infantry attacked the defense position at the outer perimeter of Degania A. They forced the defenders, 70 in number, out of their positions and into the communication trenches. Some of the Syrian tanks and armored vehicles were able to advance close to and eventually penetrate the kibbutz fence. But they were stopped by 20 mm cannons, Piat antitank shells and Molotov cocktails. One Renault 35 tank which penetrated into the kibbutz was attacked by Molotov cocktails and hand grenades . It remains in the kibbutz till today as a monument.

Syrian infantry troops who approached the kibbutz perimeters were stopped by the defenders. During the attack, Syrian artillery isolated the routes thus preventing reinforcements from arriving. The defenders' positions were hit and the defenders suffered casualties. Yet, despite their losses and lack of appropriate weapons and ammunition, the defenders were able to hold their positions and the Syrians retreated after several of their armored vehicles were hit.

With the battle for Degania A over, the Syrians attacked Degania B. Shelling the kibbutz with mortar bombs as tanks and armored cars approached the kibbutz. This time the tanks stopped at a safe distance of 400 meters from the fence and shelled the defenders' positions.

Syrian infantry that attempted to approach the troops were driven back. A second assault by infantry and armored vehicles was also repelled. At this time new field artillery pieces arrived . They were thrown into action before their crews had the time to train with them. However the artillery barrages caused surprise and confusion among the Syrian troops who began to withdraw.

The battle ended with the Syrian retreat. Israeli forces captured the village of Zemah, North-East of Degania.

Source: Israel Defense Forces