Valley of Tears: The True Story of Outpost 107
During the Yom Kippur War, 19 Israeli soldiers fought for 100 hours against overpowering Syrian forces and survived.
Amos* and eighteen of his fellow IDF soldiers were spending Yom Kippur just meters away from the Syrian border when the 1973 war broke out. They fought for 100 hours straight against an overpowering enemy and unrelenting firepower, and survived.
They are the heroes of Outpost 107. This is their story.
Outpost 107, code-named ‘Portugal’ was the closest IDF outpost to Syria in 1973. It was next to Quneitra in the Golan Heights. Amos and his fellow soldiers were from Battalion 13 of the Golani brigade. Amos was a mortar man and he reported to Avraham Elimelech, the platoon commander.
The outpost consisted of a series of bunkers with observation points and gun positions. The platoon’s main job was to observe Syrian activities on the Syrian side of the Golan. There was a small tank company nearby to aid the men in repelling any ground attack from Syria.
The war started that day with a barrage of artillery on the IDF outpost. Most of the outpost’s positions were destroyed, including the large supply of drinking water. Four tanks led by Shmuel Yachin from Battalion 74 of the 188th Brigade opened fire and destroyed eight Syrian tanks that were attempting to cross the border to attack. Trucks laden with Syrian infantry raced towards the outpost. The Golani platoon destroyed them all using their heavy machine guns and mortars.
That night, the men spotted a convoy of Syrian military vehicles, carrying anti-aircraft and anti-tank guns. Their commander, Elimelech, radioed a warning to the IDF tank as Nissim Avidan manned the heavy machine gun and Amos fired an illumination round from his mortar to light up the theater. Nissim opened fire and the lead truck in the convoy exploded. The IDF tanks joined the fray and the Syrian convoy was destroyed. Later that night two of the IDF tanks drove to recover two Israeli fighters and one Syrian POW, bringing the three men back to the outpost. They had been fired upon, and one of the tank’s treads was aflame. The men of the outpost stood guard over the tanks all night, protecting them from Syrian commandos armed with Sagger anti-tank missiles.
The next morning, October 7th, the platoon successfully repelled another Syrian infantry attack. But the tanks were now very low on ammo. The outpost was cut off and surrounded; no fresh ammo or supplies could be delivered. Some of the IDF tanks recovered unused shells from stricken Israeli tanks.
More artillery barrages rained on the outpost. Syrian soldiers got as far as the outpost gates when the Golani men succeeded in wiping them out. The Golani platoon destroyed additional Syrian tank-hunters.
On October 8th, the outpost was attacked at dawn by six Syrian tanks. Five of the tanks were destroyed and the sixth tank sneaked up so close to the eastern side of the outpost that the IDF tanks could no longer safely fire on it.
Yossi Zadok, a Golani corporal who had arrived on Yom Kippur right before the war started, had received some training in using a bazooka a couple of years prior but hadn’t been known as a good shot. There was no time to think or plan. Yossi had to act fast. He quickly jumped up with his bazooka and fired at the tank. It was a direct hit; the tank was destroyed.
At 11:00 am, 15 Syrian T-62 tanks rushed at the outpost. It was part of a brigade commanded by Rifat Assad, the brother of the Syrian dictator, Hafez al Assad. Shmuel Yachin and his tank platoon jumped into the fray, destroying 13 of them. Two managed to hide undercover, and tried to escape when darkness fell. One of them was destroyed by the IDF forces; the other managed to get away.
The men were running low on ammo but there was no way to resupply them under this onslaught.
The men were running low on ammo but there was no way to resupply them under this onslaught. That evening, the outpost was stormed by a Syrian armored personnel carrier. As it entered the perimeter, it set off a mine, killing its occupants, except for one Syrian soldier who was taken prisoner.
Portugal: Outpost 107
Then came bad news: Shmuel’s tank platoon was needed to reinforce Israeli forces in a ferocious tank battle taking place elsewhere in the Golan. The remaining Golani soldiers were left unprotected by tanks. Their ammo and food rations were dangerously low and there was no help in sight.
The following day, through their binoculars Amos and his fellow soldiers watched one Syrian tank rise on the hill that overlooked their position.
Another Syrian tank soon lined up next to the first one. Then another one.
Three hours went by and there were 110 tanks – nearly a full armored division – on the hill threatening their position.
The Golani platoon didn’t stand a chance. The tanks roared and the ground literally shook. “Zeh avood – all is lost!” some of the men yelled in great despair. “Don’t give up!” Amos said. “Stay below ground! Who knows what the cruel Syrians will have in store for us if they take us alive.”
Elimelech radioed the Northern Command. “I need air support!”
“Negative,” came the reply. “No planes are available.”
“Then I need armor support!” The desperation in his voice was obvious to the entire network.
“Negative. All tanks are fighting southwest of your positions."
“Then give me artillery support!” he shouted.
“None is available.”
“I’m making sure that someone will remember us when the Syrians kill us all!”
One soldier took a shell casing and etched the 19 names of the soldiers into the bunker wall. “What are you doing?” Amos asked.
“I’m making sure that someone will remember us when the Syrians kill us all!” the soldier replied.
Amos, in the middle, at Outpost 107
The men noticed jeeps carrying Syrian officers following the massive tank convoy. They stopped and opened tables to study terrain maps and plan further attacks against Israel. Elimelech ordered Amos to fire his last two mortar rounds at the officers. They scattered and realized the Israeli outpost had not yet been destroyed.
The tanks moved forward to wipe the men out. That’s when Nissim, the heavy machine gunner, did something insane.
He fired his .50 caliber machine gun at the lead tank. The bullets bounced off the tank harmlessly. They could not pierce armor. No one knew what Nissim was thinking.
The lead Syrian tank swiveled its main gun at Nissim’s position and fired, scoring a direct hit on his gun emplacement. It exploded in a swirl of flame and smoke. Nobody could have survived a blast like that. The others could only imagine what was left of their friend.
Amos ran over to the position, shouting “Nissim! Nissim!”
To Amos’ great shock, Nissim responded, “I’m okay! I’m okay!” He appeared slightly dazed, but lived through the onslaught without a scratch.
Most of the Syrian tanks began moving westward to engage Israeli tank forces, but some of them turned south to storm the outpost. The Golani men were now facing destruction from the enemy’s massive firepower. They were down to almost no ammunition. All seemed lost.
Yossi still had his bazooka, with only a few rounds that could do any damage.
A bazooka is a powerful weapon. It fires single rockets that can disable a tank, but it has a serious limitation. The weapon is fired while held on the operator’s shoulder and it has a fiery backblast of several feet when the projectile leaves the barrel. It must therefore be fired in an open area, otherwise the backblast would engulf and incinerate the operator.
Yossi and Amos were below the surface of the ground in a maze of bunkers. There was no way to fire the bazooka without exposing Yossi as a target to the vast number of forces now threatening the outpost. How could they get off a proper shot, well-aimed, in defense of their position?
It was reckless and against orders. They did it anyway.
Yossi and Amos came up with an idea. Amos would put a helmet on top of a rifle, and gradually raise the helmet over the surface of the ground. If it drew fire from the tanks, he’d quickly lower it, knowing that this spot is too hot from which to fire. He’d then move to another spot and try it again. If Amos received no fire, he’d jump up with his binoculars, determine the range of the target tank, and quickly tell Yossi. Yossi would then jump up, completely exposing himself to the enemy, and take his best shot.
It was reckless.
They did it anyway.
Amos held up the helmet. It immediately drew fire. He and Yossi moved 20 feet away and Amos tried it again. No one fired, so he quickly grabbed the binoculars and inched upwards to identify a target. Amos saw a tank and barked the range and position to Yossi, who jumped up and took a shot. Amos heard the whoosh right by him and felt the tremendous heat of the backblast passing overhead. Yossi jumped back down.
IMPACT. A direct hit! The shell penetrated the tank and some of the enemy were killed or wounded. One tank down.
“Amos!” Yossi cried. “Move! Let’s go further down and try it again!”
Amos moved. They did it again. And again.
With Amos’ courageous range finding, Yossi destroyed four tanks in one day. The other tanks rained murderous fire at their position, furious that the meager Israeli outpost was killing their vaunted Russian-made battle tanks.
The next day, the barrage continued. Over the din of incoming shells, Yossi yelled, “Amos, let’s take out more tanks!”
“We’re out of armor-piercing rounds! Nothing we have will take out a tank!”
“What other rounds do we have?”
Yossi made a face. He and Amos knew that white phosphorus (WP) was powerless against the Syrian tanks. It was normally used to illuminate a target area, create thick smoke, or burn fuel and ammunition, but it would not inflict any damage. Why bother with it?
“Amos, let’s try firing them anyway. Maybe it’ll scare them!”
“Okay,” Amos said. He rammed the WP shell into the tube of the weapon. Yossi was ready.
“Find me a target!”
Amos raised the helmet on a rifle. Nobody shot at it. He quickly inched up with his binoculars and yelled out the range and position to Yossi over the sound of the constant firing.
Yossi fearlessly jumped out and fired the bazooka. Another direct hit, but they both knew it was a joke. A huge white spray blanketed the tank with thick smoke. No penetration. No danger to the Syrian tank crew.
Amos and Yossi watched in shock as the enemy crewmen abandoned their unscathed tank.
But something amazing happened. Amos and Yossi watched in shock as the enemy crewmen abandoned their unscathed tank! Evidently they were terrified by the blast and smoke, and the knowledge that the Israelis had destroyed four tanks the day before. They poured out of the tank and fled on foot towards Syria. Another tank down.
The other tanks proceeded to leave the area, leaving the outpost alone. They were engaged by what was left of the IDF 188th and 7th Armored Divisions in some very difficult fighting.
Yossi was the only soldier injured in Outpost 107. He was seriously wounded in the chest by shrapnel shortly afterwards and was evacuated to a hospital. All other 18 men were unscathed, despite being under nonstop attack for 100 hours.
Yossi took months to recover from his wounds. For his heroism in this battle, Yossi was decorated with the Itur Hamofet, Israel’s third-highest award for bravery. He and Amos have remained as close as brothers for the last 45 years.
After the war, Amos felt that he could not deny the miracles he had seen. Nissim’s survival. Yossi’s one-man onslaught, with his help. Destroying the far more powerful enemies of Israel despite their minimal weaponry and scant ammunition.
This made him rethink his life and his priorities, and Amos eventually decided to deepen his Jewish commitment and go to a yeshiva.
Even today, Amos has tears in his eyes recalling when he saw God’s Hand. As one of the heroes of Outpost 107.
* This article is based on an interview with Amos who, due to his humility, only agreed to speak on condition his last name and current photo not be included.