1967: Sword of Israel
Scenario Preview, Part 4
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
In the first three installments of this preview of the scenarios found in Panzer Grenadier (Modern): 1967 Sword of Israel, we looked at the fighting along the border between Israel and Egypt, and then deeper into Sinai as the Israelis advanced. You can read about them in Part One, Part Two and Part Three.
Today we’ll move on to Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Jebel Mukaber and "The Sausage"
5 June 1967
Jordan preemptively occupied Jebel Mukaber and its environs by sending Ra’Ed Awad and his two infantry companies from the 27th Imam Ali Infantry Brigade to take key positions around Jerusalem including Antenna Hill and Government House which was UN neutral ground. This also linked up with Hittin Infantry Brigade troops in a trench sector to the south called “The Sausage.” The threat to nearby Kibbutz Ramat Rachel could not be ignored by the Israelis, and they sent the 16th Etzioni Jerusalem Infantry Brigade's Battalion 161 to capture the heights, and if successful, to attempt to clear the other Jordanian positions.
Some of the Israeli tanks bogged down in the mud preparing for the attack, but the remainder and the infantry quickly captured Government Hill. Surprisingly, the Jordanian recoilless rifle units stayed out of the fight, but then launched a counterattack under cover of the artillery on Abu Tor to the north. After initial success, the Jordanians were thrown off the hill and retreated. The Israelis then swept down on The Sausage and cleaned out the trenches where the infantry had quietly awaited their fate. Many Jordanians fought to the death, but as the Israeli commander noted, “they fought stupidly. The Jordanian fighting positions were badly planned. They expected us only from one direction.”
The Israelis are on the attack, with numbers, armor, leadership and morale on their side. The Jordanians have a strong position and the Israeli tanks aren’t that good (modified Shermans); the Jordanian 106mm recoilless rifles can take them out of they get a chance.
5 June 1967
Operation Whip was designed by Brigadier General (Tat Aluf) Narkiss to cut Jerusalem off from Jordan before the Jordanian army reinforced its existing positions. On the north side of Jerusalem, he launched a series of attacks across the West Bank from northwest of Jerusalem heading northeast. The attack furthest left was directed at Radar Hill, a fortified rise defended by elements of the 27th Imam Ali Infantry Brigade.
Despite the challenge of finding and removing minefields by hand under intense machine gun fire, the IDF engineers breached the minefield and wire. Fairly quickly Israeli forces overwhelmed the hill with few losses other than those among the fearless engineers and a couple halftracks that hit minefields. The Jordanians fell back toward Biddu.
A tiny but determined force of Jordanians tries to fight off waves of screaming Israelis who have seemingly invulnerable morale. They get to surround themselves in a huge blanket of mines (easily more than any scenario in the Panzer Grenadier family of games) and blaze away at the engineers trying to clear a path.
5 June 1967
In the swiftly-developing situation around Jerusalem, the Royal Jordanian Army had great difficulties coordinating its defenses. To prevent his generals accumulating power that could be used in a military coup against his house, King Hussein had forbidden the establishment of divisions in his army. The Jerusalem sector fell under four different brigade commands. While part of the 27th Imam Ali Infantry Brigade fought around the Old City, the remainder of the brigade was entrenched around the town of Biddu which overlooked the key road from Latrun to Jerusalem
The Jordanians put up a good fight. Well-led, the 27th Imam Ali Brigade held the town and surrounding defenses until the early hours of the morning and caused significant IDF casualties before the survivors melted off into the darkness. The tired Israelis quickly dug themselves in, anticipating a counter-thrust from Latrun toward Jerusalem.
This is a big scenario and a tough infantry-centered fight; the Jordanians have plenty of mines and wire to hide behind, and while the Israelis have high morale they’re slightly less insane than when fighting for Jerusalem. There’s only a smidgen of armor (a handful of Israeli Shermans) which means this one’s going to be up to the poor bloody infantry.
Abdul Aziz Hill
5 June 1967
Yet another critical hilltop offered strategic defensive positions for the Israelis if they could grab and hold it. The IDF had planned for years to seize Abdul Aziz Hill at the very outset of a war with Jordan, but the fighting around Government House had delayed this part of the offensive. Sgan Aluf Gal did not fancy the long and laborious mine-clearing operation, and chose instead to initiate a straight up assault across the obstacles.
The Israelis drove their tanks straight into the minefield with their infantry in hot pursuit. In this manner they lost 2/3 of their tanks but were through quickly. This panicked the Jordanian officers who quickly headed in the opposite direction, running away with some of their men. Those Jordanians that stayed fought hard but were overwhelmed by the Israeli assault. The Israelis reported finding many Jordanian dead, none above the rank of sergeant.
It’s a short scenario, forcing the Israelis to come right at the strong, well-defended Jordanian position heedless of losses. There’s no penalty for Israeli casualties, so it’s a good thing that cardboard soldiers have no families.
Surprises at Tel Zahara
6 June 1967
Sgan Aluf Dahav's IDF task force based on Tank Battalion 95 and Reconnaissance Company 41 had suffered numerous terrain-related breakdowns as they moved northwest toward their objective, Tel-el Ful en route to Mt. Scopus. He was reduced to four tanks, a dozen armored cars, as many jeeps, and parts of two companies of halftrack-mounted infantry. He decided to wait for more of his force to recover and move up, meanwhile setting an ambush along the Ramallah-Jerusalem highway.
The Israelis mopped up the road travelers easily, but the first platoon of Jordanian tanks to arrive began to tear them apart. The Israelis lost two of their tanks and six halftracks in short order, with a number of infantry killed or wounded. The death of two tank commanders hit in their cupolas eventually unnerved the first Jordanian tank platoon and it withdrew. Before the second wave of tanks could do more harm to the surviving Israelis, the lead tank was destroyed by a hit on its external fuel tank, causing another crew to bail out in panic and flee. Shortly thereafter, the IAF arrived and began bombing and strafing the exposed Jordanians. They broke and ran, losing more in the process.
The Israeli Shermans are no match for the Jordanian Pattons – King Hussein bought nothing but the best with his purseful of Saudi riyals. But the Jordanian tanks enter play haphazardly, which gives the Israelis a chance to gang up on them with their anti-tank capable armored cars and jeeps.
6 June 1967
Despite the 16th Etzioni Jerusalem Infantry Brigade’s familiarity with the area around Jerusalem, with the area, Brigadier General (Tat Aluf) Narkiss decided to employ the unfamiliar but highly regarded 55th Parachute Brigade to seize the Jordanian-held hills and fortifications dominating northern Jerusalem and the approach to Mt. Scopus. The paratroopers would go forward at night, with no artillery or air support. The Jordanians had been preparing for this attack since 1956.
The Israelis swept the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood southwest of Ammunition Hill fairly easily, but ran into serious difficulties taking Ammunition Hill. By 0715 their attack was exhausted with most of their units rendered combat-ineffective. It took the timely arrival of elements of the 10th Armored Brigade an hour later to finish the conquest and secure Mitvar Hill behind it to open the road to Mt Scopus.
Against anyone else, the Jordanians would easily hold this hill: they have excellent morale and a strong position. But they’re facing Israeli paratroopers, with their insane morale, and despite the stated intent to go forward without artillery support, they do have a little.
Hide and Seek in the Wadi el-Joz
6 June 1967
As the fight for Ammunition Hill kicked off, Battalion 71 started its attack from somewhat to the southeast trying to force its way into the American Colony and then on to seize the Wadi el-Joz. The Israelis employed spotlights to blind the enemy and a new weapon, a guided missile, to destroy or suppress some of the Jordanian bunkers.
Aided by the suppressive tank, mortar, artillery, and guided missile fire, Israeli engineers quickly blasted a hole in the wire and minefields fronting the Jordanian positions. Poorly aimed Jordanian artillery fire killed their own spotter, limiting further assistance. From that point on, the house-to-house clearing of Jordanians proceeded at a steady pace through the American Colony and into the Wadi el-Joz. By 0800, the Israelis had established a firm hold on the area.
The Jordanians have another tough position, with entrenchments, wire and mines. The Israelis come at them along a narrow front with paratroopers and missiles. The Jordanians must survive in order to win, which isn’t going to be easy.
And that wraps Part Four. There’s more to come – more Jordanian action plus the Syrian front!
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Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.