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The Fort of Strength

Israeli Military History

The British Mandate laid Israel's northern road in 1937, and a year later, in 1938, erected the northern fence in an attempt to control the Galilee during the Great Arab Revolt. Several fortresses, designed by the British expert on terrorism, Sir Charles Teggart, were built along these two parallel routes.

 

One of these five fortresses is the Fort of Strength (known then as the Arab village Nebbi Yusha, or in Hebrew and after the battle, Mezudat Koach). Constructed at a strategic location, it overlooks the entire Hula Valley and the roads leading to the northern Jewish settlements such as Kfar Giladi, Tel-Hai and Metulla, and others like Ramot Naftali and Manara. All of these northern Jewish settlements were then totally isolated, cut off from the rest of the land of Israel.

 

On April 15th 1948 the British transferred the Fortress to the Arabs, thereby endangering the settlements of the Galilee panhandle dominated by it. Leaving the fortress in Arab hands would aid the Arab invasion from Lebanon, should this occur.

 

Three attempts were made during the War of Independence to capture the Fortress. The first, on April 15, 1948, when it was handed over to the Arabs, was executed by a company from the Golani brigade and a platoon from the Galilee battalion of Yiftach brigade that attacked with armored vehicles in the evening. The attackers were discovered a short distance from the Fortress. Heavy fire was opened on them and they had to repel the enemy while losing four soldiers.

 

Three days later, on the night of April 20th, another attempt was made by the Palmach, backed by reinforcements, to take the Fortress. The force divided into three groups: One performed a distraction south of the Fortress; the second aimed to breach the outside wall; and the third distracted the forces inside the Fortress with heavy fire. The breakthrough failed. The Fortress’ wall was not breached and the attackers withdrew with heavy losses. Twenty-two soldiers were killed that night.

 

But the Israeli new established forces would not give up the battle to unite the Upper Galilee with the central and the southern parts of Israel.

 

The Galilee battalion was again ordered to attack the Fortress, for the third time, in Operation Yiftach. Sappers had approached it on the night of May 15th 1948 and noted that it was surrounded with additional fencing. Seeing that the manpower and explosives would not suffice, a last ditch effort was made with heavy troops on the night of May 16th after the air force had strafed it the previous day. With dawn on May 17th the attackers reached the Fortress and found it empty. A shell fired from Malchia penetrated it, resulting in the death of two soldiers.

 

A total of twenty-eight soldiers, after whom the Fortress named also as Mezudat Koach (based on the calculation of the numerical equivalence of Hebrew letters for the number 28) died taking the fortress.

 

The Establishment of a Heritage Site

The conquest of the Fortress and the unification of the Upper Galilee with central Israel are engraved on the national memory as an extremely important example of unconditional sacrifice, daring, dedication and devotion to the objective. The Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites (SPIHS) would like to convey these values to future generations through this unique heritage site, and believes that cooperation with the Ministry of Defense will result in its shared operation as a heritage site of that Ministry.

 

SPIHS is currently completing the planning stage of the Fortress Memorial Center and is formulating a program for its content. The 200 sq. m. Center will be located in a specially designed structure to be built close to the historic Fortress, overlooking the Hula Valley.

 

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