One of the fiercest battles of the Six-Day War was fought on Ammunition Hill (Givat HaTachmoshet) on the night of 6 June 1967, in the battle for Jerusalem. During the British Mandate, the hill was used to store ammunition, and so became known as Ammunition Hill.2

Securing the hill to the north of Jerusalem was vital to gain access to the Old City and protect Mount Scopus and the Jerusalem-Ramallah Road. Arab gains in the 1948 War of Independence had separated Mount Scopus from Jewish West Jerusalem. The 1949 Armistice Agreements created an Israeli enclave on Mount Scopus where the Hebrew University, Hadassah Medical Centre and the National Library were situated.

Israel Defence Force (IDF) Paratrooper Battalion 66 was given the task of capturing Ammunition Hill and the fortified Jordanian Police Training School.The battalion was divided into companies A to D. The paratroopers had expected to be assigned to El Arish in northern Egypt, when they were suddenly informed that they were going to Jerusalem to fight as ground troops instead.

The mission did not start well. Battalion 66 expected to breach three barbed wire fences, but they found that there were in fact four. Progress was slow as the fences had to be dealt with under enemy fire.

Company B then found itself in a very narrow trench that connected the Police Training School with Ammunition Hill. Here, the soldiers were forced to advance slowly in single file, with only the leading soldier able to fight. An injured or dead soldier in front meant that those following had to step over him, move forward and continue fighting.

The commander of Company B now found that most of his ammunition had run out and his soldiers were scattered – many of them wounded or dead. At this point, the battalion commander sent in the commander of Company C to replace him and complete the task.

The fortifications on Ammunition Hill comprised three trenches: western, central and eastern, which were connected to each other by trenches. Within each trench were bunkers in which the Jordanian soldiers could shelter. Because of the design and construction of the trenches, it was extremely difficult for the IDF paratroopers to advance and capture their target.

Each Israeli platoon was to enter a main trench on the hill but in the confusion of the battle, two platoons ended up in the central trench and one platoon in the eastern trench. This left the most fortified trench, the western trench, occupied by the Jordanians.

Because the size of the Jordanian force defending the hill was underestimated by Israeli intelligence, the paratroopers faced greater resistance than they had expected. It was intended that the Israeli assault force would be at least three times the size of that of the Jordanians, but instead the numbers were about equal.4

A visitor to the battle site today would see hundreds of metres of winding fortified trenches that are designed in such a way that each one protects the other trenches. Capturing the hill was also made difficult as the fortifications were built on the hillside – overshadowed by a huge, reinforced, concrete bunker.

Receiving a report from the forces in the eastern trench that there was not strong resistance from the Jordanians, the division commander diverted Companies A and D to proceed to the next mission. But on Ammunition Hill, the battle was intensifying and most of the commanders who led the forces were casualties. Lower ranking soldiers now took charge and continued with the battle. Those fighting in the eastern trench were suffering many casualties as the battle progressed. One company was almost entirely wiped out and had to call for reinforcements.

Aid was diverted to the embattled troops, which enabled soldiers to enter the western trench. Ammunition Hill was finally conquered with the destruction of the large bunker at the upper meeting point of the three trenches.

For Israel, the losses were heavy. Thirty-six men died in the four hours of fighting to take the hill. In the battle for Jerusalem, 280 Jordanians and 180 Israelis were killed.5 The losses at Ammunition Hill thus represent 20 percent of Israeli soldiers who lost their lives in the fight for Jerusalem.

Today, Ammunition Hill serves as Israel’s national memorial for the reunification of Jerusalem in memory of all those who fell in the battle for the city in the Six-Day War. It is now over 50 years since Jerusalem was united under Israel’s control. Like the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the reunification of Jerusalem is a remarkable sign of the last days, indicating that the times of the Gentiles are rapidly drawing to a close (Luke 21:24).

References

  1. Chief sources: Mordechai Gur, The Battle for Jerusalem, New York: iBooks, 2002; “The Paratrooper Brigade”, Ammunition Hill National Memorial Site, online at: http://www.g-h.org.il/en/about/ammunition-hill-battle/paratrooper-division; and “Ammunition Hill”, Jewish Virtual Library, online at: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/ammunition-hill
  2. https://www.itraveljerusalem.com/ent/ammunition-hill-givat-hatahmoshet/
  3. Mordechai Gur, p. 35.
  4. “Jerusalem Day: Remembering the Critical Ammunition Hill Battle”, Israel National News, 16/05/07, online at: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/122473
  5. Martin Gilbert, Jerusalem: Illustrated History Atlas, London: Martin Gilbert in conjunction with the Board of Deputies of British Jews, 1977, p. 107.