Israeli aircraft on Thursday (11 October 1973) completely destroyed a major power station and put an oil refinery out of action for years to come in the central Syrian town of Homs.
Israeli aircraft on Thursday (11 October 1973) completely destroyed a major power station and put an oil refinery out of action for years to come in the central Syrian town of Homs. But the Israeli raids on Homs and the capital Damascus were not without loss; fierce resistance by Syrian MiG fighters and Soviet-made surface-to-air missiles (SAM) was encountered by the attackers. A western reporter saw two Israeli jets he believed to be Phantoms explode in mid-air over Damascus. The pilot of one was seen to bail out. The Syrians claim to have shot down about half of the entire Israeli air force.
Reporters were shown the wreckage of three Phantoms near the oil refinery. But the damage they had wrought was severe. Experts said 80 percent of the GBP20 million sterling ($50 million U.S.) complex had been destroyed and would not be in operation or several years. This was expected to deprive Syrian tanks in the region of vital fuel supplies.
The power station that was hit produces one-fifth of Syria's electricity. Its director said 30 of the 450 workers at the GBP 12.5 million sterling (U.S. GBP 31.5 million) works died in the attack and about 100 were injured. Estimates of dead at the refinery were not available. The raids on these two targets had begun on Tuesday and continued for three days.
Meanwhile, the Israelis claimed their troops had retaken the entire Golan Heights and were advancing on Damascus, aided by total air superiority.
SYNOPSIS: Israeli warplanes raiding the Syrian capital Damascus on Thursday met fierce opposition both from missiles and from MIG fighters.
Four times the Israeli Phantoms appeared over the centre of Damascus and the dogfights were watched intently by large crowds in the streets. At least two jets blew up in the air when Soviet-made SAM rockets homed in on them. Rocket and vapour trails spread across the evening sky as the fight draws to a halt at nightfall. There were no reports of serious damage in the city.
Where the Israeli air force did inflict heavy damage on Thursday was in the central Syrian town of Home. They virtually destroyed this oil refinery and knocked out a major power station.
Experts said that eighty percent of the refinery, valued at twenty-million pounds sterling, could be written off. It would be years before it could resume operations. The plan was built by Czechoslovak technicians in 1956 and was modernised only last year.
Its annual production was estimated at one million tons. By knocking out the refinery, the Israelis apparently expected to deprive the Syrian tank corps of its fuel supplies.
The power station that was destroyed produced one-fifth of Syria's electricity. The twelve-and-a-half million pound complex absorbed fifteen direct hits in one day, during the course of three days of attacks. The Syrians said the raiders did not get away without a fight, and showed reporters the wreckage of three downed Phantoms. Most of the staff at the station took heed of the sirens' warnings and sought shelter during the attacks. But the director of the power plant said thirty of his four-hundred-and-fifty workers had been killed.
About a hundred were wounded and rushed to hospital in the centre of Home.
The ambulance chase was not swift enough for this man: he was deed on arrival at the hospital. He had been critically burned during the attacks on the refinery.
The Syrians have not yet released any comprehensive casualty figures. But it is clear that many civilians were caught in the Israeli attacks on Home.
The body of the man burned to death in the refinery did not stay long in the hospital. It was there just long enough for cause of death to be determined, and the papers signed. Then it was put in a coffin, hoisted on the roof of a bus outside and shipped off home.