Veinte horas y dos tanques

El 6 de octubre de 1973 los ejércitos de Egipto y Siria atacaron a Israel. Ese día, los judíos estaban inmersos en el silencio y la calma del Yom Kippur. El teniente de blindados Zvi Greengold de 21 años, conocido afectuosamente como Zvika, estaba en su casa en la ciudad de Haifa disfrutando de un día de permiso.

En la tarde, el sobrevuelo de cazas israelíes, rompió la tranquilidad del día. Zvika, conociendo cuán estrictamente se respetaba la festividad en Israel, comprendió, inmediatamente, que algo muy grave estaba pasando. Se puso el uniforme, salió a la calle y haciendo autostop, llegó a la base más cercana a su hogar, donde le confirmaron que Israel estaba en guerra.

En el frente norte, Siria había atacado los altos del Golán con 5 divisiones blindadas. Eran más de 1,000 tanques T-55 y T-62, los más avanzados modelos soviéticos de la época, junto con innumerables piezas de artillería y protegidos bajo la sombrilla de sistemas antiaéreos más poderosos que los que defendían en ese momento Hanoi, la capital de Vietnam del Norte.

Los sirios tenían adelante a 150 tanques Centurión de origen británico, diseñados poco después de la II GM, aunque modificados y modernizados por los israelíes. La resistencia que opusieron, frenó inicialmente el ataque sirio; pero, el peso de los números, hizo que finalmente consiguieran superar la barrera antitanque que protegía las posiciones del ejercito judío. El siguiente objetivo sirio, era la base de Nafakh, cuartel general de la brigada blindada que defendía ese sector del frente. Si ocupaban la base, los sirios tendrían acceso a las ciudades del norte de Israel. Para el ejercito judío las cosas estaban claras, había que defender a toda costa a Nafakh.

El teniente Greengold fue enviado a Nafakh. La situación allí era caótica. Más que una base, se había convertido en un hospital de campaña. Luego de atender a los heridos que llegaban del frente en ambulancias, a Greengold le fue asignada una fuerza de 2 Centurión que acababan de llegar con serias averías del frente de batalla. Zvika ayudó a sacar a los tripulantes muertos y trató de repararlos de la mejor manera posible. Mientras el sol caía, el 2do al mando de la brigada blindada, teniente coronel Yisraeli, se acercó donde él y le dijo: “estos son tus tanques. Desde ahora serás la fuerza Zvika. Encuentra y detén a las fuerzas sirias”. Así comenzaban 20 horas que pasarían a la historia.

La fuerza Zvika se encontraba frente a una desventaja abrumadora de casi 100 a 1, frente a los tanques sirios. Greengold era consciente que cumplir la orden de avanzar sin más, era casi un suicidio, así que buscó un lugar donde emboscar los blindados sirios. A las 21:20, tuvo el primer encuentro. Disparo. Explosión y un enorme estallido de luz. El tanque sirio quedó destruido. Tras indicarle al comandante del otro tanque que lo siguiera, empezó a avanzar; pero, de alguna manera, perdieron el contacto. Zvika y su tripulación estaban solos.

Al llegar a una cima, hubo otro encuentro con los sirios. 3 tanques avanzando con todas las luces encendidas, convencidos que nadie se les enfrentaría. 3 disparos y 3 tanques destruidos. Tras establecer otra posición de emboscada. Zvika esperó. Media hora después, aparecía en la carretera una formación de 30 tanques y camiones sirios. Cuando el primer tanque estaba apenas a 20 metros, un disparo del tanque de Zvika, lo hizo estallar. Estalló el caos entre los sirios. Mientras tanto, Greengold se movía, disparaba, volvía a moverse y volvía a disparar. 10 tanques enemigos fueron destruidos y la columna, pensando que se enfrentaba a una fuerza muy superior, acabó retirándose.

Momentos después, el tanque perdido reapareció y en las siguientes horas, la fuerza Zvika siguió el mismo patrón. Emboscarse, disparar y moverse nuevamente, manteniendo a las fuerzas sirias en un estado de confusión. Por radio, el mando de la brigada pedía informes, a lo que Greengold, respondía en forma lacónica: “Sigo combatiendo”.

Poco a poco, en un goteo lento, empezaron a fluir refuerzos a las asediadas fuerzas israelíes. En la madrugada, la fuerza Zvika recibió el refuerzo de un tanque adicional. Cuando se estaban preparando para emboscar a otra columna siria, recibieron fuego de artillería. Envueltos en llamas, Greengold y su tripulación, lograron salir del tanque que se convirtió en una antorcha humeante.

Zvika se hizo del mando de otro grupo de tanques que pasaron junto a él. Tomando el micrófono, anunció el ya familiar “la fuerza Zvika sigue combatiendo”. En ese momento, se percató de su estado. Todo el costado derecho con quemaduras. Metralla clavada en todo su cuerpo. Por un momento, pensó en renunciar a la lucha. Sin embargo, Zvika se recompuso y pocos minutos después, 2 tanques sirios quedaban fuera de combate.

Al amanecer del 7, lo único que se interponía entre los blindados sirios y el norte de Israel, eran los maltrechos 20 tanques de la brigada Barak. Mientras no llegasen más refuerzos, los soldados israelíes la tenían clara. Había que seguir luchando. El jefe de la brigada, el coronel Shoham, organizó un ataque con él al frente. El objetivo, era negarles a los sirios la carretera que llegaba a Nafakh.

Los sirios estaban esperándoles. A pesar de sus esfuerzos, los blindados sirios empezaron a flanquearlos. Zvika tuvo que retirarse. En su retirada pasó por un grupo de tanques destruidos, entre los que se encontraba el del coronel Shoham. No había supervivientes. Cerca estaba también, el tanque del teniente coronel Yisraeli, el que había creado la fuerza Zvika, destruido y con sus ocupantes muertos. Sin munición, su última acción había sido embestir un T-62, disparando la ametralladora del tanque.

En esos instantes, llegó un mensaje por radio. Tanques sirios estaban llegando al perímetro de la base de Nafakh. Los israelíes estaban retirándose. Impotente, el general Eitan, jefe de la base, contemplaba desde la nueva posición la llegada de las fuerzas sirias, cuando de la nada, apareció la fuerza Zvika. Sin perder un segundo, los tanques de Greengold, se pusieron a disparar a todo lo que se movía. Siguiendo el perímetro de la base y sin parar de moverse, destruyeron un tanque enemigo tras otro. La acción sirvió para paralizar el avance sirio. Poco después, la llegada de reservas israelíes, terminó por expulsar a los sirios de la base.

Mientras los tanques israelíes avanzaban más allá de la base, Greengold salió de su tanque. A su alrededor, había tanques y vehículos blindados sirios ardiendo. Herido y con quemaduras de 1er y 2do grado en su cuerpo, se acercó al mayor Dov, el oficial de inteligencia de la brigada y el de mayor graduación que seguía vivo.

Había pasado más de 20 horas desde que Zvika saliera de Nafakh con sus primeros tanques. Con cara de disculpa le susurró a Dov: “ya no puedo más”. Dov le abrazó y lo llevó al centro de evacuación de heridos. La guerra había terminado para el teniente Greengold; pero, sus acciones habían ayudado a detener el avance sirio.

Nunca se pudo saber, con exactitud, cuántos tanques llegó a destruir Greengold. Las estimaciones van de 40 a 60. Tras conferírsele la Medalla al Valor, la máxima condecoración israelí, Zvika pasó al retiro en 1974 con el grado de capitán. Hoy a los 68 años, se encuentra jubilado, aunque sigue siendo solicitado para dar conferencias, en donde narra sus experiencias en la guerra. Para los israelíes, es una leyenda viva.

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