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Ami Palant, war hero who stopped Syrian advance during Yom Kippur War, dies at 71

He served as a company commander in the 7th Armored Brigade under Avigdor Kahalani, and as director general of the Public Security Ministry after the war

Tobias (Toby) Siegal is a breaking news editor and contributor to The Times of Israel.

Soldiers pose on top of a tank during the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War on October 6, 1973. (Avi Simhoni/Bamahane/Defense Ministry Archives)
Soldiers pose on top of a tank during the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War on October 6, 1973. (Avi Simhoni/Bamahane/Defense Ministry Archives)

Israeli war hero Ami Palant, who served under famed IDF general (res.) Avigdor Kahalani during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, died Monday at 71.

Palant was a company commander under Kahalani’s command in the 7th Armored Brigade, which was responsible for halting the Syrian military’s progress on the Golan Heights during the war in what has come to be known as the Battle of the Valley of Tears.

After the war, Palant was given the Medal of Courage for his role in the battle. The medal — the second-highest Israeli military decoration — is bestowed on soldiers for “performing a valorous and life-risking deed while executing a combat role.”

Palant was born in Moshav Magshimim in central Israel in 1951. He enlisted in the military in 1969 and was assigned to the Armored Corps, later completing the IDF’s officer’s course.

Prior to the Yom Kippur War, he served as a platoon commander in the Sinai Peninsula, which Israel had occupied following the 1967 Six Day War, and as a deputy company commander in a mechanized infantry unit.

As the Yom Kippur War broke out, hundreds of Syrian tanks raced to break through Israeli lines. Syria’s tank force comprised 700 tanks, against Israel’s 175, and its infantry carried state-of-the-art anti-tank missiles that Israel hadn’t known were part of the Arab arsenal.

But after an extremely defensive campaign over a few days, the outnumbered Israeli forces managed to stop the Syrian advance, destroying over 500 Syrian tanks and armored vehicles while suffering minimal losses.

Israeli war hero Ami Palant, who died on August 17 at 71. (Israel Defense Forces)

According to IDF archives about the battle, Palant “showed courage while performing a combat role and risking his own life… Captain Palant’s company was part of the force that halted Syrian forces on the northern front. During the fighting, most of the tank commanders in his unit had perished and the force was weakened. Despite this, [Palant] stayed in his position, encouraged those remaining, and continued to fire at the charging enemy.

“On October 9, 1973, following the enemy’s main offensive, the war shifted in their favor. Captain Palant ordered the tanks withdrawing in his area to return and positioned them in front battle positions, which stopped the Syrian advance and led to its destruction, while his unit only had six tanks remaining. In his actions he showed courage and exemplary leadership skills,” the IDF said.

Israeli troops fight off Syrian soldiers in the Golan Heights. (IDF archive/Wikimedia commons)

Palant left the IDF a year after the war but reenlisted in 1977 and continued to serve in various roles until his last position as commander of the Armored Corps as a brigadier general until 1995.

Following his military career, Palant served as director general of the Public Security Ministry under then-minister Kahalani.

“Whenever we met, Ami taught me something new,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz tweeted after Palant’s passing. “Whether it was as part of the courses he instructed or later when I met him as an entrepreneur and a pioneer in civilian life.”

His funeral will take place at 6 p.m. on Tuesday in his hometown of Moshav Magshimim.

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