Hobby Master HG5503 Israeli M48A2 Patton Medium Tank - 2nd Battalion, 7th Armored Brigade, Rafah Junction and Rafah El Arish Road, Sinai, 1967 (1:72 Scale)
"We left many of our dead soldiers in Rafah, and many burnt-out tanks."
- Colonel Shmuel Gonen, Head of the Israeli 7th Armored Brigade, discussing the aftermath of the Battle of Rafah
When the Korean War began, the US military had no medium tanks in production. The M47 appeared as an interim measure but work immediately began on the M48. The first 'Pattons' were completed in July 1952. Unfortunately, the speed of development resulted in numerous teething troubles for the early Pattons, including poor reliability and a short operating range. The A3 was a highly modified version designed to rectify these failings, and the M48 has been used as the basis for flame-thrower tanks, recovery vehicles, and an AVLB. The A5 was an upgraded version produced in the mid-1970s, which extended the M48's shelf life considerably.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale replica of a Israeli M48A2 Patton Medium Tank that was attached to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Armored Brigade, then deployed to the Rafah Junction and Rafah El Arish Road, located in the Sinai, during 1967.
Length: 2-3/4 inches
Width: 1-1/2 inches
Release Date: December 2013
Historical Account: "The Rafah Gap" - The Israeli plan was to surprise the Egyptian forces in both timing (the attack exactly coinciding with the IAF strike on Egyptian airfields), location (attacking via northern and central Sinai routes, as opposed to the Egyptian expectations of a repeat of the 1956 war, when the IDF attacked via the central and southern routes) and method (using a combined-force flanking approach, rather than direct tank assaults).
The northernmost Israeli division, consisting of three brigades and commanded by Major General Israel Tal, one of Israel's most prominent armor commanders, crossed the border at two points, opposite Nahal Oz and south of Khan Yunis. They advanced swiftly, holding fire to prolong the element of surprise. Tal's forces assaulted the "Rafah Gap", a seven-mile stretch containing the shortest of three main routes through the Sinai towards Qantara and the Suez Canal. The Egyptians had four divisions in the area, backed by minefields, pillboxes, underground bunkers, hidden gun emplacements and trenches. The terrain on either side of the route was impassable. The Israeli plan was to hit the Egyptians at selected key points with concentrated armor.
Tal's advance was led by the 7th Armored Brigade under Colonel Shmuel Gonen. The Israeli plan called for the 7th Brigade to outflank Khan Yunis from the north and the 60th Armored Brigade under Colonel Menachem Aviram would advance from the south. The two brigades would link up and surround Khan Yunis, while the paratroopers would take the Rafah. Gonen entrusted the breakthrough to a single battalion of his brigade.
Initially, the advance was met with light resistance, as Egyptian intelligence had concluded that it was a diversion for the main attack. However, as Gonen's lead battalion advanced, it suddenly came under intense fire and took heavy losses. A second battalion was brought up, but was also pinned down. Meanwhile, the 60th Brigade became bogged down in the sand, while the paratroopers had trouble navigating through the dunes. The Israelis continued to press their attack, and despite heavy losses, cleared the Egyptian positions and reached the Khan Yunis railway junction in little over four hours.
Gonen's brigade then advanced nine miles to Rafah in twin columns. Rafah itself was circumvented, and the Israelis attacked Sheikh Zuweid, eight miles to the southwest, which was defended by two brigades. Though inferior in numbers and equipment, the Egyptians were deeply entrenched and camouflaged. The Israelis were pinned down by fierce Egyptian resistance, and called in air and artillery support to enable their lead elements to advance. Many Egyptians abandoned after their commander and several of his staff were killed.
The Israelis broke through with tank-led assaults. However, Aviram's forces misjudged the Egyptians' flank, and were pinned between strongholds before they were extracted after several hours. By nightfall, the Israelis had finished mopping up resistance. Israeli forces had taken significant losses, with Colonel Gonen later telling reporters that "we left many of our dead soldiers in Rafah, and many burnt-out tanks." The Egyptians suffered some 2,000 casualties and lost 40 tanks.