Battle of Košare or Hell of Košare (Serbian: Boj na Košarama or Pakao Košara; Albanian: Beteja e Koshares) was a battle fought during the Kosovo war between the Yugoslav Army on one side and the Kosovo Liberation Army supported by the Military of Albania and NATO on other.
On March 24, 1999, NATO started the bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia with the goal to expel the VJ from Kosovo. NATO airplanes were perpetually striking VJ positions on the Serbian-Albanian border. Almost 12,000 NATO soldiers (5,000 Americans) arrived in Albania, with more than 30 tanks and with 26 AH-64 Apaches. Huge numbers of Albanian refugees went from Kosovo to Albania. Majority of KLA soldiers also left Kosovo with their families. In Albania, KLA reorganized and rearmed themselves and started preparations for a return to Kosovo. Isolated armed incidents on the Serbian-Albanian border occurred almost continually in the first two weeks of war but on April 9, 1999, the KLA launched an open attack in an area around a Košare border blockhouse. The Košare area was a unique point on the border where the terrain was favorable for the attackers. Positions of the defenders were on a lower altitude then the attacker's, and because of this the defenders were highly exposed to artillery bombardment. Also, the terrain was impassable for tanks and armoured vehicles, equipment which was the VJ's main advantage over the KLA.
Fighting continued during the night and in the morning of the next day. Supported with artillery fire, the KLA captured Maja Glava peak. Albanian artillery continued to shell blockhouse Košare. VJ soldiers in the blockhouse, who were exposed to heavy artillery bombardment, left the building in the afternoon. KLA soldiers entered the abandoned blockhouse at 7h PM. TVSH, CNN, BBC and other networks instantly broadcasted a record of KLA soldiers entering the blockhouse.
VJ soldiers retreated to reserve positions (the second line of defence) over the blockhouse. These positions were more appropriate for defending. During the day, first Serbian reinforcements arrived at the frontline. A KLA guerrilla group operated behind VJ positions, with a task to attack Serbian reinforcements and to meet KLA soldiers after the breakthrough. During the day they managed to destroy one Serbian BOV.
During the night the KLA attacked VJ's second line on the Opljaz peak. Before the attack VJ positions were exposed to heavy bombardment from Albanian artillery at Rasa Koshares. Albanians launched the attack in 3 waves but after sustaining heavy casualties they were compelled to stop the attacks.
In the next few days the KLA were insistently trying to break through the Serbian second line but all attacks were unsuccessful. VJ reinforced its positions with special units and fighters with war experience from Croatia and Bosnia. Also, the Serbs had brought some artillery pieces to the direct vicinity of the frontline.
During the month of April at Rasa Koshares there was relentless fighting with no major changes. Both sides sustained heavy losses, Serbs from artillery shelling and Albanians in attempts of breakthrough.
On May 6 (Đurđevdan (English:St.George's day)), the VJ launched a sudden attack on Albanian positions at Rasa Koshares peak with an intention to prevent Albanian artillery fire from this point. A bloody battle commenced but the Albanians managed to keep Rasa Koshares. Both sides suffered heavy casualties. On May 10, VJ command sent two T-55 tanks to help the Serbian offensive on Rasa Koshares. The tanks somehow managed to enter the battle after they overcame the terrain which is actually impassable for armoured vehicles. VJ units succeed only to capture less than 100 meters of territory, but the Albanians saved their heavily fortified Rasa Koshares point. In the night between May 10 and May 11, NATO airplanes dropped prohibited cluster bombs on VJ soldiers who were on attacking positions below Rasa Koshares. Thereupon this NATO action, 8 VJ soldiers and 1 officer were killed and more than 40 were wounded. The KLA took advantage of the commotion in the Serbian lines and with combined action of artillery and infantry attack rebuffed Serbs to their starting positions and this actually ended the Serbian attack on Rasa Koshares.
At mid-May heavy fighting occurred at Mrcaj peak (2250m), when Serbs attacked the Albanian watchtower. KLA soldiers retreated from Mrcaj after suffering a great number of losses and the VJ took the very important strategic point for coordination of artillery fire.
The bloody Battle of Košare lasted until the end of the war (June 10, 1999) without major changes.
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