Siege of Dubrovnik - Timeline - Defence of Dubrovnik

Defence of Dubrovnik

The JNA continued artillery strikes against Dubrovnik on 30 October, and the bombardment continued until 4 November, targeting the western areas of Dubrovnik - Gruž and Lapad—as well as the Babin Kuk and Argentina hotels housing refugees. On 3–4 November, the JNA troops attacked the Old Town and the Argentina Hotel using small arms and sniper fire. The fire came from positions held by the 3rd Battalion of the JNA 472th Motorized Brigade, which occupied positions the closest to the city centre. The next day, the Fort Imperial was bombarded once again. On 7 November, the JNA issued a new ultimatum demanding the surrender of Dubrovnik by noon. The demand was rejected and Jokić announced that the JNA would only spare the Old Town from destruction. The same day, fighting resumed near Slano.

JNA artillery and the Yugoslav Navy resumed the bombardment of Dubrovnik on 9–12 November. The attack targeted the Old Town, Gruž, Lapad and Ploče, as well as the Belvedere, Excelsior, Babin Kuk, Tirena, Imperial and Argentina hotels. Wire-guided missiles were used to attack boats in the Old Town harbour, while some larger ships at the port of Gruž, like the ferryboat Adriatic and the American-owned sailing ship Pelagic, were set ablaze and destroyed by gunfire. The Fort Imperial was attacked by the JNA on 9, 10 and 13 November. These attacks were followed by a lull, lasting until the end of November, when the European Union Monitoring Mission (ECMM) mediated in negotiations between the JNA and Croatian authorities in Dubrovnik. The ECMM was withdrawn in mid-November after their personnel was attacked by the JNA, and the mediation was taken over by French State Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs Bernard Kouchner and UNICEF Mission Chief Stephan Di Mistura. The negotiations produced ceasefire agreements on 19 November and 5 December, but neither yielded any specific results on the ground. Instead, the JNA 2nd Corps units located in Dubrovačko Primorje, northwest of Dubrovnik, closed in on the city, reaching the farthest point of their advance on 24 November, as the city defences were pushed back to Sustjepan–Srđ–Belvedere Hotel line. That day, the JNA sponsored establishment of the Dubrovnik Republic in the area it occupied, but the attempt ultimately failed.

In November, Dubrovnik began receiving the largest deliveries of humanitarian aid since the beginning of the siege. The first successful attempt to sustain the city was the Libertas convoy—a fleet of civilian vessels, the largest among them being Jadrolinija's Slavija—arriving in Dubrovnik on 31 October. The convoy sailed from Rijeka and made several port calls, growing to 29 vessels as it approached Dubrovnik. The convoy, also carrying Stjepan Mesić, the President of the Presidency of Yugoslavia, and former Prime Minister of Croatia Franjo Gregurić, was initially stopped by the Yugoslav frigate JRM Split between the islands of Brač and Šolta, and the next day by Yugoslav patrol boats off Korčula before the Armed Boats Squadron linked up with the fleet and escorted it to the Port of Dubrovnik in Gruž. The convoy also carried the ECMM observers and at least 1,000 protesters. On its return, the 700-capacity Slavija evacuated 2,000 refugees from Dubrovnik, although she had to sail to the Bay of Kotor first for inspection by the Yugoslav Navy.

On 2–3 December, the JNA resumed infantry weapons fire against the Old Town, followed by mortar fire against the Fort Imperial on 4 December. The heaviest bombardment of the Old Town started at 5:48 am on 6 December. The Old Town was struck by 48 82-millimetre (3.2 in) missiles, 232 82-millimetre (3.2 in) and 364 120-millimetre (4.7 in) mortar shells, as well as 22 wire-guided missiles. Two impact craters indicated the use of heavier weapons. The bombardment was concentrated on Stradun—the central promenade of the Old Town—and areas northeast of Stradun, while other parts of the Old Town sustained relatively few impacts. The attack subsided at 11:30 am. It caused the heaviest loss of civilian life during the siege, killing 13 civilians. The Dubrovnik Inter-University Centre library of 20,000 volumes was destroyed in the attack. Also, the Libertas Hotel was bombarded by JNA artillery aiming to kill firefighters putting out fires resulting from an attack earlier that day. The 6 December attack of the Old Town was met with strong protests from the international media, UNESCO Director-General Federico Mayor Zaragoza, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations Cyrus Vance, and the ECMM on the day of the bombardment. Later that day the JNA issued a statement of regret and promised an inquiry. On 7 December, representatives of the JNA visited the Old Town to inspect the damage, but no further actions were noted.

All of the Croatian defences were found 3 to 4 kilometres (1.9 to 2.5 miles) away from the Old Town, except for the Fort Imperial, about 1 kilometre (0.62 miles) to the north. The fortress was attacked minutes after the bombardment of the Old Town began, at 5:50 am. The attack was executed by the 3rd Battalion of the JNA 472nd Motorized Brigade, advancing simultaneously from two directions. The primary attack consisted of a company-sized force, and the secondary of a platoon of infantrymen, both supported by T-55 tanks and artillery. By 8 am, the infantry reached the Fort Imperial, forcing the defending force to retreat into the fortification and request help. Marinović ordered the HV artillery to fire directly onto the fortress and dispatched a special police unit to reinforce the Fort Imperial garrison. By 2 pm, the JNA called off the attack. That day, Sveti Vlaho—the first vessel commissioned by the Armed Boats Squadron Dubrovnik and named after Saint Blaise patron saint of the city—was sunk by a wire-guided missile.

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