Zagreb - Croatia commemorates the Day of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving and the Day of Croatian Defenders on August 5, the day when 19 years ago its military and police forces regained control of most of the occupied territory in a military offensive dubbed Operation Storm.
The operation restored Croatian sovereignty over nearly a fifth of the country's territory, occupied by Serb insurgents backed by the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) four years previously. Operation Storm, along with Operation Flash launched three months earlier, crushed the Serb insurgency and led to the end of the Homeland War in 1995.
After the four years of occupation, shelling attacks and expulsions of Croats from the Serb-held areas, and many rounds of failed peace talks and initiatives, Croatia had no other choice but to retake the occupied territory with its own military force. Operation Storm was launched at 5am on August 4, 1995, and within the next 84 hours nearly 10,500 square kilometres or 18.4 percent of Croatia's territory was liberated. A 20-metre-long Croatian flag was displayed on the fortress in Knin, the heart of the Serb rebellion, at noon on August 5. Two days later, on August 7, Defence Minister Gojko Susak announced that Operation Storm was over. More than 200,000 soldiers and police took part in the biggest operation of the Homeland War, of whom 174 were killed and over 1,400 wounded.
Operation Storm marked the end of the war in Croatia, created conditions for the peaceful reintegration of the eastern Danube River region, spared the northwestern Bosnian town of Bihac from the fate of Srebrenica, and enabled the return of refugees and displaced persons.
The central celebration of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day will be held in Knin on Tuesday and will be attended by senior state officials.