In early May 1995, Croatian forces liberated the Western Slavonia region.
On 1 May 1995, the military and police operation “Flash” was launched in western Slavonia. In less than 32 hours, Croatian forces liberated the region, and started the process of returning the previously occupied territories to Croatian sovereignty. The process continued three months later with the larger and more well-known operation “Storm”, reports tportal.hr on May 1, 2017.
The military and police operation of the Croatian Army and special police forces was launched after Serb rebels rejected an offer for peaceful reintegration of the occupied area into Croatia.
“Flash” began on the 1st of May 1995 at 5.21 am by the attack on the southern and central part of the occupied part of Western Slavonia from the direction of Novska and Nova Gradiška. The main goal of the operation was to enter Okučani. The Croatian military and police forces, in less than 32 hours, freed more than 500 square kilometres of territory and took over control over the Zagreb-Lipovac motorway, as well as over the railway line.
The operation included 7,200 members of the military and police forces. During the operation, 42 members of the Croatian Army and the police were killed and 162 were injured. It was, at the time, the largest operation of the Homeland War.
One of the soldiers to lose their lives was pilot Rudolf Perešin, who, in 1991, had fled to Austria in a Yugoslav MiG-21 military aircraft. He had made himself available to the then newly-created Croatian Army.
Rebel Serbs reacted to the operation by rocketing several Croatian towns on 2 and 3 May, including Zagreb, where seven civilians were killed and 205 were wounded. One of the rebel leaders, Milan Martić, publicly acknowledged his responsibility for the attack on Zagreb. Zagreb was first attacked on the 2nd of May with Orkan rockets, which included cluster munitions. The attack was repeated on the following day, the 3rd of May. The rockets hit the Children’s Hospital at Klaićeva Street, a retirement home, the Academy of Dramatic Arts, and the Croatian National Theatre.
The Hague Tribunal later sentenced Milan Martić to 35 years in prison for persecution, murders, torture, deportation and other crimes against humanity and violations of the laws and customs of war in the early 1990s against Croats and other non-Serbs in Croatia. He was declared responsible for commanding the attack on Zagreb in May 1995.
Operation “Flash” is considered to be a prelude to the operation “Storm” which was launched in early August 1995, and which liberated Knin, the centre of the Serb rebellion in Croatia, and most of the rest of the occupied territories. It effectively marked the end of the Homeland War. The remaining parts of the occupied territories were peacefully reintegrated into Croatia in early 1998.