Yom Kippur War: Wikis


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Yom Kippur War/October War
Part of the Arab-Israeli conflict
Bridge Crossing.jpg
Egyptian forces crossing the Suez Canal on October 7
Date October 6 – October 26, 1973
Location Sinai Peninsula and west bank of Suez Canal, Golan Heights and southern Syria
Result Israeli tactical victory,[1], Egyptian political victory and a UN cease-fire after UNSCR 338, 339 and 340, leading to the Geneva Conference and the Sinai Interim Agreement.
 Israel Main combatants:
Arab Expeditionary Forces:
 Saudi Arabia
Golda Meir
Moshe Dayan
David Elazar
Shmuel Gonen
Haim Bar-Lev
Israel Tal
Yitzhak Hofi
Benjamin Peled
Benjamin Telem
Rafael Eitan
Moshe Peled
Albert Mandler   (K.I.A.)
Abraham Adan
Ariel Sharon
Kalman Magen
Anwar Sadat
Hafez al-Assad
Ahmad Ismail Ali
Mustafa Tlass
Saad El Shazly
General Shakkour
Abdel Ghani el-Gammasy
Hosni Mubarak
Naji Jamil
Abdul Munim Wassel
Abd-Al-Minaam Khaleel
Mohammed Aly Fahmy
Abu Zikry
Omar Abrash   (K.I.A.)
415,000 troops,
2,300 tanks,
3,000 armored carriers,
945 artillery units,[2]
561 airplanes,
84 helicopters,
38 Navy vessels[3]
Egypt: 300,000 deployed (100,000 crossed), 1,700 tanks (1,020 crossed),[4] 2,400 armored carriers, 1,120 artillery units,[2] 400 combat aircraft, 140 helicopters,[5] 104 Navy vessels
Syria: 60,000 deployed (28,000 in initial offensive), 1,200 tanks, 800–900 armored carriers, 600 artillery units,[2][6][7] 350 airplanes, 36 helicopters, 21 Navy vessels
Iraq: 30,000 troops, 250–500 tanks,[8][9][10] 500 armored carriers, 200 artillery units,[2] 73 airplanes[3]
Casualties and losses
2,521[11]–2,656 dead[12]
7,250–9,000 wounded[8]
293 captured
400 tanks destroyed[13]
600 tanks damaged and returned to service[13]
102** planes destroyed
15,000*–18,500** dead
35,000* wounded
8,372 captured Egyptians
392 captured Syrians
13 captured Iraqis
6 captured Moroccans
2,250* tanks destroyed or captured
432*–450*** planes destroyed
19 naval vessels including 10 missile boats sunk**
* Rabinovich
** Herzog
***London Sunday Times

The Yom Kippur War, Ramadan War or October War (Hebrew: מלחמת יום הכיפורים‎; transliterated: Milẖemet Yom HaKipurim or מלחמת יום כיפור, Milẖemet Yom Kipur; Arabic: حرب أكتوبر‎; transliterated: ħarb October or حرب تشرين, ħarb Tishrin), also known as the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and the Fourth Arab-Israeli War, was fought from October 6 to October 26, 1973, between Israel and a coalition of Arab states backing Egypt and Syria. The war began with a joint surprise attack on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism, when Egypt and Syria respectively crossed cease-fire lines to enter the Israeli-held Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights, which had been captured and occupied since the 1967 Six-Day War. The conflict had all the elements of a severe international crisis, and ended with a near-confrontation between the two nuclear superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union,[14] both of whom launched massive resupply efforts to their allies during the war.

The war began with a massive and successful Egyptian attack across the heavily-fortified Suez Canal during the first three days, after which they dug in, and the southern front settled into a stalemate. In the north, the Syrians simultaneously attacked the critical Golan Heights and initially achieved threatening gains, after which their momentum waned. Within a week, Israel repelled the Syrian attack and launched a four-day counter-offensive, driving deeper into Syria. To relieve this pressure, the Egyptians renewed their offensive, but decisively failed to advance; the Israelis then counterattacked at the seam between two Egyptian armies, crossed the Suez Canal, and advanced southward in over a week of heavy fighting. Israel encircled elements of Egypt's Third Army after an agreed United Nations ceasefire resolution. This initially prompted tension between the superpowers, but a ceasefire was imposed cooperatively on October 25 to end the war. By the end of the fighting, Israeli forces were 40 kilometers from Damascus and 101 kilometers from Cairo.

The war had far-reaching implications for many nations. The Arab World, which had been humiliated by the lopsided defeat of the Egyptian-Syrian-Jordanian alliance during the Six-Day War, felt psychologically vindicated by successes early in the conflict. This paved the way for economic reform and liberalizations in Egypt under the infitah policy. In Israel, the war effectively ended the sense of invincibility and complacency. The war also challenged many American assumptions and it pursued newfound efforts at mediation and peacemaking. These changes combined paved the way for the subsequent peace process. The Camp David Accords that followed brought the return of the Sinai to Egypt and normalized relations—the first peaceful recognition of Israel by an Arab country. Egypt continued its drift away from the Soviet Union and left the Soviet sphere entirely.



Casus belli

This war was part of the Arab-Israeli conflict, an ongoing dispute which included many battles and wars since 1948 when the state of Israel was formed. During the Six-Day War of 1967, the Israelis captured Egypt's Sinai Peninsula all the way up to the Suez Canal, which had become the cease-fire line, and roughly half of Syria's Golan Heights.

According to Chaim Herzog:

On June 19, 1967, the National Unity Government of Israel voted unanimously to return the Sinai to Egypt and the Golan Heights to Syria in return for peace agreements. The Golan would have to be demilitarized and special arrangement would be negotiated for the Straits of Tiran. The government also resolved to open negotiations with King Hussein of Jordan regarding the Eastern border.[15]

The Israeli decision was to be conveyed to the Arab states by the U.S. government. The U.S. was informed of the decision, but not that it was to transmit it. There is no evidence of receipt from Egypt or Syria, who thus apparently never received the offer. The decision was kept a closely guarded secret within Israeli government circles and the offer was withdrawn in October, 1967.[16]

Egypt and Syria both desired a return of the land lost in the Six-Day War. In September 1967 the Khartoum Arab Summit issued the "three no's", resolving that there would be "no peace, no recognition and no negotiation with Israel". In the years following the war, Israel erected lines of fortification in both the Sinai and the Golan Heights. In 1971 Israel spent $500 million fortifying its positions on the Suez Canal, a chain of fortifications and gigantic earthworks known as the Bar Lev Line, named after Israeli General Chaim Bar-Lev.

President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt died in September 1970. He was succeeded by Anwar Sadat, who resolved to win back the territory lost in the Six-Day War. In 1971, Sadat, in response to an initiative by UN intermediary Gunnar Jarring, declared that if Israel committed itself to "withdrawal of its armed forces from Sinai and the Gaza Strip" and to implementation of other provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 242 as requested by Jarring, Egypt would then "be ready to enter into a peace agreement with Israel." Israel responded that it would not withdraw to the pre-June 5, 1967 lines.[17]

Sadat hoped that by inflicting even a limited defeat on the Israelis, the status quo could be altered. Hafiz al-Assad, the head of Syria, had a different view. He had little interest in negotiation and felt the retaking of the Golan Heights would be a purely military option. Since the Six-Day War, Assad had launched a massive military buildup and hoped to make Syria the dominant military power of the Arab states. With the aid of Egypt, Assad felt that his new army could win convincingly against the Israeli army and thus secure Syria's role in the region. Assad only saw negotiations beginning once the Golan Heights had been retaken by force, which would induce Israel to give up the West Bank and Gaza, and make other concessions.

Sadat also had important domestic concerns in wanting war. "The three years since Sadat had taken office... were the most demoralized in Egyptian history... A desiccated economy added to the nation's despondency. War was a desperate option."[18] In his biography of Sadat, Raphael Israeli argued that Sadat felt the root of the problem was in the great shame over the Six-Day War, and before any reforms could be introduced he felt that shame had to be overcome. Egypt's economy was in shambles, but Sadat knew that the deep reforms that he felt were needed would be deeply unpopular among parts of the population. A military victory would give him the popularity he needed to make changes. A portion of the Egyptian population, most prominently university students who launched wide protests, strongly desired a war to reclaim the Sinai and was highly upset that Sadat had not launched one in his first three years in office.

The other Arab states showed much more reluctance to fully commit to a new war. King Hussein of Jordan feared another major loss of territory as had occurred in the Six-Day War, during which Jordan had been halved in population. Sadat was also backing the claim of the PLO to the territories (West Bank and Gaza) and in the event of a victory promised Yasser Arafat that he would be given control of them. Hussein still saw the West Bank as part of Jordan and wanted it restored to his kingdom. Moreover, during the Black September crisis of 1970, a near civil war had broken out between the PLO and the Jordanian government. In that war, Syria had intervened militarily on the side of the PLO, estranging Assad and Hussein.

Iraq and Syria also had strained relations, and the Iraqis refused to join the initial offensive. Lebanon, which shared a border with Israel, was not expected to join the Arab war effort because of its small army and already evident instability. The months before the war saw Sadat engage in a diplomatic offensive to try to win support for the war. By the fall of 1973, he claimed the backing of more than a hundred states. These were most of the countries of the Arab League, Non-Aligned Movement, and Organization of African Unity. Sadat had also worked to curry favour in Europe and had some success before the war. Britain and France for the first time sided with the Arab powers against Israel on the United Nations Security Council.

Events leading up to the war

Anwar Sadat in 1972 publicly stated that Egypt was committed to going to war with Israel, and that they were prepared to "sacrifice one million Egyptian soldiers." From the end of 1972, Egypt began a concentrated effort to build up its forces, receiving MiG-21 jet fighters, SA-2, SA-3, SA-6 and SA-7 antiaircraft missiles, T-55 and T-62 tanks, RPG-7 antitank weapons, and the AT-3 Sagger anti-tank guided missile from the Soviet Union and improving its military tactics, based on Soviet battlefield doctrines. Political generals, who had in large part been responsible for the rout in 1967, were replaced with competent ones.[19]

The role of the superpowers, too, was a major factor in the outcome of the two wars. The policy of the Soviet Union was one of the causes of Egypt's military weakness. President Nasser was only able to obtain the material for an anti-aircraft missile defense wall after visiting Moscow and pleading with the Kremlin leaders. He said that if supplies were not given, he would have to return to Egypt and tell the Egyptian people Moscow had abandoned them, and then relinquish power to one of his peers who would be able to deal with the Americans. The Americans would then have the upper hand in the region, which Moscow could not permit.

One of Egypt's undeclared objectives of the War of Attrition was to force the Soviet Union to supply Egypt with more advanced arms and war materiel. Egypt felt the only way to convince the Soviet leaders of the deficiencies of most of the aircraft and air defense weaponry supplied to Egypt following 1967 was to put the Soviet weapons to the test against the advanced weaponry the United States had supplied to Israel.

Nasser's policy following the 1967 defeat conflicted with that of the Soviet Union. The Soviets sought to avoid a new conflagration between the Arabs and Israelis so as not to be drawn into a confrontation with the United States. The reality of the situation became apparent when the superpowers met in Oslo and agreed to maintain the status quo. This was unacceptable to Egyptian leaders, and when it was discovered that the Egyptian preparations for crossing the canal were being leaked, it became imperative to expel the Soviets from Egypt. In July 1972, Sadat expelled almost all of the 20,000 Soviet military advisers in the country and reoriented the country's foreign policy to be more favorable to the United States. The Syrians remained close to the Soviet Union.

The Soviets thought little of Sadat's chances in any war. They warned that any attempt to cross the heavily fortified Suez would incur massive losses. Both the Soviets and the Americans were then pursuing détente, and had no interest in seeing the Middle East destabilized. In a June 1973 meeting with U.S. President Richard Nixon, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev had proposed Israel pull back to its 1967 border. Brezhnev said that if Israel did not, "we will have difficulty keeping the military situation from flaring up"—an indication that the Soviet Union had been unable to restrain Sadat's plans.[20]

In an interview published in Newsweek (April 9, 1973), President Sadat again threatened war with Israel. Several times during 1973, Arab forces conducted large-scale exercises that put the Israeli military on the highest level of alert, only to be recalled a few days later. The Israeli leadership already believed that if an attack took place, the Israeli Air Force could repel it.

Almost a full year before the war, in an October 24, 1972 meeting with his Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Sadat declared his intention to go to war with Israel even without proper Soviet support.[21] Planning had begun in 1971, and was conducted in absolute secrecy—even the upper-echelon commanders were not told of war plans until less than a week prior to the attack, and the soldiers were not told until a few hours beforehand. The plan to attack Israel in concert with Syria was code-named Operation Badr (Arabic for "full moon"), after the Battle of Badr, in which Muslims under Muhammad defeated the Quraish tribe of Mecca.

Lead up to the surprise attack

The IDF's Directorate of Military Intelligence's (abbreviated as "Aman") Research Department was responsible for formulating Israel's intelligence estimate. Their assessments on the likelihood of war were based on several assumptions. First, it was assumed correctly that Syria would not go to war with Israel unless Egypt went to war as well. Second, the department learned from a high-level Egyptian informant that Egypt wanted to regain all of the Sinai, but would not go to war until they were supplied MiG-23 fighter-bombers to neutralize the Israeli Air Force, and Scud missiles to be used against Israeli cities as a deterrent against Israeli attacks on Egyptian infrastructure. Since they had not received MiG-23s, and Scud missiles had only arrived in Egypt from Bulgaria in late August and it would take four months to train the Egyptian ground crews, Aman predicted war with Egypt was not imminent. This assumption about Egypt's strategic plans, known as "the concept", strongly prejudiced the department's thinking and led it to dismiss other war warnings.

The Egyptians did much to further this misconception. Both the Israelis and the Americans felt that the expulsion of the Soviet military observers had severely reduced the effectiveness of the Egyptian army. The Egyptians ensured that there was a continual stream of false information on maintenance problems and a lack of personnel to operate the most advanced equipment. The Egyptians made repeated misleading reports about lack of spare parts that also made their way to the Israelis. Sadat had so long engaged in brinkmanship, that his frequent war threats were being ignored by the world. In May and August 1973 the Egyptian army conducted military exercises near the border, and the Israeli army mobilized in response both times at considerable cost.

For the week leading up to Yom Kippur, the Egyptian army staged a week-long training exercise adjacent to the Suez Canal. Israeli intelligence, detecting large troop movements towards the canal, dismissed these movements as mere training exercises. Movements of Syrian troops towards the border were puzzling, but not a threat because, Aman believed, they would not attack without Egypt and Egypt would not attack until the weaponry they wanted arrived.

On September 27 and September 30, two batches of reservists were called up by the Egyptian army to participate in these exercises. Two days before the outbreak of the war, on October 4, the Egyptian command publicly announced the demobilization of part of the reservists called up during September 27 to lull suspicion on the Israeli side. Around 20,000 troops were demobilized, and subsequently some of these men were given leave to perform the Umrah (pilgrimage) to Mecca.[22][23]

The obvious reason for choosing the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur to stage a surprise attack on Israel was that on this specific holiday (unlike any other) the country comes to a complete standstill. Yom Kippur is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar; both religiously observant Jews and most of the secular majority fast, abstain from any use of fire, electricity, engines, communications, etc., and all road traffic ceases. Many soldiers also go home from military facilities for the holiday, and Israel is more vulnerable with much of its military on leave. The war coincided that year with the Muslim month of Ramadan, when many Arab Muslim soldiers also fast. Other analysts believe that the attack on Yom Kippur actually helped Israel to more easily marshal reserves from their homes and synagogues, because the nature of the holiday meant that roads and communication were largely open and this eased mobilizing and transporting the military.

Despite refusing to participate, King Hussein of Jordan "had met with Sadat and [Syrian President] Assad in Alexandria two weeks before. Given the mutual suspicions prevailing among the Arab leaders, it was unlikely that he had been told any specific war plans. But it was probable that Sadat and Assad had raised the prospect of war against Israel in more general terms to feel out the likelihood of Jordan joining in."[24] On the night of September 25, Hussein secretly flew to Tel Aviv to warn Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir of an impending Syrian attack.

"Are they going to war without the Egyptians, asked Mrs. Meir. The king said he didn't think so. 'I think they [Egypt] would cooperate'".[25]

Surprisingly, this warning fell on deaf ears. Aman concluded that the king had not told it anything it did not already know. "Eleven warnings of war were received by Israel during September from well placed sources. But [Mossad chief] Zvi Zamir continued to insist that war was not an Arab option. Not even Hussein's warnings succeeded in stirring his doubts".[26] He would later remark that "We simply didn't feel them capable [of War]"[26]

Finally, Zvi Zamir personally went to Europe to meet with an intelligence contact named Marwan, at midnight on October 5/6th. Marwan informed him that a joint Syrian-Egyptian attack on Israel was imminent. It was this warning in particular, combined with the large number of other warnings, that finally goaded the Israeli high command into action. Just hours before the attack began, orders went out for a partial call-up of the Israeli reserves.[27] Ironically, calling up the reserves proved to be easier than usual, as almost all of the troops were at synagogue or at home for the holiday.

The attack by the Egyptian and Syrian forces caught the United States by surprise. According to the future CIA Director and Defence Secretary Robert Gates, he was briefing a US arms negotiator on improbability of armed conflict in the region when he heard the news of the outbreak of war on the radio. On the other hand, KGB learned about the attack in advance, probably from its intelligence sources in Egypt.[28]

Lack of an Israeli pre-emptive attack

Upon learning of the impending attack, Prime Minister of Israel Golda Meir made the controversial decision not to launch a pre-emptive strike.

The Israeli strategy was, for the most part, based on the precept that if war was imminent, Israel would launch a pre-emptive strike. It was assumed that Israel's intelligence services would give, at the worst case, about 48 hours notice prior to an Arab attack.

Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan, and Israeli general David Elazar met at 8:05 a.m. the morning of Yom Kippur, six hours before the war was to begin. Dayan opened the meeting by arguing that war was not a certainty. Elazar then presented his argument, in favor of a pre-emptive attack against Syrian airfields at noon, Syrian missiles at 3:00 p.m., and Syrian ground forces at 5:00 p.m. "When the presentations were done, the prime minister hemmed uncertainly for a few moments but then came to a clear decision. There would be no preemptive strike. Israel might be needing American assistance soon and it was imperative that it not be blamed for starting the war. 'If we strike first, we won't get help from anybody', she said."[29] Other developed nations, being more dependent on OPEC oil, took more seriously the threat of an Arab oil embargo and trade boycott, and had stopped supplying Israel with munitions. As a result, Israel was totally dependent on the United States for military resupply, and particularly sensitive to anything that might endanger that relationship. After Meir made her decision, she informed the United States that Israel did not intend to preemptively start a war, and asked that US efforts be directed at preventing war.[30] A message arrived later from United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger saying: "Don't preempt."[31] At the same time, Kissinger also urged the Soviets to use their influence to prevent war, contacted Egypt with Israel’s message of non-preemption, and sent messages to other Arab governments to enlist their help on the side of moderation. These late efforts were futile.[32] According to Henry Kissinger, had Israel struck first, they would not have received "so much as a nail."[33]

David Elazar proposed a mobilization of the entire Air Force and four armored divisions, a total of 100,000 to 120,000 troops, while Dayan favored a mobilization of the Air Force and two armored divisions, totaling around 70,000 troops. Meir sided with Elazar's proposal, and the mobilization proceeded.[34]

Combat operations

In the Sinai

The Egyptian units generally would not advance beyond a shallow strip for fear of losing protection of their SAM batteries, which were situated on the West bank of the canal. In the Six-Day War, the Israeli Air Force had pummelled the defenseless Arab armies. Egypt (and Syria) had heavily fortified their side of the cease-fire lines with SAM batteries provided by the Soviet Union, against which the Israeli Air Force had no effective countermeasures. Israel, which had invested much of its defense budget building the region's strongest air force, would see the effectiveness of its air force curtailed in the initial phases of the conflict by the SAM presence.

Anticipating a swift Israeli armored counterattack by three armored divisions,[35] the Egyptians had armed their assault force with large numbers of man-portable anti-tank weapons—rocket propelled grenades and the less numerous but more advanced Sagger guided missiles, which proved devastating to the first Israeli armored counter-attacks. Each of the five infantry divisions that was to cross the canal had been equipped with RPG-7 rockets and RPG-43 grenades, and reinforced with an ATGW battalion as they would not have any armor support for nearly 12 hours.[36] In addition, the Egyptians had built separate ramps at the crossing points, reaching as high as 21 meters to counter the Israeli sand wall, provide covering fire for the assaulting infantry and to counter the first Israeli armored counterattacks.[37] The scale and effectiveness of the Egyptian strategy of deploying these anti-tank weapons coupled with the Israelis' inability to disrupt their use with close air support (due to the SAM shield) greatly contributed to Israeli setbacks early in the war.

The 1973 War in the Sinai, October 6–15.

The Egyptian army put great effort into finding a quick and effective way of breaching the Israeli defenses. The Israelis had built large 18 meter high sand walls with a 60 degree slope and reinforced with concrete at the water line. Egyptian engineers initially experimented with explosive charges and bulldozers to clear the obstacles, before a junior officer proposed using high pressure water cannons. The idea was tested and found to be a sound one, and several high pressure water cannons were imported from Britain and from East Germany. The Egyptian forces used these water-cannons with water pumped from the Suez Canal. The water-cannons effectively breached through the sand walls.[38]

At 2:00 pm, Operation Badr began with a large air strike. More than 200 Egyptian aircraft flying at very low altitudes conducted simultaneous strikes against numerous Israeli targets, principally air bases and Hawk batteries. Airfields at Refidim and Bir Tamada were temporarily put out of service, and the Hawk battery at Ophir lost its radar and its control center, and the communications radio antenna was crippled for a few hours. It was a costly endeavor for the Egyptians who lost 18 planes in these attacks[39][40] prompting Cairo to cancel a planned second wave of airstrikes.[40] The aerial assault was coupled with a barrage from more than 2000 artillery pieces for a period of 53 minutes, against the Bar Lev Line and rear area command posts and concentration bases.[41]

Egyptian infantry scaling the sand wall on the east bank

Under cover of this artillery barrage, the Egyptian assault force of 32,000 infantry began crossing the canal in twelve waves at five separate crossing areas, from 14:05 to 17:30, in what became known as The Crossing.[42] The Egyptians prevented Israeli forces from reinforcing the Bar Lev Line and proceeded to attack the Israeli fortifications. Meanwhile engineers crossed over to breach the sand wall.[43][44] The Israeli air force conducted air interdiction operations to prevent the bridges from being erected, but were met with heavy resistance from SAM batteries. These attacks were overall ineffective, as the sectional design of the bridges enabled quick repair.[45] The Israeli reserve brigade garrisoning the Bar-Lev forts was overwhelmed, and according to Shazly, within six hours, fifteen strongpoints had been captured as Egyptian forces advanced several kilometers. Shazly's account is disputed by Kenneth Pollack who notes that for the most part, the forts only fell to repeated asaults by superior forces or prolonged sieges over many days.[46] The northernmost fortification of the Bar Lev Line, code-named 'Budapest', withstood repeated assaults and remained in Israeli hands throughout the war. Once the bridges were laid, additional infantry with the remaining portable and recoilless AT weapons began to cross the canal, while the first Egyptian tanks started to cross at 20:30.[47] The Egyptians also attempted to land several heli-borne commando units in various areas in the Sinai to hamper the arrival of Israeli reserves. However, this attempt met with disaster as the Israelis downed twenty helicopters.[48] Major General (res.) Chaim Herzog placed Egyptian chopper losses at fourteen.[49] Still, other sources claim that “several” helicopters were downed with “total loss of life” and that the few commandos that did filter through were ineffectual and presented nothing more than a “nuisance.”[50] Egyptian forces advanced approximately 4 to 5 km into the Sinai desert with the combined forces of two armies (both corps-sized by western standards, included the 2nd Infantry Division in the northern 2nd Army). By the following morning, some 850 tanks had crossed the canal.[41] In his account of the war, Saad El Shazly notes that the crossing was completed with few casualties on the Egyptian side: 280 men killed, 10 aircraft and 20 tanks, though this account is disputed especially in connection with Egyptian aircraft losses[39][40] Israeli forces defending the Bar Lev Line suffered heavy losses.[4][51] IAF losses in Sinai during the first 48 hours of conflict were 14 warplanes and others damaged. For the next several days the IAF played a minimal role in the fighting largely because they were needed to deal with the simultaneous, and ultimately more threatening, Syrian invasion of the Golan Heights.[52]

Egyptian forces then consolidated their initial positions. On October 7 the bridgeheads were enlarged an additional 4 km, at the same time repulsing Israeli counter-attacks. In the north, the Egyptians managed to seize most of the town of Qantara by evening, clearing it completely by next morning.[53] Meanwhile the commandos airdropped during October 6 began encountering Israeli reserves the following morning. The commandos inflicted and at times incurred heavy losses during these battles, but were successful where they established themselves in delaying Israeli reserves to the front. These special operations often led to confusion and anxiety among Israeli commanders, who commended the Egyptian commandos.[54][55] One source however states that few commandos made it to their objectives, and were usually nothing more than a nuisance.[56] Of the 1,700 Egyptian commandos inserted behind Israeli lines during the war, 740 were killed — many in downed helicopters — and 330 captured.[57]

An Israeli M60 Patton tank destroyed in the Sinai

On October 7, David Elazar visited Shmuel Gonen, commander of the Israeli Southern front—who had only taken the position 3 months before at the retirement of Ariel Sharon—and met with Israeli commanders. The Israelis planned a cautious counterattack for the following day by Abraham Adan's 162nd Armored Division.[58] On October 8 however, after Elazar had left, Gonen changed plans on the basis of over-optimistic field reports. Adan's division was composed of three brigades totaling 183 tanks. One of the brigades was in still en route to the area, and would participate in the attack by noon, along with a supporting mechanized infantry brigade with an additional 44 tanks.[59][60] The Israeli counterattack came in the direction of the Bar Lev strongpoints opposite the town of Ismailia, against entrenched Egyptian infantry. In a series of ill-coordinated attacks, which were met by stiff Egyptian resistance, the Israelis suffered heavy losses. That afternoon, Egyptian forces advanced once more to deepen their bridgeheads, and as a result the Israelis lost several strategic positions. Further Israeli attacks to regain the lost ground proved futile.[61] Towards nightfall, a counterattack by the Egyptians was stopped by Ariel Sharon's 143rd Armoured Division—Sharon had been reinstated as a division commander at the outset of the war. From October 6–8 over 400 Israeli tanks had been destroyed. Egyptian losses numbered 240 tanks throughout October 6–13.[62]

By October 9 the front lines stabilized and the Egyptians were unable to register a single advance beyond this date.[63] Egyptian armored attacks on October 9 and 10 were repulsed with heavy losses inflicted on the attackers. One notable engagement was an Egyptian attack southward along the Gulf of Suez in the direction of Ras Sudar by the Egyptian 1st Mechanized Brigade. Leaving the safety of the SAM umbrella, the force fell victim to the Israeli Air Force which destroyed the entire brigade.[64] This engagement had a profound effect on the Egyptian Chief of Staff General Saad El Shazly who cited this experience as a basis to resist pressure by Minister of War, General Ahmad Ismail Ali to attack eastward toward the Mitla and Gidi passes.[65] Egyptian losses were steadily mounting and with the situation on the Syrian front stabilizing, the Israeli high command agreed that the time was ripe for an Israeli counter-attack and a strike across the Canal. General Sharon advocated an immediate crossing at Deversoir at the northern edge of Great Bitter Lake. Indeed, on October 9 a reconnaissance force attached to Colonel Amnon Reshef’s Brigade detected a gap between the Egyptian Second and Third armies in this sector.[66] Chief of Staff Elazar and General Chaim Bar-Lev, who had by now replaced Gonen as Chief of Southern Command, agreed that this was the ideal spot for a crossing but opted for a more cautious approach that first involved whittling down Egyptian armored strength before initiating any crossing. The matter was decided on October 12 when Israeli intelligence detected signs that the Egyptians were gearing up for a major armored thrust.[67] This was precisely the moment the Israelis were waiting for. They could finally utilize their advantages in speed, maneuver and tank gunnery, areas in which they excelled. Once Egyptian armored strength was sufficiently degraded, the Israelis would commence their own Canal crossing. General Shazly remembering the October 10th destruction of the 1st Mechanized Brigade strongly opposed any eastward advance that would leave his armor without air cover. He was overruled by General Ismail and Sadat whose aims were to seize the strategic Mitla and Gidi Passes and the Israeli nerve centre at Refidim as well as relieve pressure on the Syrians, who were by now on the defensive.[68]

The 1973 War in the Sinai, October 15–24.

The 2nd and 3rd Armies were ordered to attack eastward in six simultaneous thrusts over broad front, leaving behind five infantry divisions to hold the bridgeheads. The attacking forces, consisting of 800[69]-1,000 tanks[66] would not have SAM cover, so the EAF was tasked with the defense of these forces from Israeli air attacks. Armored and mechanized units began the attack on October 14 with artillery support. They were up against 700[69]-750[66] Israeli tanks. Preparatory to the tank attack, Egyptian helicopters set down 100 commandos near the Lateral Road to disrupt the Israeli rear. An Israeli reconnaissance unit quickly subdued them, killing 60 and thwarting the commandos’ objectives. Still bruised by the extensive losses their commandos had suffered on the opening day of the war, the Egyptians were unable or unwilling to implement further commando operations that were planned in conjunction with the armored attack.[70] "The attack, the most massive since the initial Egyptian assault on Yom Kippur, was a total failure, the first major Egyptian reversal of the war. Instead of concentrating forces of maneuvering, except for the wadi thrust, they had expended them in head-on attack against the waiting Israeli brigades."[71] Kenneth Pollack credits a successful Israeli commando raid early on 14 October against an Egyptian signals-intercept site at Jebel Ataqah, with seriously disrupting Egyptian command and control and contributing to its breakdown during the engagement.[72] Whatever the reasons for the Egyptian failure, one thing remains clear, the decidedly lop-sided result in Israel’s favor represented a turning point on the southern front. More than 260 Egyptian tanks[73][74][75] and some 200 armored vehicles[73] were destroyed during the battle. Egyptian casualties exceeded 1,000.[75][76] Less than 40 Israeli tanks were hit and all but six of these were repaired by Israeli maintenance crews and returned to service.[73]

The Israelis immediately followed their success of 14 October with a multidivisional counter-attack through the gap existing between the Egyptian 2nd and 3rd armies. Sharon’s 143rd Division, now reinforced with a paratroop brigade commanded by Col. Dani Matt, was tasked with establishing bridgeheads on the east and west banks of the Canal. The 162nd and 252nd Armored Divisions commanded by Generals Bren Adan and Kalman Magen respectively would then cross through the breach to the west bank of the Canal and swing southward encircling the 3rd Army in an enveloping action.[77] The offensive was code-named Operation South-Hearted Men or alternatively, Operation Valiant.

A destroyed Israeli tank lies ahead of advancing Egyptian infantry

On the night of 15 October 750 of Matt’s paratroopers crossed the Canal in rubber dinghies.[78] They were soon joined by tanks ferried on motorized rafts and additional infantry. The force encountered no resistance initially and fanned out in raiding parties attacking supply convoys, SAM sites, logistic centers and anything of military value, with priority given to the destruction of SAMs. Several SAM batteries were destroyed in these attacks punching a hole in the Egyptian anti-aircraft screen and enabling the IAF to more aggressively pursue value targets.[79] By now, the Syrians no longer posed a credible threat and the Israelis were able to shift their air power to the south in support of the offensive.[80] The combination of a weakened Egyptian AA umbrella and a greater concentration of IAF fighter bombers in the theatre of operations did not bode well for the Egyptians who now bore the full brunt of the IAF. EAF attempts to interdict the IAF sorties resulted in one-sided dogfights in Israel’s favor.[81]

Despite the success the Israelis were having on the West Bank, General’s Bar-Lev and Elazar ordered Sharon to concentrate on securing the bridgehead on the East Bank. He was ordered to clear the roads leading to the Canal as well as a position known as Chinese Farm, situated just north of Deversoir, the Israeli crossing point. Sharon objected and requested permission to expand and breakout of the Bridgehead on the west bank arguing that such a maneuver would cause the collapse of Egyptian forces on the east bank. But the Israeli high command was insistent, believing that until the east bank was secure, forces on the west bank could be cut off. Sharon was overruled by his superiors and relented.[82] On 16 October, he dispatched Amnon Reshef’s Brigade to attack Chinese Farm. Other IDF forces attacked entrenched Egyptian forces overlooking the roads to the Canal. After three days of bitter, close-quartered fighting, the Israelis succeeded in dislodging numerically superior Egyptian forces from these positions.[83][84]

The Egyptians meanwhile failed to grasp the extent and magnitude of the Israeli crossing nor did they appreciate its intent and purpose. This was partly due to attempts by Egyptian field commanders to obfuscate reports concerning the Israeli crossing[85] and partly due to a false assumption that the Canal crossing was merely a diversion to a major IDF offensive targeting the right flank of the Second Army.[86] Consequently, on 16 October, General Shazly ordered the 21st Armored Division to attack southward and the T-62 equipped 25th Independent Armored Brigade to attack northward in a pincer action to eliminate the perceived threat to the 2nd Army. However, the Egyptians failed to scout the area and were unaware that by now, Adans’s 162nd Armored Division was in the vicinity. Moreover, the 21st and 25th failed to coordinate their attacks allowing General Adan’s Division to meet each force individually. Adan first concentrated his attack on the 21st Armored Division destroying 50-60 tanks and forcing the remainder to retreat. He then turned southward and ambushed the 25th Independent Armored Brigade, destroying 86 of its 96 tanks and all of its APCs.[87]

After the failure of the 17 October counter-attacks, the Egyptian General Staff slowly began to realize the magnitude of the Israeli offensive. Early on 18 October the Soviets showed Sadat satellite imagery of Israeli forces operating on the west bank. Alarmed, Sadat dispatched Shazly to the front to assess the situation first hand. He no longer trusted his field commanders to provide accurate reports.[88] Shazly confirmed that the Israelis had at least one division on the west bank and were widening their bridgehead. He advocated withdrawing most of Egypt’s armor from the east bank to confront the growing Israeli threat on the west bank. Sadat rejected this recommendation outright and even threatened Shazly with a court martial.[89] Ismail Ali recommended that Sadat push for a cease-fire so as to prevent the Israelis from exploiting their successes.[90]

A floating bridge over a canal. Signs are in Hewbrew.
An Israeli pontoon bridge crossing the Suez Canal

Israeli forces were by now pouring across the Canal on bridges, including one of indigenous design and motorized rafts. Sharon’s drive north stalled just south of Ismailia. However, Adan and Magen beat the Egyptians decisively in a series of engagements. Adan’s division rolled south to the Ganeifah Hills while Magen’s division pushed west.[91]

By the end of the war, the Israelis were some 50 miles from Egypt's capital, Cairo and occupied 1,600 square kilometers west of the Suez Canal.[92] The Israelis had also cut the Cairo-Suez road and completely encircled Egypt's Third Army Corps. The Egyptians were confined to a narrow strip on the east bank of the Canal, occupying some 1,200 square kilometers of Sinai.[93] One source estimated that the Egyptians had 70,000 men and 720 tanks on the East bank of the canal.[94]

On the Golan Heights

In the Golan Heights, the Syrians attacked the Israeli defenses of two brigades and eleven artillery batteries with five divisions and 188 batteries. At the onset of the battle, two Israeli brigades of some 3,000 troops, 180 tanks and 60 artillery pieces faced off against three mechanized divisions incorporating 28,000 Syrian troops, 800 tanks and 600 artillery pieces.[6][7][95] Every Israeli tank deployed on the Golan Heights was engaged during the initial attacks. Syrian commandos dropped by helicopter also took the most important Israeli stronghold at Jabal al Shaikh (Mount Hermon), which had a variety of surveillance equipment.

Golan Heights campaign

Fighting in the Golan Heights was given priority by the Israeli High Command. The fighting in the Sinai was sufficiently far away that the Israeli population centers were not immediately threatened; should the Golan Heights fall, the Syrians could easily advance towards Tiberias, Safed, Haifa, Netanya, and Tel Aviv. Reservists were directed to the Golan as quickly as possible. They were assigned to tanks and sent to the front as soon as they arrived at army depots, without waiting for the crews they trained with to arrive, without waiting for machine guns to be installed on their tanks, and without taking the time to calibrate their tank guns (a time-consuming process known as bore-sighting).

As the Egyptians had in the Sinai, the Syrians on the Golan Heights took care to stay under cover of their SAM batteries. Also as in the Sinai, the Syrians made use of Soviet anti-tank weapons (which, because of the uneven terrain, were not as effective as in the flat Sinai desert).

The Syrians had expected it would take at least 24 hours for Israeli reserves to reach the front lines; in fact, Israeli reserve units began reaching the battle lines only fifteen hours after the war began.

By the end of the first day of battle, the Syrians had achieved moderate success. The Israelis put up fierce resistance, as tanks and infantry desperately tried to fend off the Syrians. Having practiced on the Golan heights numerous times, Israeli gunners made deadly use of mobile artillery. Syrian anti-aircraft batteries shot down 40 Israeli planes, but Israeli pilots soon adopted a different tactic of flying in low over Jordan and diving in over the Golan heights, catching the Syrians in the flank and avoiding many of their batteries. The Israeli pilots dropped both conventional explosives and napalm bombs, and wrecked Syrian vehicles soon littered the ground. Within six hours of the initial assault, however, the first Israeli line of defense had been overrun by sheer weight of numbers.

A Syrian tank brigade passing through the Rafid Gap turned northwest up a little-used route known as the Tapline Road, which cut diagonally across the Golan. This roadway would prove one of the main strategic hinges of the battle. It led straight from the main Syrian breakthrough points to Nafah, which was not only the location of Israeli divisional headquarters but the most important crossroads on the Heights.[96]

During the night, Captain Zvika Greengold, who had just arrived at the battle unattached to any unit, fought them off with his single tank until help arrived.

For the next 20 hours, Zvika Force, as he came to be known on the radio net, fought running battles with Syrian tanks—sometimes alone, sometimes as part of a larger unit, changing tanks half a dozen times as they were knocked out. He was wounded and burned but stayed in action and repeatedly showed up at critical moments from an unexpected direction to change the course of a skirmish.[96]

For his actions, Greengold received Israel's highest decoration, the Medal of Valor.

Centurion tank at Latrun.
An Israeli Centurion tank. It was regarded as superior to the T-55

During over four days of fighting, the Israeli 7th Armoured Brigade in the north (commanded by Yanush Ben Gal) managed to hold the rocky hill line defending the northern flank of their headquarters in Nafah. To the south, however, the Barak Armored Brigade, bereft of any natural defenses, began to take heavy casualties. Israeli Brigade Commander Colonel Shoham was killed during the second day of fighting, along with his second in command and their Operations Officer (each in a separate tank), as the Syrians desperately tried to advance towards the Sea of Galilee and Nafah. At this point, the Brigade stopped functioning as a cohesive force, although the surviving tanks and crewmen continued fighting independently. However, the Syrians were also taking heavy casualties. Israeli tanks raining shells at the advancing Syrians had caused heavy casualties, and Syrian brigadier general Omar Abrash was killed when his command tank took a direct hit. For some as-yet-unexplained reason, the Syrians were close to reaching the Israeli defenders at Nafah yet stopped the advance on Nafah's fences, allowing Israeli forces to assemble a defensive line. The most reasonable explanation for this is that the Syrians had calculated estimated advances, and the commanders in the field didn't want to digress from the plan.

The tide in the Golan began to turn as the arriving Israeli reserve forces were able to contain and, beginning on October 8, push back the Syrian offensive. The tiny Golan Heights were too small to act as an effective territorial buffer, unlike the Sinai Peninsula in the south, but it proved to be a strategic geographical stronghold and was a crucial key in preventing the Syrian army from bombarding the cities below. By Wednesday, October 10, the last Syrian unit in the Central sector had been pushed back across the Purple Line, that is, the pre-war border.[97]

A Syrian T-62 stands as part of a memorial commemorating the battle of the 'Valley of Tears', Northern Golan Heights, Israel.
A destroyed Syrian T-62 tank

A decision now had to be made—whether to stop at the 1967 border, or to continue into Syrian territory. Israeli High Command spent the entire October 10 debating this well into the night. Some favored disengagement, which would allow soldiers to be redeployed to the Sinai (Shmuel Gonen's defeat at Hizayon in the Sinai had taken place two days earlier). Others favored continuing the attack into Syria, towards Damascus, which would knock Syria out of the war; it would also restore Israel's image as the supreme military power in the Middle East and would give them a valuable bargaining chip once the war ended. Others countered that Syria had strong defenses—antitank ditches, minefields, and strongpoints— and that it would be better to fight from defensive positions in the Golan Heights (rather than the flat terrain of Syria) in the event of another war with Syria. However, Prime Minister Meir realized the most crucial point of the whole debate:

It would take four days to shift a division to the Sinai. If the war ended during this period, the war would end with a territorial loss for Israel in the Sinai and no gain in the north—an unmitigated defeat. This was a political matter and her decision was unmitigating—to cross the purple line... The attack would be launched tomorrow, Thursday, October 11.[98]

From October 11 to October 14, the Israeli forces pushed into Syria, although Syrian reservists put up stiff resistance from prepared defenses. The Israelis continued their advance, and reached the main defensive line around Sassa. The Israelis had conquered a further 50 square-kilometers box of territory in the Bashan. From there they would have been able to shell the outskirts of Damascus, only 40 km away, using M107 heavy artillery. Syrian MIG fighters swooped in on the Israelis, as part of the desperate defense of Damascus.

As Arab position on the battlefields deteriorated, pressure mounted on King Hussein to send his Army into action. He found a way to meet these demands without opening his kingdom to Israeli air attack. Instead of attacking Israel from their common border, he sent an expeditionary force into Syria. He let Israel know of his intentions, through US intermediaries, in the hope that it [Israel] would accept that this was not a casus belli justifying an attack into Jordan... Dayan declined to offer any such assurance, but Israel had no intention of opening another front.[99]

Iraq also sent an expeditionary force to the Golan, consisting of the 3rd Armoured Division, 6th Armoured Division, some 30,000 men, 250–500 tanks, and 700 APCs.[8][9][100] The Iraqi divisions were actually a strategic surprise for the IDF, which expected a 24-hour-plus advance intelligence of such moves. This turned into an operational surprise, as the Iraqis attacked the exposed southern flank of the advancing Israeli armor, forcing its advance units to retreat a few kilometers, in order to prevent encirclement.

Combined Syrian, Iraqi and Jordanian counterattacks prevented any further Israeli gains. However, they were also unable to push the Israelis back from the Bashan salient.

On October 22, the Golani Brigade and Sayeret Matkal commandos recaptured the outpost on Mount Hermon, after sustaining very heavy casualties from entrenched Syrian snipers strategically positioned on the mountain. An attack two weeks before had cost 25 dead and 67 wounded, while this second attack cost an additional 55 dead and 79 wounded.[101] An Israeli D9 bulldozer with Israeli infantry breached a way to the peak, preventing the peak from falling into Syrian hands after the war. A paratrooper brigade took the corresponding Syrian outposts on the mountain.

At sea

Diagram of the Battle of Latakia

Naval engagements in Yom Kippur War saw the first naval battles between missile boats using surface-to-surface missiles. The Battle of Latakia, a revolutionary naval battle between the Syrians and the Israelis, took place on October 7, the second day of the war, resulting in a resounding Israeli victory that proved the potency of small, fast missile boats equipped with advanced ECM packages. The battle also established the Israeli Navy, long derided as the "black sheep" of the Israeli services, as a formidable and effective force in its own right. Following this and other smaller naval battles, the Syrian Navy stayed at their Mediterranean Sea ports throughout most of the war, enabling the Mediterranean sea lanes to Israel to remain partially open. The second naval battle which ended in a decisive Israeli victory was the Battle of Baltim in which the Israelis, with the use of electronic countermeasures, evaded the Egyptian missiles, and sank three Egyptian vessels, before finally returning to port.[102][103][104][105][106] The Battle of Latakia and the Battle of Baltim "drastically changed the operational situation at sea to Israeli advantage".[107]

According to Israeli and Western sources, the Israelis lost no vessels in the war.[102][103][108][109] In the course of the naval battles Israeli vessels were "targeted by as many as 52 Soviet-made anti-ship missiles, yet no one hit its target."[110] According to historian Benny Morris, the Egyptians lost seven missile boats and four torpedo boats and coastal defense craft, while the Syrians lost five missile boats, one minesweeper, and one coastal defense vessel.[108] All together, the Israeli Navy suffered three casualties: two Shayetet 13 frogmen, part of a team that penetrated Port Said with the purpose of hitting Egyptian naval targets, and one Dabur Patrol Boat crewman, killed during the Battle of Mersa Talemet, in the Gulf of Suez.[111]

Even though most western military historians agree that the Israeli Navy decisively won all naval engagements, one Egyptian historian, Hassan El Badri, said that the Egyptian Navy had some success, and that on October 8 it managed to sink four Israeli vessels.[112] Badri is the only one to report such an engagement.[113]

The Egyptian Navy managed to enforce a blockade at Bab-el-Mandeb. Eighteen million tons of oil were transported yearly from Iran to Israel through the straits of Bab-el-Mandeb. The naval blockade, which lasted throughout the war until November 1, halted entirely all shipping destined for Israel. The Gulf of Suez was also mined to prevent the transportation of oil from the Bala'eem and Abu Rudeis oil fields in southwestern Sinai to Eilat. Two oil tankers, one with a 48,000 ton capacity and one with a 2,000 ton capacity, sank after hitting mines in the Gulf of Suez.[114][115]

Egypt's blockade gave rise to an Israeli counter-blockade by its naval forces based at Sharm el-Sheikh and the Sinai coast in the Gulf of Suez. The Israeli blockade had a substantial negative effect on the Egyptian economy.[116]

Participation by other states

Aid to Egypt and Syria

Two damaged armored personnel carriers. An Israeli flag is next to them.
A Russian made BMP-1 captured by Israeli forces

Starting on October 9, the Soviet Union began supplying Egypt and Syria by air and by sea. The Soviets airlifted 12,500–15,000 tons of supplies, of which 6,000 tons went to Egypt, 3750 tons went to Syria and 575 tons went to Iraq. General Shazly, the former Egyptian chief of staff, claimed that more then half of the airlifted Soviet hardware went actually to Syria. The Soviets supplied another 63,000 tons mainly to Syria by means of a sealift.[117][118] Historian Gamal Hammad asserts that 400 T-55 and T-62 tanks supplied by the sealift were directed towards replacing Syrian losses, transported from Odessa on the Black Sea to the Syrian port of Latakia, while Egypt did not receive any tanks from the Soviet supply effort, preventing Egyptian armored forces from recouping their losses.[119] However, this is disputed by military historian Zeev Schiff who states that freighters loaded with tanks and other weapons reached Egyptian, Algerian and Syrian ports throughout the war. Equipment was taken from Soviet and Warsaw Pact stores to supply the airlift.[120] Antonov An-12 and AN-22 aircraft flew over 900 missions during the airlift.[121]

Besides Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq, several other Arab states were also involved in this war, providing additional weapons and financing. Algeria sent a squadron of MiG-21s and a squadron of Su-7s to Egypt, both of which arrived at the front between October 9 and October 11. It also sent an armored brigade of nearly 200 tanks, the advance elements of which began to arrive on October 17, but it arrived at the front only on October 24, too late to participate in the fighting. Libyan forces were stationed in Egypt before the outbreak of the war. Libya provided one armored brigade and two squadrons of Mirage V fighters, of which one squadron was to be piloted by the Egyptian Air Force and the other by Libyan pilots. Morocco sent one infantry brigade to Egypt, and one tank regiment to Syria.[122][123] An infantry brigade composed of Palestinians was in Egypt before the outbreak of the war.[8][123] Saudi Arabia and Kuwait gave financial aid and sent some token forces to join in the battle.[123] Pakistan sent sixteen pilots and an ambulance unit to Egypt and another to Syria. Bangladesh sent a medical team and relief supplies.

In addition to its forces in Syria, Iraq sent a single Hawker Hunter squadron to Egypt. The squadron quickly gained a reputation amongst Egyptian field commanders for its skill in air support, particularly in anti-armor strikes.[124]

A Sudanese brigade also made a late appearance, arriving on October 28, again too late to participate in the war. Nearly all Arab reinforcements came with no logistical plan or support, expecting their hosts to supply them, and in several cases causing logistical problems. In the Syrian front, a lack of coordination between Arab forces led to several instances of friendly fire.[8][125]

After the war, during the first days of November, Algeria deposited around 200 million dollars with the Soviet Union to finance arms purchases for both Egypt and Syria.[125]

Cuba also sent approximately 1,500 troops including tank and helicopter crews who reportedly also engaged in combat operations against the IDF.[126] North Korea also sent a small reinforcement comprising 20 pilots and 19 non-combat personnel. The unit had four to six encounters with the Israelis from August through the end of the war in October.[127] Israeli military intelligence reported that Soviet piloted MiG-25 Foxbat interceptor/reconnaissance aircraft conducted flyovers over the Canal Zone.[128]

Aid to Israel

Based on intelligence estimates at the commencement of hostilities, American leaders expected the tide of the war to quickly shift in Israel's favor, and that Arab armies would be completely defeated within 72 to 96 hours.[129] Also on October 6, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger convened the National Security Council’s official crisis management group, the Washington Special Actions Group (WSAG), which debated whether the US should supply additional arms to Israel. High ranking representatives of the Defense and State Departments opposed such a supply. Kissinger was the sole dissenter who favored sending arms to Israel; he said that if the US refused aid, Israel would have little incentive to conform to US views in the postwar diplomacy. He argued the realization of US aid might cause Israel to moderate its territorial claims, but this thesis raised a protracted debate whether US aid, by making Israel stronger, was likely to make it more accommodating or more intransigent toward the Arab world.[130] By October 8 Israel was beginning to encounter military difficulties on both fronts; despite advances in the Golan, Syrian air defense systems were taking a high toll of Israeli planes, and in the Sinai, the Israeli effort to break through Egyptian lines with armor had been thwarted.[131] It became clear by October 9 that no such quick reversal would occur, and that IDF losses were unexpectedly high.[132]

On the afternoon of October 7, an alarmed Dayan told Meir that "this is the end of the third temple". He was warning of Israel's impending total defeat, but "Temple" was also the code word for nuclear weapons.[133] Dayan again raised the nuclear topic in a cabinet meeting, warning that the country was approaching a point of "last resort."[134] On 8 October, Meir authorized the assembly of thirteen 20-kiloton-of-TNT (84 TJ) tactical atomic weapons for Jericho missiles at Hirbat Zachariah, and F-4 aircraft at Tel Nof, both nuclear-capable. These were prepared for use against Syrian and Egyptian targets,[133] if needed, but the preparation was done in an easily detectable way, likely as a signal for United States surveillance.[134] Kissinger learned of the nuclear alert on the morning of October 9. That day, President Nixon ordered the commencement of Operation Nickel Grass, an American airlift to replace all of Israel's material losses.[135] Anecdotal evidence suggests that Kissinger told Sadat that the reason for the U.S. airlift was that the Israelis were close to "going nuclear."[133]

A cargo plane with its access door open, men, and a tank
An M60 delivered during Operation Nickel Grass

Israel began receiving supplies via US cargo airplanes on October 14,[136] although, some equipment had arrived before this date. According to Abraham Rabinovich, "while the American airlift of supplies did not immediately replace Israel's losses in equipment, it did allow Israel to expend what it did have more freely".[137] By the end of Nickel Grass, the United States had shipped 22,395 tons of matériel to Israel. The Israeli National Airline El Al took part in the airlift and flew in an additional 5,500 tons of materiel. Among the supplies sent to Israel were tanks and state of the art equipment, such as the AGM-65 Maverick missile and the BGM-71 TOW, weapons that had only entered production one or more years prior, as well as highly advanced electronic jamming equipment, along with US Army instructors to rapidly train IDF forces in the use of these weapons.[138][139] C-141 Starlifter and C-5 Galaxy aircraft flew 567 missions throughout the airlift.[140] In addition to the airlift, 34 F-4 Phantom fighters were supplied to Israel, taken directly from United States Air Force units.[141]

The United States also conducted its own seaborne supply operation, delivering 33,210 tons to Israel by October 30.[142]

Egyptian commanders note that on October 13 and on October 15, air defense radars had detected an aircraft at an altitude of 25,000 metres (82,000 ft) and a speed of Mach 3, making it impossible to intercept either by fighter or SAM missiles. The aircraft proceeded to cross the whole of the canal zone, the naval ports of the Red Sea (Hurghada and Safaga), flew over the airbases and air defenses in the Nile delta and finally disappeared from the radar screens over the Mediterranean Sea. The speed and altitude were those of the US SR-71 Blackbird, a long range strategic reconnaissance aircraft. According to Egyptian commanders, the intelligence provided by both reconnaissance flights helped the Israelis prepare for the Egyptian attack on October 14, and assisted it in conducting Operation Stouthearted Men.[143][144]


The Arab armies were equipped with predominantly Soviet-made weapons while Israel's armaments were mostly Western-made. The Arab armies' T-54/55s and T-62s were equipped with night vision equipment, which the Israeli tanks lacked, giving them an added advantage on the battlefield during the fighting that took place at night, while western tanks used by Israel had better armor, and/or better armament. Israeli tanks also had a distinct advantage in the “hull down” position where steeper angles of depression resulted in less exposure. The main guns of Soviet tanks depressed by 4 degrees. By contrast, the 105mm guns on Centurion and Patton tanks depressed by 10 degrees.

Type Arab armies IDF
Tanks Egypt, Syria and Iraq used T-34/85, T-54, T-55, T-62 and PT-76, as well as SU-100/152 WWII vintage self propelled guns. M50 and M51 Shermans with upgraded engines, M48A5 Patton, M60A1 Patton, Centurion and about 200 T-54/55 captured during the Six-Day War. All tanks were upgraded with the British 105 mm L7 gun, prior to the war.
APCs/IFVs BTR-40, BTR-152, BTR-50, BTR-60 APC's & BMP 1 IFV's M2/M3 Half-track, M113
Artillery M1937 Howitzer, BM-21, D-30 (2A18) Howitzer, M1954 field gun M109 self-propelled howitzer, M107 Self-Propelled Gun, M110 self-propelled howitzer, M50 self-propelled howitzer and Makmat 160 mm self-propelled mortar, Obusier de 155 mm Modèle 50, Soltam M-68 and 130 mm towed field gun M1954 (M-46)
Aircraft MiG-21, MiG-19, MiG-17, Su-7B, Tu-16, Il-28, Il-18, Il-14, An-12, Aero L-29 A-4 Skyhawk, F-4 Phantom II, Dassault Mirage III, Dassault Super Mystère, IAI Nesher
Helicopters Mi-6, Mi-8 Super Frelon, CH-53, AB-205
AAW SA-6 Gainful, SA-3 Goa, SA-2 Guideline, ZSU-23-4, Strela 2 MIM-23 Hawk, MIM-72/M48 Chaparral, Bofors 40 mm
Infantry weapons Port Said submachinegun, AK-47, RPK, RPD, DShK HMG, AT-3 Sagger, RPG-7 and B-11 recoilless rifle Uzi, FN FAL, AK-47, FN MAG, M2 Browning, Nord SS.11, LAW and TOW
Sea to Sea Missiles P-15 Termit Gabriel missile
Air-to-Air Missiles Vympel K-13 Shafrir 2, AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-7 Sparrow, AGM-45 Shrike anti radiation missile

The cease-fire and immediate aftermath

Egypt's trapped Third Army

When the cease fire came into effect, Israel had lost territory on the east side of the Suez Canal to Egypt –     , but gained territory west of the canal and in the Golan Heights –     .

The United Nations Security Council passed (14–0) Resolution 338 calling for a cease-fire, largely negotiated between the U.S. and Soviet Union, on October 22. It called upon "all parties to the present fighting" to "terminate all military activity immediately." The cease-fire was to come into effect 12 hours later at 6:52 p.m. Israeli time.[145] Because this timing was after dark, it was impossible for satellite surveillance to determine where the front lines were when the fighting was supposed to stop.[146] Also prior to the ceasefire coming into force, U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had told Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, "You won't get violent protests from Washington if something happens during the night, while I'm flying. Nothing can happen in Washington until noon tomorrow."[147]

When the time for the cease-fire arrived, Sharon's division had failed in repeated attempts along established lines to capture Ismailia and cut off the Second Army's supply lines, but Israeli forces were just a few hundred meters short of their southern goal—the last road linking Cairo and Suez.[148] Adan's drive south had left Israeli and Egyptian units scattered throughout the battlefield, with no clear lines between them. As Egyptian and Israeli units tried to regroup, regular firefights broke out. During the night, nine Israeli tanks had been destroyed in various locations.[149] It is unclear which side fired first,[150] but Israeli field commanders, frustrated because they had been unable to seize the northern Cairo-Suez road, used the skirmishes as an excuse to resume the drive south. When Sadat protested Israeli truce violations, Israel said that Egyptian troops had fired first. William B. Quandt notes, “It did not now matter which side was technically responsible for firing the first shot after the cease-fire was to have gone into effect. What was clear was that Israeli forces were advancing beyond the October 22 cease-fire lines.”[151]

Adan decided to continue his attack on the October 23.[152][153] David Elazar requested permission to resume the offensive, and Moshe Dayan approved. Israeli troops finished the drive south, captured the road, and trapped the Egyptian Third Army east of the Suez Canal.[154] The Israelis transported enormous amounts of equipment across the canal, which was also in violation of the ceasefire.[150] Israeli armor and paratroopers also entered Suez in an attempt to capture the town, but they were ambushed by Egyptian soldiers and hastily raised local militia forces. They were surrounded, but towards night the Israeli paratroopers managed to escape the town, albeit at high losses for no tactical gain (see Battle of Suez).[153][155]

 A soldier with an Uzi next to a road sign reading "ISMAILIA 36"
An Israeli soldier on the road to Ismailia

The next morning, October 23, a flurry of diplomatic activity occurred. Soviet reconnaissance flights had confirmed that Israeli forces were moving south, and the Soviets accused the Israelis of treachery. In a phone call with Golda Meir, Henry Kissinger asked, "How can anyone ever know where a line is or was in the desert?" Meir responded, "They'll know, all right." Kissinger found out about the trapped Egyptian army shortly thereafter.[156]

Kissinger considered that the situation presented the United States with a tremendous opportunity and that Egypt was dependent on the United States to prevent Israel from destroying its trapped army. The position could be parlayed later into allowing the United States to mediate the dispute, and push Egypt out of Soviet influence.

As a result, the United States exerted tremendous pressure on the Israelis to refrain from attacking the trapped army, even threatening to support a UN resolution to force the Israelis to pull back to their October 22 positions if they did not allow non-military supplies to reach the army. In a phone call with Israeli ambassador Simcha Dinitz, Kissinger told the ambassador that the destruction of the Egyptian Third Army "is an option that does not exist."[157]

Despite being surrounded however, the Third Army managed to maintain its combat integrity east of the canal and keep up its defensive positions, to the surprise of many.[148] According to Trevor N. Dupuy, the Israelis, Russians and Americans overestimated the vulnerability of the Third army at the time. It was not on the verge of collapse, and he writes that a renewed Israeli offensive would probably overcome it, but this was "not at all certain".[158] Dupuy's assessment however was challenged by Patrick Seale who notes that the Third Army was “on the brink of collapse.”[159] Seale’s position finds support from P.R. Kumaraswamy who stated that, “but for intense American pressure, Israel would have annihilated the stranded and encircled Egyptian Third Army.”[160] Shazly himself described the Third Army’s plight as “desperate” and classified its encirclement as a “catastrophe that was too big to hide.”[161] He further notes that, “the fate of the Egyptian Third Army was in the hands of Israel. Once the Third Army was encircled by Israeli troops every bit of bread to be sent to our men was paid for by meeting Israeli demands.”[162]

Nuclear alert

In the meantime, Kissinger conducted a series of exchanges with the Egyptians, Israelis and the Soviets. On October 24 Sadat publicly appealed for American and Soviet contingents to oversee the cease-fire; it was quickly rejected in a White House statement. Kissinger also met with Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin to discuss convening a peace conference with Geneva as the venue. Later in the evening (9:35pm) of October 24–25, Brezhnev sent Nixon a "very urgent" letter. In that letter, Brezhnev began by noting that Israel was continuing to violate the cease-fire and it posed a challenge to both the US and USSR. He stressed the need to "implement" the cease-fire resolution and "invited" the US to join the Soviets "to compel observance of the cease-fire without delay" He then threatened "I will say it straight that if you find it impossible to act jointly with us in this matter, we should be faced with the necessity urgently to consider taking appropriate steps unilaterally. We cannot allow arbitrariness on the part of Israel."[163][164] In short, the Soviets were threatening to intervene in the war on Egypt's side if they could not work together to enforce the cease-fire.

Kissinger immediately passed the message to Haig, who met with Nixon for 20 minutes around 10:30 pm, and reportedly empowered Kissinger to take any necessary action.[163] Kissinger immediately called a meeting of senior officials, including Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, CIA Director William Colby, and White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig. The Watergate scandal had reached its apex, and Nixon was so agitated and discomposed that they decided to handle the matter without him:

When Kissinger asked Haig whether [Nixon] should be wakened, the White House chief of staff replied firmly 'No.' Haig clearly shared Kissinger's feelings that Nixon was in no shape to make weighty decisions.[165]

The meeting produced a conciliatory response, which was sent (in Nixon's name) to Brezhnev. At the same time, it was decided to increase the Defense Condition (DEFCON) from four to three. Lastly, they approved a message to Sadat (again, in Nixon's name) asking him to drop his request for Soviet assistance, and threatening that if the Soviets were to intervene, so would the United States.[165]

The Soviets placed seven airborne divisions on alert and an airlift was marshaled to transport them to the Middle East. An airborne command post was set up in the southern Soviet Union, and several air force units were also alerted. "Reports also indicated that at least one of the divisions and a squadron of transport planes had been moved from the Soviet Union to an airbase in Yugoslavia".[166] The Soviets also deployed seven amphibious warfare craft with some 40,000 naval infantry in the Mediterranean.

The Soviets quickly detected the increased American defense condition, and were astonished and bewildered at the response. "Who could have imagined the Americans would be so easily frightened," said Nikolai Podgorny. "It is not reasonable to become engaged in a war with the United States because of Egypt and Syria," said Premier Alexei Kosygin, while KGB chief Yuri Andropov added that "We shall not unleash the Third World War."[167] In the end, the Soviets reconciled themselves to an Arab defeat. The letter from the American cabinet arrived during the meeting. Brezhnev decided that the Americans were too nervous, and that the best course of action would be to wait to reply.[168] The next morning, the Egyptians agreed to the American suggestion, and dropped their request for assistance from the Soviets, bringing the crisis to an end.

Northern front de-escalation

On October 23, a large air battle took place near Damascus during which the IAF shot down 10 Syrian aircraft. The Syrians claimed a similar toll against Israel.[169] The Syrians had been preparing for a massive counter-attack, scheduled for October 23. In addition to Syria's five divisions, Iraq had supplied two, and there were smaller complements of troops from other Arab countries, including Jordan. The Soviets had replaced most of the losses Syria's tank forces had suffered during the first weeks of the war.

However, the day before the offensive was to begin, the United Nations imposed its cease-fire (following the acquiescence of both Israel and Egypt). Abraham Rabinovich states "The acceptance by Egypt of the cease-fire on Monday [October 22] created a major dilemma for Assad. The cease-fire did not bind him, but its implications could not be ignored. Some on the Syrian General Staff favored going ahead with the attack, arguing that if it did so Egypt would feel obliged to continue fighting as well... Others, however, argued that continuation of the war would legitimize Israel's efforts to destroy the Egyptian Third Army. In that case, Egypt would not come to Syria's assistance when Israel turned its full might northward, destroying Syria's infrastructure and perhaps attacking Damascus"[170]

Ultimately, Assad decided to call off the offensive, and on October 23, Syria announced it had accepted the cease-fire, and the Iraqi government ordered its forces home.

Post-cease-fire negotiations

UN Emergency Forces at Kilometer 101

On October 24, the UNSC passed Resolution 339, serving as a renewed call for all parties to adhere to the cease fire terms established in Resolution 338. Most heavy fighting on the Egyptian front ended by October 26, but several airstrikes took place against Third Army from October 25 to 28.[171][172] The cease-fire did not end the sporadic clashes along the cease-fire lines, nor did it dissipate military tensions.

With continuing Israeli advances, Kissinger threatened to support a UN withdrawal resolution, but before Israel could respond, Egyptian national security advisor Hafez Ismail sent Kissinger a stunning message—Egypt was willing to enter into direct talks with the Israelis, provided that the Israelis agree to allow non-military supplies to reach their army and agree to a complete cease-fire.

About noon on October 25, Kissinger appeared before the press at the State Department. He described the various stages of the crisis and the evolution of US policy. He reviewed the first two weeks of the crisis and the nuclear alert, reiterated opposition to US and Soviet troops in the area and more strongly opposed unilateral Soviet moves. He then reviewed the prospects for a peace agreement, which he termed “quite promising”, and had conciliatory words for Israel, Egypt and even the USSR. Kissinger concluded his remarks by spelling out the principles of a new US policy toward the Arab-Israeli conflict saying;[173]

Our position is that... the conditions that produced this war were clearly intolerable to the Arab nations and that in the process of negotiations it will be necessary to make substantial concessions. The problem will be to relate the Arab concern for the sovereignty over the territories to the Israeli concern for secure boundaries. We believe that the process of negotiations between the parties is an essential component of this.

Quandt considers, “It was a brilliant performance, one of his most impressive.” One hour later the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 340. This time the cease-fire held, and the fourth Arab-Israeli war was over.

Disengagement talks took place on October 28, at "Kilometer 101" between Israeli Major General Aharon Yariv and Egyptian Major General Abdel Ghani el-Gamasy. Ultimately, Kissinger brought the proposal to Sadat, who agreed almost without debate. United Nations checkpoints were brought in to replace Israeli checkpoints, nonmilitary supplies were allowed to pass, and prisoners-of-war were to be exchanged. A summit conference in Geneva followed, and ultimately, an armistice agreement was worked out. On January 18, Israel signed a pullback agreement to the east side of the canal, and the last of their troops withdrew from the west side of the canal on March 5, 1974.[174] Between the UN ceasefire and the armstice agreement in January, a minor war of attrition took place against Israeli forces west of the canal, during which 187 Israeli soldiers were killed, 41 tanks were destroyed, and 11 planes were downed;[175][176]

On the Syrian front, shuttle diplomacy by Henry Kissinger eventually produced a disengagement agreement on May 31, 1974, based on exchange of prisoners-of-war, Israeli withdrawal to the Purple Line and the establishment of a UN buffer zone. Israel accused Syria of torturing its prisoners of war, claiming a violation of the Geneva conventions.[177] The agreement ended the skirmishes and exchanges of artillery fire that had occurred frequently along the Israeli-Syrian cease-fire line. The UN Disengagement and Observer Force (UNDOF) was established as a peacekeeping force in the Golan.

Long-term effects of the war

The peace discussion at the end of the war was the first time that Arab and Israeli officials met for direct public discussions since the aftermath of the 1948 war.

The war is described as a military stalemate and an Egyptian strategic and political victory by Major Steven J. Piccirilli, USMC,[152] but as an Israeli victory by Major Richard Owen, USMC (Marine Corps Command and Staff College).[178] On a tactical level, its end saw Israel with territorial gains in the Golan Heights and the encirclement of the Egyptian third army. Some believe the cease fire prevented Israel from landing its harshest blow, as Piccirilli's report asserts:

They were now in position to threaten the rear administrative and supply areas of the entire Egyptian Army. Largely due to the efforts of the Soviet Union, which was fearful of the possibility of a serious Egyptian defeat, the U.N. Security Council imposed a cease-fire effective 22 October.
—Major Steven J. Piccirilli, USMC The 1973 Arab-Israeli War[152]

The report also argues that the Arab side succeeded in surprising Israeli and worldwide intelligence agencies both strategically and tactically:

From a purely military point of view, the first and most important Arab success was the strategic and tactical surprise achieved. While this was aided to no small degree by mistakes made by Israeli Intelligence and the political and military leadership in Israel, the bulk of the credit must go to the highly sophisticated deception plan mounted by the Egyptians. They succeeded in convincing the Israeli Command that the intensive military activity to the west of the Canal during the summer and autumn of 1973 was nothing more than a series of training operations and maneuvers. This deception must be marked as one of the outstanding plans of deception mounted in the course of military history. The plan was successful not only as far as Israeli intelligence was concerned, but also with world-wide intelligence agencies.
—Major Steven J. Piccirilli, USMC The 1973 Arab-Israeli War[152]

For the Arab states (and Egypt in particular), the psychological trauma of their defeat in the Six-Day War had been healed. In many ways, it allowed them to negotiate with the Israelis as equals. However, given that the war had started about as well as the Arab leaders could have wanted, at the end they had made only limited territorial gains in the Sinai front, while Israel gained more territory on the Golan Heights than it held before the war; also given the fact that Israel managed to gain a foothold on African soil west of the canal, the war helped convince many in the Arab World that Israel could not be defeated militarily, thereby strengthening peace movements. The war effectively ended the old Arab ambition of destroying Israel by force.[179]

The war had a stunning effect on the population in Israel. Following their victory in the Six-Day War, the Israeli military had become complacent. The shock and sudden defeats that occurred at the beginning of the war sent a terrible psychological blow to the Israelis, who had thought they had military supremacy in the region.[180] However, in time, they began to realize what an astounding, almost unprecedented, turnaround they had achieved:

Reeling from a surprise attack on two fronts with the bulk of its army still unmobilized, and confronted by staggering new battlefield realities, Israel's situation was one that could readily bring strong nations to their knees. Yet, within days, it had regained its footing and in less than two weeks it was threatening both enemy capitals, an achievement having few historical parallels.
—Abraham Rabinovich, The Yom Kippur War: The Epic Encounter That Transformed the Middle East.[180]


Israel suffered between 2,521[11] and 2,656 killed in action[12] with an additional 7,250–9,000 soldiers wounded. Some 231 Israelis were captured by Egypt, 62 by Syria, and 2 by Lebanon.[181] Approximately 400 Israeli tanks were destroyed. Another 600 were disabled but returned to battle after repairs.[13] A major Israeli advantage, noted by many observers, was their ability to quickly return damaged tanks to combat.[76][182] The Israeli Air Force lost 102 aircraft consisting of 32 F-4s, 53 A-4s, 11 Mirages and 6 Super Mysteres. Two Helicopters, including a Bell 205 and a CH-53 were also shot down.[183] According to Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, nearly half of these were shot down during the first three days of the war.[184]

An aircraft with earth colored camouflage and Israel's roundel (blue Star of David on a white background).
Israeli F-4 Phantom. Flag markings on nose credit the plane with 3 combat kills

Arab casualties were known to be much higher. Israel estimated 15,000 Egyptian and 3,500 Syrian dead during the war and 35,000 Arab wounded. One Western analyst placed the Arab casualty toll at 8,528 dead and 19,540 wounded,[185] though the Insight Team of London Sunday Times places the Arab death toll at 16,000 with Egypt and Syria each losing 8,000 men.[186] Some 8,372 Egyptians and 392 Syrians, 13 Iraqis, and 6 Moroccans were captured.[181][187] Arab tank losses amounted to 2,250.[185][188] Four-hundred of these fell into Israeli hands in good working order and were incorporated into Israeli service.[185] Between 450[189] and 514[184] Arab aircraft were shot down. According to Herzog, 334 of these aircraft were shot down by the Israeli Air Force in air-to-air combat for the loss of only five Israeli planes.[184]

Oil Embargo

In response to U.S. support of Israel, the Arab members of OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, decided to reduce oil production by 5% per month on October 17. On October 19, President Nixon authorized a major allocation of arms supplies and $2.2 billion in appropriations for Israel. In response, Saudi Arabia declared an embargo against the United States, later joined by other oil exporters and extended against the Netherlands and other states, causing the 1973 energy crisis.[190]

Sadat's new public image

The initial success greatly increased Sadat's popularity, giving him much firmer control of the Egyptian state and the opportunity to initiate many of the reforms he felt were necessary.

Fallout in Israel

A protest against the Israeli government started four months after the war ended. It was led by Motti Ashkenazi, commander of Budapest, the northernmost of the Bar-Lev forts and the only one during the war not to be captured by the Egyptians.[191] Anger against the Israeli government (and Dayan in particular) was high. Shimon Agranat, President of the Israeli Supreme Court, was asked to lead an inquiry, the Agranat Commission, into the events leading up to the war and the setbacks of the first few days.[192]

The Agranat Commission published its preliminary findings on April 2, 1974. Six people were held particularly responsible for Israel's failings:

  • Though his performance and conduct during the war was lauded,[193] IDF Chief of Staff David Elazar was recommended for dismissal after the Commission found he bore "personal responsibility for the assessment of the situation and the preparedness of the IDF."
  • Intelligence Chief, Aluf Eli Zeira, and his deputy, head of Research, Brigadier-General Aryeh Shalev, were recommended for dismissal.
  • Lt. Colonel Bandman, head of the Aman desk for Egypt, and Lt. Colonel Gedelia, chief of intelligence for the Southern Command, were recommended for transfer away from intelligence duties.
  • Shmuel Gonen, commander of the Southern front, was recommended by the initial report to be relieved of active duty.[194] He was forced to leave the army after the publication of the Commission's final report, on January 30, 1975, which found that "he failed to fulfill his duties adequately, and bears much of the responsibility for the dangerous situation in which our troops were caught."[195]

Rather than quieting public discontent, the report—which "had stressed that it was judging the ministers' responsibility for security failings, not their parliamentary responsibility, which fell outside its mandate"—inflamed it. Although it had cleared Meir and Dayan of all responsibility, public calls for their resignation (especially Dayan's) became more vociferous.[194]

Finally, on April 11, 1974, Golda Meir resigned. Her cabinet followed suit, including Dayan, who had previously offered to resign twice and was turned down both times by Meir. Yitzhak Rabin, who had spent most of the war as an advisor to Elazar in an unofficial capacity,[196] became head of the new Government, which was seated in June.

In 1999, the issue was revisited by the Israeli political leadership to prevent similar shortcomings from being repeated. The Israeli National Security Council was created to improve coordination between the different security and intelligence bodies, and the political branch of government.

Fallout in Egypt and Syria

  • General Shazli had angered Sadat for advocating the withdrawal of Egyptian forces from Sinai to meet the Israeli incursion on the West Bank of the Canal. Six weeks after the war, he was relieved of command and forced out of the army. Ultimately, he went into political exile for years. Upon his return to Egypt, he was placed under house arrest.[197] Following his release from confinement, he advocated the formation of a "Supreme High Committee," modeled after Israel’s Agranat Commission, to “probe, examine and analyze” the performance of Egyptian forces and command decisions during the war. His requests were ignored.[198] His book, which candidly described Egyptian military failings and sharp disagreements he had with Ismail, Sadat and others in connection with the prosecution of the war, was banned in Egypt.[199]
  • The commanders of the Second and Third Armies, Generals Khalil and Wasel were likewise dismissed from the army.[200]
  • The commander of the Egyptian Second Army at the start of the war, General Mamoun, suffered a heart attack[76] or alternatively, a breakdown[201][202] after the October 13/14 Sinai tank battle and was replaced by General Khalil.
  • In Syria, the Druze commander of an infantry brigade that had collapsed during the Israeli breakthrough – Colonel Rafik Halawi – was executed even before the war ended.[200]
  • The Seventh Division commander, Gen. Omar Abash, who failed to break through Col. Avigdor Ben-Gal’s brigade, was alternatively reported to have been killed in the fighting or to have died of a heart attack.[200]

Camp David Accords

Rabin's government was hamstrung by a pair of scandals, and he was forced to step down in 1977. The right-wing Likud party, under the prime ministership of Menachem Begin, won the elections that followed. This marked a historic change in the Israeli political landscape: for the first time since Israel's founding, a coalition not led by the Labor Party was in control of the government.

Sadat, who had entered the war in order to recover the Sinai from Israel, grew frustrated at the slow pace of the peace process. In a 1977 interview with CBS News' Walter Cronkite, Sadat admitted under pointed questioning that he was open to a more constructive dialog for peace, including a state visit. This seemed to open the floodgates, as in a later interview with the same reporter, the normally hard-line Begin – perhaps not wishing to be compared unfavorably to Sadat – said he too would be amenable to better relations and offered his invitation for such a visit. Thus in November of that year, Sadat took the unprecedented step of visiting Israel, becoming the first Arab leader to do so, and so implicitly recognized Israel.

The act jump-started the peace process. United States President Jimmy Carter invited both Sadat and Begin to a summit at Camp David to negotiate a final peace. The talks took place from September 5–17, 1978. Ultimately, the talks succeeded, and Israel and Egypt signed the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty in 1979. Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from the Sinai, in exchange for normal relations with Egypt and a lasting peace.

Many in the Arab community were outraged at Egypt's peace with Israel. Egypt was expelled from the Arab League. Until then, Egypt had been "at the helm of the Arab world."[203] Egypt's tensions with its Arab neighbors culminated in 1977 in the short-lived Libyan–Egyptian War.

Anwar Sadat was assassinated two years later, on October 6, 1981, while attending a parade marking the eighth anniversary of the start of the war, by Islamist army members who were outraged at his negotiations with Israel.


October 6 is a national holiday in Egypt called Armed Forces Day. It is a national holiday in Syria as well.[204]

In Egypt, many places were named after the October 6 date and Ramadan 10, its equivalent in the Islamic calendar. Examples of these commemorations are the 6th October Bridge in Cairo and the cities 6th of October City and 10th of Ramadan City.

Museum of 6 October War has been built in 1989 in Cairo district of Heliopolis. Central place of the Museum is occupied by a rotunda housing the Panoramic painting of the struggle between Egyptian and Israeli armed forces. The panorama, creation of which had been outsourced to a group of North Korean artists and architects, is equipped with engines rotating it full 360° during a 30-minutes long spectacle accompanied by commentary in various languages.[205] A similar museum, which was also built with North Korean assistance—the October War Panorama—operates in Damascus.[206]



  1. ^ References:
    • Herzog, The War of Atonement, Little, Brown and Company, 1975. Forward
    • Insight Team of the London Sunday Times, Yom Kippur War, Double Day and Company, Inc, 1974, page 450
    • Luttwak and Horowitz, The Israeli Army. Cambridge, MA, Abt Books, 1983
    • Rabinovich, The Yom Kippur War, Schocken Books, 2004. Page 498
    • Revisiting The Yom Kippur War, P.R. Kumaraswamy, pages 1-2
    • Johnson and Tierney, Failing To Win, Perception of Victory and Defeat in International Politics. Page 177
    • Charles Liebman, The Myth of Defeat: The Memory of the Yom Kippur war in Israeli Society Middle Eastern Studies, Vol 29, No. 3, July 1993. Published by Frank Cass, London. Page 411.
  2. ^ a b c d The number reflects artillery units of caliber 100 mm and up
  3. ^ a b (Russian) Yom Kippur War at sem40.ru
  4. ^ a b Shazly p.244
  5. ^ Shazly p.272
  6. ^ a b USMC Major Michael C. Jordan (1997). "The 1973 Arab-Israeli War: Arab Policies, Strategies, and Campaigns". GlobalSecurity.org. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/1997/Jordan.htm. Retrieved 2009-04-20. 
  7. ^ a b Major George E. Knapp (1992). "Combined Arms in battle since 1939: Antiarmor Operations on the Golan Heights". U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. http://www-cgsc.army.mil/carl/resources/csi/spiller/spiller.asp#4AO. Retrieved 2009-06-01. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Hussain, Hamid (November 2002), "Opinion: The Fourth Round — A Critical Review of 1973 Arab-Israeli War A Critical Review of 1973 Arab-Israeli War", defencejournal.com, http://www.defencejournal.com/2002/nov/4th-round.htm 
  9. ^ a b Rabinovich, 314
  10. ^ Shazly p.277
  11. ^ a b Schiff, A History of the Israeli Army, page 328
  12. ^ a b Rabinovich, 497
  13. ^ a b c Rabinovich, 496
  14. ^ William B.Quandt, Peace Process: American diplomacy and the Arab-Israeli conflict since 1967, p. 104
  15. ^ Herzog, Chaim (1989) Heroes of Israel. Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-35901-7 p.253
  16. ^ Shlaim, Avi (2001). The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 0-393-32112-6, p.254.
  17. ^ "The Jarring initiative and the response," Israel's Foreign Relations, Selected Documents, vols. 1–2, 1947–1974 . Retrieved June 9, 2005.
  18. ^ Rabinovich, 13.
  19. ^ Heikal, 22
  20. ^ Rabinovich, 39.
  21. ^ Rabinovich, 25.
  22. ^ Shazly p.207
  23. ^ Gawrych, 24
  24. ^ Rabinovich, 51.
  25. ^ Rabinovich, 50.
  26. ^ a b Rabinovich, 57.
  27. ^ Doron Geller, "Israeli Intelligence and the Yom Kippur War of 1973," "JUICE", The Department for Jewish Zionist Education, The Jewish Agency for Israel . Retrieved November 27, 2005.
  28. ^ Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The World Was Going Our Way. The KGB and the Battle for the Third World, Basic Books, 2006.
  29. ^ Rabinovich, 89.
  30. ^ William B. Quandt, Peace Process, p105
  31. ^ Sachar, Howard M. A History of Israel from the Rise of Zionism to Our Time. Alfred A. Knopf, 2007, p. 755.
  32. ^ William B. Quandt, Peace Process, p105]
  33. ^ Rabinovich, 454
  34. ^ Gawrych, 27
  35. ^ Shazly p.224–225
  36. ^ Shazly p.225–226
  37. ^ Shazly p.189
  38. ^ Shazly p.55–56
  39. ^ a b Israel Air Force
  40. ^ a b c Pollack, Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness 1948-1991, University of Nebraska Press @ page 108
  41. ^ a b The Crossing of the Suez Canal, October 6, 1973 (The Ramadan War), page 9
  42. ^ Shazly p.228
  43. ^ Shazly p.229
  44. ^ Into the breach, dear friends, paragraph 10
  45. ^ Cohen, Israel's Best Defense, p.354
  46. ^ Pollack pg 11
  47. ^ Shazly p. 233
  48. ^ Schiff, page 294
  49. ^ Herzog, The War of Atonement, Little, Brown and Company, 1975, page 156
  50. ^ Insight Team of the London Sunday Times, Yom Kippur War, Double Day and Company, Inc, 1974, pages 169 and 170
  51. ^ Nicolle, David; Cooper, Tom (2004-05-25). Arab MiG-19 and MiG-21 units in combat. Osprey Publishing. p. 40. ISBN 1841766550. 
  52. ^ Pollack @ page 112
  53. ^ Hammad, pp.712-714
  54. ^ Hammad, pp.717-722
  55. ^ Gawrych, p.38. In his memoirs Adan, commenting on one of the commando operations in the north, noted that "Natke's experience fighting the stubborn Egyptian commandos who tried to cut off the road around Romani showed again that this was not the Egyptian Army we had crushed in four days in 1967. We were now dealing with a well-trained enemy, fighting with skill and dedication."
  56. ^ Insight Team of the London Sunday Times, Yom Kippur War, Double Day and Company, Inc, 1974, pp.169-170
  57. ^ Rabinovich, 354
  58. ^ Gawrych, 41–42
  59. ^ Gawrych, 43–44
  60. ^ Rabinovich, 234
  61. ^ Gawrych, 44–52
  62. ^ Gawrych, George (2000). The Albatross of Decisive Victory: War and Policy Between Egypt and Israel in the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli Wars. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 192, 208. ISBN 0313313024. 
  63. ^ Herzog, the Arab-Israeli Wars, Random House, 1982 @ pages 255-256
  64. ^ Herzog, the Arab-Israeli Wars, Random House, 1982 @ page 256
  65. ^ Id @ 256
  66. ^ a b c Arab-Israeli Wars: 60 Years of Conflict
  67. ^ Herzog, the Arab-Israeli Wars, Random House, 1982 @ page 257-8
  68. ^ Herzog, the Arab-Israeli Wars, Random House, 1982 @ page 258
  69. ^ a b Schiff, A History of the Israeli Army, p.310
  70. ^ Rabinovich, 353
  71. ^ Rabinovich, 355.
  72. ^ Pollack, Kenneth, Arabs at War: Military Effectiveness 1948-91, University of Nebraska Press, @ pages 116, 126 & 129.
  73. ^ a b c Pollack @ page 117
  74. ^ Military Lessons of the Yom Kippur War: Historical Perspectives @ page 17
  75. ^ a b Herzog, The Arab-Israeli Wars, Random House, @ page 260
  76. ^ a b c Operation Valiant: Turning the Tide in the Sinai 1973 Arab-Israeli War CSC 1984
  77. ^ Pollack, pg. 118
  78. ^ Rabinovich, Pg. 374-375
  79. ^ Rabinovich, pgs. 389-391
  80. ^ Pollack, pg. 511
  81. ^ Pollack, pg. 124-125
  82. ^ Rabinovich, pgs. 393-393
  83. ^ Rabinovich, pg 427
  84. ^ Pollack, pgs. 118-119
  85. ^ Pollack, pg. 129
  86. ^ Pollack, Pg 119
  87. ^ Pollack, pgs. 119-120
  88. ^ Pollack pg. 120
  89. ^ Rabinovich, pg. 401
  90. ^ Pollack pg 120
  91. ^ Pollack pg. 122
  92. ^ Rabinovich, 477
  93. ^ Rabinovich, Id
  94. ^ Donald Neff. 'Warrior Against Israel: How Israel won the battle to become America's ally 1973'. Amana Books, Vermont. 1988. DS128.12.N44. page 306. plus 994 artillery pieces
  95. ^ Peter Caddick-Adams "Golan Heights, battles of" The Oxford Companion to Military History. Ed. Richard Holmes. Oxford University Press, 2001.
  96. ^ a b "Shattered Heights: Part 1," Jerusalem Post, September 25, 1998 . Retrieved June 9, 2005.
  97. ^ Rabinovich, 302
  98. ^ Rabinovich, 304
  99. ^ Rabinovich, 433
  100. ^ Pollack, Arabs at War, 2002, p.167 gives total numbers for the Iraqi force by the end of the conflict as 60,000 men, over 700 T-55 tanks, 500 APCs, over 200 artillery pieces, two armoured divisions, two infantry brigades, twelve artillery battalions, and a special forces brigade.
  101. ^ Rabinovich, 450
  102. ^ a b Simon Dunstan, The Yom Kippur War, p. 114
  103. ^ a b Robert Bolia, Overreliance on Technology: Yom Kippur Case Study
  104. ^ Abraham Rabonovich, The Boats of Cherbourg, pp. 256–262
  105. ^ Trevor N. Dupuy, Elusive Victory, pp. 562–563
  106. ^ Chaim Herzogm The Arab-Israeli Wars, p. 312
  107. ^ Milan N. Vego‏, Naval Strategy and Operations in Narrow Seas (Routledge: 1999), at p.151
  108. ^ a b Benny Morris, Righteous Victims, p. 432
  109. ^ Chaim Herzogm The Arab-Israeli Wars, p. 314
  110. ^ Massimo Annati, Anti-ship missiles and countermeasures--part I (ASM), Naval Forces (2001), Vol. 22, Iss. 1; pg. 20.
  111. ^ Ze'ev Almog, Israel's Navy beat the odds, United States Naval Institute — Proceedings (Mar 1997), Vol. 123, Iss. 3; pg. 106.
  112. ^ Hassan El-Badri The Ramadan War, 1973 p.164–165
  113. ^ In fact, the Journal of Military History (formerly Military Affairs) criticized Badri's book, in which his accounts are brought, as being "totally biased in its approach, and should be avoided by anyone seeking a general history of the war." (Review: The Arab-Israeli War of Words: Recent Books Reviewed, Military Affairs, Vol. 45, No. 4 (Dec., 1981), pp. 200–202, at p.201). Another military historian called Badri's book a "mere rhetoric". (Simon Dunstan, The Yom Kippur War: The Arab-Israeli War of 1973 (Osprey Publishing, 2007) at p.219).
  114. ^ El Gammasy, The October War, 1973 p.215–216
  115. ^ Shazly, p.287
  116. ^ Herzog, 268
  117. ^ Shazly p.274–275 Shazly states that "...the Soviet Union mounted a sea-borne resupply operation: no less than 63,000 tons, mainly to Syria, by October 30"
  118. ^ Quandt, 25-26 (pdf pages 37-38) gives the airlift total as approximately 12,500 tons; Quandt 23 (pdf page 35) gives the sealift total as approximately 63,000 tons.
  119. ^ Hammad, p.382
  120. ^ Schiff, 303
  121. ^ Shazly, p.275
  122. ^ Shazly p.277–278
  123. ^ a b c Rabinovich, 464
  124. ^ Shazly p.277-278
  125. ^ a b Shazly p.278
  126. ^ Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution, Louis Perez, pg 377–379
  127. ^ Shazly, pp.83-84
  128. ^ White House Military Briefing, Oct 22
  129. ^ October 6 conversation between Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft and Chinese Ambassador to the United States Huan Chen. Transcript. George Washington University National Security Archive.
  130. ^ George Lenczowski, American Presidents and the Middle East (1990), p.129
  131. ^ William B. Quandt, Peace Process, p.109
  132. ^ October 9, 1973 conversation (8:20–8:40 AM) between Israeli Ambassador to the United States Simcha Dinitz, military attaché General Mordechai Gur, Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft, and Peter Rodman. Transcript George Washington University National Security Archive
  133. ^ a b c Farr, Warner D. "The Third Temple's Holy of Holies: Israel's Nuclear Weapons." Counterproliferation Paper No. 2, USAF Counterproliferation Center, Air War College, September 1999.
  134. ^ a b Cohen, Avner. "The Last Nuclear Moment" The New York Times, 6 October 2003.
  135. ^ October 9, 1973 conversation (6:10–6:35 PM) between Israeli Ambassador to the United States Simcha Dinitz, Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft, and Peter Rodman. Transcript George Washington University National Security Archive
  136. ^ Krisinger, Chris J. Operation Nickel Grass - Airlift in Support of National Policy, Aerospace Power Journal, Spring 1989.
  137. ^ Rabinovich, 491.
  138. ^ Shazli p.275–276
  139. ^ Gawrych, 56
  140. ^ Remember When... Operation Nickel Grass
  141. ^ McDonnell F-4 Phantom: Essential Aircraft in the Air Warfare in the Middle East
  142. ^ Shazly p.276. Shazly states: "...the USA mounted a seaborne resupply operation of 33,210 tons by October 30."
  143. ^ El Gamasy The October War, 1973 p.276
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  160. ^ P.R. Kumaraswamy, Revisiting the Yom Kippur War, p. 1
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External links

Simple English

The Yom Kippur War (also known as the Ramadan War and the October War) was a war between Israel and a group of Arab countries led by Egypt and Syria. The war took place from October 6, 1973 until October 24, 1973. The war began on the Jewish festival of Yom Kippur in 1973, and it happened during the Muslim month of Ramadan. The attack by Egypt and Syria was a suprise to Israel. Egypt's army entered the Sinai Peninsula, and Syria's army entered the Golan Heights.

The Sinai and the Golan Heights belonged to Egypt and Syria, but they were occupied by Israel since 1967. Syria wanted to liberate all of the Golan, and Egypt wanted to liberate part of the Sinai, then take back the rest by a peace treaty with Israel.

At first the attack went well for the Arab armies. However Israel soon began pushing back Syria from the Golan, and two weeks after the start of the war the Israelis began advancing into Syria. They came 40 kilometers from Damascus, the capital of Syria. The Iraqi army joined the war with Syria and the Israeli army stopped advancing.

The Western world expected Israel to win quickly against Egypt because of its better military. The Egyptian army crossed the Suez Canal on October 6 and destroyed the Israeli defenses and forts on the other side. Israel tried for the next few days to defeat the Egyptians and push them back behind the canal. However the Israelis could not push them back. The United States of America started sending ammunition and weapons to Israel using airplanes to help the Israeli army win the war. On October 14, Egypt attacked again, trying to advance even more into the Sinai. Israel defeated the attack, and the Egyptians lost many tanks. After this, the Israelis attacked again. After heavy fighting, they crossed the canal at its center, between two Egyptian armies. They advanced north and south. They kept moving south until the reached the city of Suez, and they trapped a large Egyptian force on the eastern side of the canal, in the Sinai. The Israelis tried to capture Suez, but they were defeated. They also failed advance north. They reached an area 101 kilometers from Cairo, the capital of Egypt.

The United Nations passed a resolution in the security council that asked all the countires to bring a temporary stop to the war (called a 'ceasefire'). The Arab countries and Israel agreed. However the ceasefire failed when the Israeli army advanced south to reach Suez. After this, the Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev, said to the US president that if the US did not send troops that he would send Soviet troops to the area. This was believed to be a threat and the United States put their military on full nuclear alert. Because of this tension between the United States and the Soviets, Israel agreed to a ceasefire, and the war ended. It was the closest the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, had been to nuclear war (and World War III) since the Cuban Missile Crisis of the 1960s.

The war ended on October 26, 1973. After the war, Egypt and Israel talked together (negotiated). They reached an agreement to separate their forces. Because of this agreement Israel retreated behind the canal into the Sinai. The Egyptian forces stayed in the Sinai near the canal and did not retreat from the places they captured. There was a large distance between Egyptian and Israeli forces in the Sinai as part of the agreement.

Israel also held negotiations with Syria and agreed to withdraw from the places the captured in Syria, but they stayed in the Golan Heights. Egypt and Israel kept their negotiations, and in 1979 they signed the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty. The treaty brought peace between Israel and Egypt, and Israel retreated from the whole Sinai and returned it to Egypt. The treaty still holds to this day. In the war Israel was called the winner and the Arab countries were called the losers even though no real military victory was ever won; it was a military "stalemate" (where no one won and no one lost). However the war agreed to be a political victory for the Arabs, especially for Egypt.

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