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Yom Kippur War

The Yom Kippur War (also known as the October War and Ramadan War), was fought from October 6 to October 22/24 1973 between a coalition of Egypt and Syria, along with many other Arab nations, against Israel.

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Summary

In September 1970 President Nasser of Egypt died and was succeeded by Anwar Sadat, considered more moderate and pragmatic than Nasser. However to counter internal threats to his power and improve his standing in the Arab world Sadat became determined to fight Israel and win back the territory lost in 1967. From the end of 1972 Egypt began a concentrated effort to build up its forces (receiving MiG-23s, SAM6s, RPG-7s and especially the 'Sagger' ATGM (Anti-tank Guided Missile) from the Soviet Union, and improve its military tactics. The plan to attack Israel in concert with Syria was code-named Operation Badr.

Egypt and Syria attempted to regain the territory under Israeli occupation by force. Their armies launched a joint attack -- the Syrian forces attacking fortifications in the Golan Heights and the Egyptian forces attacking fortifications around the Suez Canal and on the Sinai Peninsula. The troops inflicted heavy casualties on the Israeli army. After three weeks of fighting, though, and with U.S. air-lifted reinformcements, the IDF pushed the forces back beyond the original lines.

Background

This battle was part of the Arab-Israeli conflict, a conflict which has included many battles and wars since 1948. In the Six-Day War in June 1967, Israel had occupied the Golan Heights in the north and the Sinai Peninsula in the south, right up to the Suez Canal.

In September 1970, president Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt died and was succeeded by Anwar Sadat, considered more moderate and pragmatic than Nasser. However to counter internal threats to his power and improve his standing in the Arab world Sadat became determined to fight Israel and win back the territory lost in 1967.

During this time Israel erected lines of fortification in both the Sinai and the Golan Heights. In the year 1971, Israel spent $500,000,000 fortifying its positions on the Suez Canal. In spite of the year-and-a-half long War of Attrition with Egypt and several border incidents with Syria, the Israeli leadership failed to realize that they would not be able to cope with a real offensive effort made by the Arabs.

In 1971 Anwar Sadat stated that if Israel were to unilaterally withdraw from all land it conquered during the 1967 war, Egypt would consider a comprehensive ceasefire or truce. Israel was reluctant to withdraw from so much territory without any guarantee of a peace treaty from Egypt, and with, at the time, no chance at all of a peace treaty with any of its Arab neighbors. In response, in 1972 Anwar Sadat publicly stated that Egypt was committed to going to war with the State of 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-23s, SAM6s, RPG-7s and especially the 'Sagger' ATGM (Anti-tank Guided Missile) from the Soviet Union) and improve its military tactics.

In 1972 and 1973 Sadat publicly declared again that Egypt would go to war with Israel unless it unilaterally withdrew from all the territory it conquered in 1967. In 1973 Sadat went on a diplomatic offensive to convince African nations, European nations and the Soviet Union to back his war against Israel. Since the Soviet Union was trying to better relations with the US through détente, the Soviet Union refused to accede to Sadat's demands for yet more weapons and public backing for a war against Israel. In response, Sadat expelled some 20,000 Soviet advisers from Egypt.

In an interview published in Newsweek (April 9, 1973), Sadat again threatened war with Israel. However, as this threat had been repeated many times since 1971, the Israeli military did not take this threat seriously. Blinded by the success of the Six-Day War, the Israeli civilian leadership and military intelligence were unable to treat the possibility of an Arab attack seriously. Several times during 1973, the Arab forces have conducted large-scale exercises that put the Israeli army, the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), 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 would be able to repel it easily - and now they became growingly convinced that the attack will simply not take place.

The war

The Egyptian and Syrian plan to attack Israel in concert with Syria was code-named Operation Badr.

Contrary to popular belief, many other Arab and Muslim nations were involved in this war. In support of the coming war, Iraq sent a squadron of Hunter jets to Egypt. During the war itself, Iraq sent a division of 18,000 men and a few hundred tanks, which were deployed in the central Golan; these forces, including some of Iraq's MiG fighter aircraft, took part in the war. The nations of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait gave financial backing to the war, and sent soldiers to join in the battle. Saudia Arabia sent 3000 Arab soldiers to Syria, which engaged in fighting with Israel, on approaches to Damascus. From 1971 to 1973, the nation of Libya sent Mirage fighters to Egypt, and gave Egypt some 1 billion dollars to arm Egypt for war. Algeria sent squadrons of fighters and bombers, armored brigades, and dozens of tanks. Tunisia sent over 1000 soldiers, who worked with Egyptian forces in the Nile Delta. Sudan sent 3,500 soldiers; Morocco sent three brigades to the front lines.

In the Golan Heights, the Syrians attacked the Israeli defenses of two brigades and eleven artillery batteries with five divisions and 188 batteries. In three days of fighting, the 7th Israeli brigade on 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 brigade nicknamed Barak did not have a natural obstacle to defend from, and was destroyed. At one moment, the only obstacle between the Syrian attackers and Nafah was a single tank (the so called Zvika force). However then the tide turned, as the arriving Israeli reserve forces were able to contain the Syrian offensive. By October 11, the Syrians were pushed back to the frontier.

In the following days, the Israeli forces pushed into Syria. From there they were able to shell the outskirts of Damascus, only 40 km away, using heavy artillery. A cease-fire was negotiated on October 22 based on a return to pre-war borders.

In response to the Israeli success and the US support of Israel the Arab states on October 17 declared an oil embargo against the west.

The Egyptians burst across the Suez Canal and had advanced up to 15km into the Sinai desert[?], with the combined forces of two army corps. They were opposed by the Israeli "Sinai" division, which they overcame with relative ease and whose counter-attacks they repelled. The Israeli counterattacks in air and on land were unsuccessful because of the new anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles the Arabs had.

However, the Egyptians had not planned to develop on their initial success, and their forces were now thinly spread at the Canal, vulnerable to a counter-attack. On October 15, a division led by Ariel Sharon managed to breach the line between the Second and the Third Egyptian armies and to create a bridgehead; on the night of October 16/17, an Israeli bridge was deployed on which passed the divisions of Avraham Eden[?] (Bern) and Sharon. They wrecked havoc on the lines of supply of the Third Army stretching south of them. A cease-fire was then negotiated following pressure from the USSR and the United States.

The cease-fire did not end the sporadic clashes along the cease-fire lines nor did it dissipate military tensions. On March 5, 1974, Israeli forces withdrew from the canal's west bank, and Egypt assumed control. Syria and Israel signed a disengagement agreement on May 31, 1974, and the UN Disengagement and Observer Force[?] (UNDOF) was established as a peacekeeping force in the Golan.

U.S. efforts resulted in an interim agreement between Egypt and Israel in September 1975, which provided for another Israeli withdrawal in the Sinai, a limitation of forces, and three observation stations staffed by U.S. civilians in a UN-maintained buffer zone between Egyptian and Israeli forces.

Related articles

See also: History -- Military history -- War

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