Yom Kippur War

views updated Jun 27 2018



In September 1973, indications were already noted by Israel Intelligence of a buildup both on the Egyptian and Syrian fronts. These were passed off as routine major exercises which had been taking place at frequent intervals along the borders, and particularly along the Suez Canal front. This appraisal tallied with the assessment of Israel Intelligence that the Arab armies were not yet ready for a major all-out war, and that their leadership was not capable of launching it. This estimate was aided by a highly effective deception plan which was mounted by the Egyptians and the Syrians parallel to the actual military preparations which were set afoot. Nevertheless, the indications on the front gave concern to the Israel High Command, with the result that during the ten days preceding Yom Kippur, the armored forces of Israel, both on the northern and on the southern fronts, were doubled as a precautionary measure.

The week preceding Yom Kippur was one of preoccupation with the decision of Chancellor *Kreisky to close the Schoenau Castle transit camp for emigrants from the U.S.S.R. en route to Israel (see under *Austria). Golda *Meir, prime minister of Israel, who was at a meeting of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, proceeded to Vienna in an endeavor to persuade Chancellor Kreisky to change his policy, but to no avail. On the evening of her return to Israel on Wednesday, October 3, the Cabinet met, the sole subject of discussion being the crisis with Austria.

On Thursday, October 4, intelligence was received about the departure of Soviet families from Egypt and Syria. This, coupled with the very heavy concentrations of troops along the borders of Syria and Egypt, indicated that a very serious situation had developed. A Cabinet meeting was called for midday on Friday, October 5, in Tel Aviv, at which part of the Cabinet participated. Apart from minor unit mobilization and preparations in the standing army, particularly the Air Force, and cancellation of leave in the army generally, no major mobilization took place.

On Saturday, October 6, Yom Kippur Day, at 4.00 a.m., intelligence was received which confirmed finally that war was about to break out on Yom Kippur Day. Consultations thereupon took place between the Minister of Defense, the Prime Minister, the Chief of Staff, and other staff officers. At approximately 10.00 a.m. total mobilization of the armed forces of Israel was authorized.

The information received that morning from reliable intelligence sources had indicated that the Arab attack would take place at 6.00 in the evening. At 2.00 in the afternoon, however, the Syrian and Egyptian armies attacked simultaneously with their total forces. Thus began the Yom Kippur War.

Throughout the holy day of Yom Kippur, Israel mobilized her forces. One of the miscalculations made by the Arabs was to launch the war on this day when all the manpower of the country was available either at home or in synagogue, and Israel thus saved many valuable hours of mobilization which were to prove vital at a later stage.

On the Northern Front

On the northern front the battle began with air attacks and a heavy artillery bombardment by the Syrians of the Israel front line and Israel headquarters. Three Syrian infantry divisions moved across the line and hundreds of Syrian tanks deployed to attack the Israel positions. Behind these three Syrian divisions were deployed two armored divisions ready to follow up. The Israel line was held by a series of fortifications acting as outposts and observation points and supported in each case by a small force of tanks. This line held: apart from a position on Mount Hermon, not one fortification was captured, though three were evacuated under orders. Tales of incredible bravery were to emerge from the heroic stand of the forces in the fortifications along the Israel line. (See Map: Syrian Attack and Map: Israeli Counter Offensive).

Shortly after the opening of the battle, the goc Northern Command, Major General Yiẓḥak Ḥofi, divided the Golan Heights front into two sectors, the northern sector from the town of Kuneitra (al-Qunaytira) northward, and the southern sector from Kuneitra southward. By Sunday morning, October 7, Major General Raful Eitan was in command of the division controlling the northern sector and Major General Dan Laner of the southern sector. On the eve of Yom Kippur the General Staff had moved the Seventh Armored Brigade up to the Golan Heights. Thus the battle opened with an Israel force of approximately 180 tanks holding the line against a major Syrian armored assault which was later to develop into an attack of some 1,400 tanks. Israel's Seventh Brigade was deployed in the northern sector with another in the southern sector. The major Syrian thrust came unexpectedly against the southern sector, where this Brigade with a small number of tanks withstood the assault of some 600 Syrian tanks. In the northern sector the first wave consisted of some 250 tanks, the Third Syrian Armored Division being held in reserve. With the opening of the assault, Syrian helicopters landed on Mount Hermon and infantry forces transported by them attacked the position. Within a matter of hours the position, which consisted of barely a section of fighting troops was overrun and taken.

Heavy fighting developed in the southern sector with platoons of the Israel army battling against entire Syrian battalions. Again and again the battle was decided by the sheer force of numbers, with hundreds of Syrian tanks pouring into the sector. Part of the Israel forces withdrew to the area of Naffāḥ. In the northern sector, the Seventh Brigade blocked the enemy advance throughout the fighting. By the night of 6th/7th October, there were Syrian forces on the routes leading to the Sea of Galilee, and their advance elements had reached

to within 800 meters of the moshav of El Al overlooking the Sea of Galilee.

However, the main battle was joined in the area of Naffāḥ, where the Syrians developed a major thrust. On the Yahūdiyya road, they reached to within 10 kms. of the point where the Jordan enters the Sea of Galilee. On the central route the Syrian forces reached the area of the Naffāḥ camp. On Sunday, October 7, heavy fighting continued all along the line with serious losses being sustained by both sides. At this stage, Northern Command was reinforced by a division commanded by General Moshe ("Musa") Peled. It was resolved that with this new force, Northern Command would move over to a counterattack

on Monday, October 8. Peled's division took over responsibility for all the forces on the El Al route and the route parallel to it, both leading to the Rafid crossroads.

By this time, the Brigade in the southern sector had ceased to exist. Both the brigade commander and his deputy were killed, and both battalion commanders had been wounded.

On Monday, October 8, General Peled's division launched the counterattack on the Al Al road against two Syrian tank brigades which had reached to within seven miles of the Sea of Galilee. A heavy battle raged along this route between El Al and Rafid on Monday, October 8, and Tuesday, October 9. By Wednesday, October 10, at 10.00 a.m., the Israel forces had driven the Syrians back to the cease-fire line, inflicting very heavy casualties on them.

On the Seventh Brigade front in General Eitan's divisional area, both sides had fought to a standstill and were wavering, when one of the Israel positions behind enemy lines, which had held out throughout the fighting and was surrounded by the Syrians, reported that the Syrian supply trains were withdrawing. The Syrian attack had been broken. In the area facing the Seventh Brigade, known as the Valley of Tears, north of Kuneitra, some 300 Syrian tanks and armored personnel carriers, abandoned and burnt out, were mute testimony to the incredible bravery which had given this victory to Israel arms.

General Laner's division maintained the pressure around the area of Naffāḥ and along the Tapline route by which the major Syrian effort had advanced. This division gradually cleared the area around Naffāḥ and the area between it and the village of Khushniya which had already been established as a major Syrian supply base and headquarters. General Laner's forces, pushing in a south-easterly direction, gradually drove the Syrian forces back from the area of Naffāḥ towards Khushniya. At this point – on Tuesday, October 9, and Wednesday, October 10 – a two-divisional effort, that of General Laner from the north and General Peled from the south, boxed in the Syrian forces in the general area of Khushniya and destroyed a considerable number of tanks in very heavy fighting. By Wednesday, October 10, General Laner's forces too had reached the "purple line" which was the 1967 cease-fire line on the Golan Heights, and the Syrian forces had either been destroyed or driven out of his divisional area.

On Monday, October 8, units of the Golani Brigade attempted to recapture the Mount Hermon position which had been lost on the 6th, but the attack failed, with considerable losses. Thus by Wednesday, October 10, the Syrian forces had been driven entirely from the Golan Heights, and Israel forces had closed in on the cease-fire line along its entire length.

On the following day, Thursday, October 11, the Israel counterattack into Syria was launched. The operation began at 11.00 a.m. when General Eitan's division, including the Seventh Brigade, broke into the Syrian position in the area of Jubāta, while General Laner's division attacked along the heavily fortified main route to Damascus. General Eitan's division broke through according to plan. General Laner's division also broke in along the main route as planned, but his first brigade ran into a very heavy antitank screen which had remained behind on the ground, undetected. When this brigade was held up the support brigade followed through and took the village of Khan Arnaba. The third brigade followed through along the main Damascus route.

On Friday, October 12, the forces of General Eitan operating in the northern sector reached the village of Mazraat Beit Jinn and established defense positions there. The Seventh Brigade was repulsed in its attempt to take the hill of Tel Shams. To the south, General Laner's division widened its area of penetration as it advanced toward Kanakir. As the division moved towards Kanakir the Iraqi forces which had entered Syria reached the area of battle, the first of its two armored divisions moving forward towards the flank of General Laner's advancing division. General Laner, standing on a hill and directing the battle, saw the Iraqis advancing in clouds of dust across the plain from the southeast. He withdrew his division from the attack and prepared to meet them. Receiving an additional brigade from General Peled's division just in time, he created an armored box into which the Iraqi forces moved unsuspectingly. The battle commenced at 3.00 in the morning. The attack was smashed and the Iraqi forces withdrew, leaving some 80 destroyed tanks on the field of battle. The Israel forces exploited their success and reached the area near Kafr Shams.

On Saturday, October 13, parachute forces captured the vital hill of Tel Shams suffering only four wounded in the battle.

The Syrians developed a counterattack in the area of Beit Jinn on the main route linking Sassa and Tel Shams. In the meantime, the 40th Jordanian armored brigade had entered Syria, and basing itself on Tel Harra, supported the Iraqi forces on their left flank in the counterattacks which were mounted.

General Laner's division counterattacked and captured two very important dominating hills, Tel Aleika and Tel Antar. Counterattacks were mounted in turn by the combined Arab forces – Syrians, Iraqis, and Jordanians – but the Israelis now held a very strong line which the Arab forces failed to penetrate. In the battle which raged in the Iraqi sector, approximately 100 Iraqi tanks were hit with some 80 destroyed, and approximately 40 Jordanian tanks were hit of which 30 were destroyed.

On October 21/22 the Israel forces again mounted an operation to recapture the Mount Hermon position.

Units of a parachute brigade were helicoptered to a point above the Syrian Hermon position while units of the Golani brigade moved up from below. The paratroopers took all their targets. Golani forces moved along three routes, but when they entered battle, the nature of the terrain and the comparatively large enemy force scattered over the hillside endangered their operation. The brigade commander and the battalion commander were wounded and the situation was critical. Additional forces were transported by helicopter to the Golani attackers and the paratroopers began to move down from the captured Syrian position. At the critical moment the operations officer of the brigade took command and organized the assault, and finally broke the enemy in a very costly counterattack.

On October 22, at 10.00 a.m., Mount Hermon was recaptured.

In the battle for the Golan Heights and the attack into Syria the Syrian army lost approximately 1,100 tanks. Some 867 tanks were identified in the Golan area inside the ceasefire line, including a large number of the latest model t62 Russian tanks. Approximately 3,500 Syrians had been killed, and some 370 prisoners taken.

The battle for the Golan Heights was replete with incidents of great bravery and human tenacity. The Israel forces, pitched against a Syrian army whose soldiers fought well, revealed a genius for improvisation. But for this, the Golan

Heights would have been overrun. At all stages the Israel Air Force fought to support the ground forces and at a later stage began to engage strategic targets within Syria. By the end of the first week most of the Syrian Air Force had been destroyed and ceased to be an element on the field of battle. Furthermore, the Syrian missile system was to a great degree destroyed. Thus Israel's Air Force was free to deal with strategic targets deep in Syria, particularly in the ports on the Mediterranean and in Damascus and other cities.

The Israel forces concluded the battle holding the strategic heights of Mount Hermon which dominate the entire area between the battlefield and the capital, Damascus, and positions as far eastward as Tel Shams, in an area which placed the outskirts of Damascus within range of Israel artillery. This was the situation when the Syrian command finally agreed to a cease-fire as requested by the Security Council on October 22.

In the battle for the Golan Heights, the situation had been saved by the self sacrifice and bravery of the two brigades on the two sectors, coupled with the standing army units in the fortifications which held along the cease-fire line. Their heroic stand enabled Northern Command to mobilize the reserve forces and, despite the overwhelming odds and the initial success of the vast forces of the Syrian army, to mount a counterattack already on the third day of the battle and to drive out the Syrian forces from the Golan Heights two days later. The battle of the Golan Heights will become a classic both as a major armored battle and as a battle of improvization and tenacity leading to the success which placed Israel's forces well on the road to Damascus.

The Egyptian Front

The Egyptian assault on the Bar-Lev line in the area of the Suez Canal came as a complete surprise to the Israel forces, which comprised less than 500 troops manning a line some 100 miles long. At 2.00 p.m. on Yom Kippur, October 6, five Egyptian infantry divisions moved simultaneously across the Suez Canal – some 70,000 troops against less than 500. A clever plan of deception had been prepared which led the Israel command to believe that all the preparations which were readily visible were in fact part of a major exercise. The Israel line was subjected to intense shelling and at the same time Egyptian planes went into action. The forces under General Mandler rushed to occupy the positions which they were due to reach at 4.00 p.m., but by this time Egyptian infantry had crossed the Canal, bypassing the widely dispersed Israel fortifications in the Bar-Lev line, and had deployed in the positions prepared for the Israel tanks on the east bank of the Suez Canal. As the Israel armored forces approached their previously prepared positions in order to engage the enemy crossing the Suez Canal, they were met by a hail of anti-tank Sagger-type missiles fired by the Egyptian troops already in position on the east side of the Canal. These missiles caused heavy casualties to the Israel tanks making the initial assault.(See Map: Egyptian Attack and Map: Israel: Counter Offensive).

In the course of the night of October 6/7, the Egyptians ferried five divisions of infantry across the Canal together with their armor and by means of highly effective and very flexible Russian bridging equipment were able to establish adequate bridges across the Canal to keep their forces supplied. They set up three major bridgeheads across the Canal; one in the north basing itself on the area of Qantara, one in the center basing itself on the area of Ismailia, and the third in the south in the area of the Great Bitter Lake and Suez. The northern effort was under the command of the Egyptian Second Army, the southern under the command of the Egyptian Third Army.

The Israel forces continued to battle in order to contain the initial attack of the Egyptians, and the fortifications along the line continued to hold out on the morning of October 7. The main efforts of the Israel forces were directed towards holding a line along the second line of fortifications some 10 kms. from the Suez Canal, and preventing the Egyptians from enlarging their bridgeheads. An Egyptian effort was mounted on a number of occasions southwards along the Gulf of Suez in the direction of the oilfields of Abu Rudeis, but as in each case this effort required the Egyptian armor to leave the cover of their antiaircraft missile system, the Israel Air Force drove the Egyptian armored forces back, inflicting on them heavy casualties.

The entire Egyptian operation, against which the Israel Air Force mounted attack after attack in an endeavour to destroy the bridges and upset the crossings, was carried out under cover of a dense antiaircraft missile system which caused heavy casualties to the Israel Air Force, particularly because it forced the Israel planes to fly low to avoid the missiles and brought them within range of the conventional antiaircraft guns. The Israel forces that attempted to reach the units besieged in the fortifications of the Bar-Lev line in order to relieve them suffered very heavy casualties. Most of the line had either been captured or abandoned by the third day of battle. The most northerly position in the area of Baluza succeeded in holding out during the whole war and was never taken by the Egyptians. The most southerly position, at Port Tewfik, held out for most of the week, the defenders fighting a very brave battle and surrendering only when they had run out of ammunition, food and medical supplies.

On Monday, October 8, the area was divided by General Gonen, goc Southern Command, into three divisional areas: the northern division commanded by Major General Adan, the central sector by Major General Sharon and the southern sector by Major General Mandler. On that day, Major General Adan's forces mounted an attack towards the area of the Firdan bridge opposite Ismailia. This attack was held by the Egyptians and General Adan's forces were unable to advance. Pitched battles continued, with the Egyptians throwing heavy infantry concentrations against the Israel armor with a view to inflicting casualties on them by use of antitank missiles. The Israel forces quickly adapted themselves to this new type of warfare, and tactics which they developed limited the losses sustained by this weapon.

Forces under General Sharon managed to reach the water's edge at the northern end of the Great Bitter Lake but the Israel General Command elected to remain in a holding position in preparation for the major armored assault which they expected would develop as soon as the two armored divisions held back in Egypt, the Fourth Division in the south and the Twenty-First Division in the north, moved across the Canal.

On Sunday, October 14, the Egyptian army mounted a major tank offensive and a heavy tank battle raged all day long, with the Egyptian army endeavoring to break out at four different points. The major battle was mounted against General Sharon's forces, in the central sector, where some 110 Egyptian tanks were destroyed in the course of the day. The northern division commanded by General Adan and the southern division commanded by General Mandler were likewise engaged in battle, with a determined attempt being made by the Egyptian Third Army to break out southward along the Gulf of Suez toward the oil fields. This attempt was foiled by the Israel Air Force which destroyed the greater part of an Egyptian brigade. In all, during October 14, the Egyptians lost over 200 tanks in the assault, which failed to achieve any advance.

A debate had been in progress in the Israel Command as to the advisability of launching the planned attack across the Suez Canal in order to counter the Egyptian forces which were on the east bank. The chief deterrent factor had been the fact that the two main Egyptian armored divisions, the Fourth and the Twenty-First, were on the west bank. But as soon as they crossed to the east bank and were committed in the battle of October 14, it became apparent to the Israel Command that the time had come to mount the counterattack. Accordingly preparations were made to break through to the Canal at a point already planned in advance at the northern end of the Great Bitter Lake.

This task was assigned to General Sharon's division. On the night of October 15/16, parachute forces led his division

across the Canal and established themselves in Egypt on the west bank. On the following day they were joined by elements of an armored brigade which began to widen the perimeter. Taken by surprise, the Egyptian forces on the west bank of the Canal did not offer much determined opposition. There were considerable delays, however, in clearing the area of the corridor to the Canal. Although in preparation for the crossing General Sharon's forces had reached the water's edge, the area through which they maneuvered had not been cleared of Egyptian forces and when the problem arose of resupply and moving down the bridges to the Canal it was found that the Egyptians were in a position to hinder any advance toward the Canal. General Adan's division, which had been designated to follow through after the bridges had been laid across the Canal, was therefore obliged to postpone its operation and engage the enemy in the area of the breakthrough to the Canal so as to create a corridor, widen it and mop up enemy units. At the same time an Egyptian armored brigade moved up from the area occupied by the Third Army along the Great Bitter Lake. General Adan's forces lay in wait and destroyed it. General Sharon's forces by this time were being reinforced on the west bank of the Canal, and with General Sharon in command of the forces both on the east bank and the west bank, they began to push northwards. One of the fiercest battles of the war was fought at the northern part of the corridor leading to the Canal, in a region known as the Chinese Farm.

In the meantime, despite very intense Egyptian bombardment, artillery barrages and air attacks, bridging equipment was brought up and two bridges were thrown across the Canal.

On October 16 and until midday on the 17th, General Adan's forces engaged in heavy battle and cleared the main routes to the bridging areas as well as the corridor leading to the bridges. His forces crossed the bridges which had been thrown across the Canal on the night of October 17/18, their first mission being to destroy as many antiaircraft missile sites as possible and to advance in the general direction of the Geneifa Hills. His forces broke out and began to fan out southward. On the same night Egyptian commando battalions counterattacked from Ismailia southward against the parachute brigade which had crossed the Canal initially, but they were driven back. Large-scale air battles developed in the meantime with the Israel Air Force achieving complete superiority.

In the course of the fighting at the end of the first week, Major General Mandler was killed and his brigade was taken over by Major General Kalman Magen.

On October 19 in the evening, General Magen's division crossed the bridges.

Thus the attack on the Israel bridgehead developed, while for two days, until October 18, the Egyptians believed the Israel report that this was a task force designed solely for the purpose of attacking the Egyptian missile sites. There was lack of coordination between the Egyptian Third Army and Second Army, of which the Israel forces took advantage. By October 19 there were already three Israel divisions on the west bank of the Suez Canal. General Sharon's force was obliged to fight through the cultivated area created by the sweet-water canal in the general direction of Ismailia while at the same time endeavoring to remain parallel to the Israel forces on the east bank of the Canal which encountered very heavy opposition from the Egyptian Second Army units. General Adan's forces were ordered to advance in the direction of Geneifa-Suez, while clearing the area of the west bank of the Bitter Lake and the west bank of the Canal itself. General Magen's forces swept inward in a broad arc to the west of Jebel Geneifa directed towards the port of Adabiyah on the Gulf of Suez. General Sharon, who by this stage had advanced some six kilometers northwards from the bridges, began to widen his bridgehead and to push towards Ismailia. By October 22, he had pushed northward to the water purification plant of the town of Ismailia. His forces also attacked northward on the east bank of the Suez Canal in an endeavor to clear the area between the Great Bitter Lake and Lake Timsah. They managed to advance only part of the distance, however, and were not successful in clearing the remainder of that area.

General Adan continued southward along the Suez Canal between the Bitter Lakes and the town of Suez. His forces were in constant contact with the Egyptian forces along the Canal and also with the Egyptian forces operating from the east bank. General Magen reached the Cairo-Suez road and cut it early on October 22.

The Security Council, which had been hastily convened by the Soviet Union, met on October 21 and called for an immediate cease-fire, to come into effect at 5.58 p.m. on October 22. The cease-fire was accepted both by Egypt and Israel, but by the time it came into effect, the Egyptian Third Army found itself cut off and surrounded. Fighting continued after the beginning of the cease-fire primarily because units of the trapped Egyptian Third Army fought desperately to break their way out of the Israel vice, which was tightening. Israel forces counterattacked, and were engaged along the front by Egyptian artillery from all the sectors. General Magen's forces consolidated their gains, closing the ring by taking the Red Sea fishing port of Adabiyah in the Gulf of Suez. General Adan cleared the entire water edge and reached the outskirts of the town of Suez.

The fighting continued in the Suez area. Israel forces, assuming that the fighting was over, moved into the town of Suez, but came up against strong Egyptian points of defense which inflicted heavy casualties on them.

The fighting finally ended on October 24 with the Egyptian forces holding two major bridgeheads on the eastern bank of the Suez Canal to an average depth of about 10 kms., and with the Israel forces occupying some 1,600 sq. kms. of territory inside Egypt from the outskirts of Ismailia in the north to Mount Ataqa and the port of Adabiyah in the south and reaching, at the most westerly point, within some 70 kms. of Cairo. Moreover, Israel had cut off the Egyptian Third Army (comprising some 20,000 troops and approximately 300 tanks) on the east bank of the Canal opposite the town of Suez, and indeed, but for the Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire, the Egyptian Third Army was doomed and could have been wiped out by the Israel forces within a matter of days.

Thus the war concluded on the Egyptian front, with the Egyptians celebrating the fact that they had achieved an initial success in crossing the Canal and in maintaining bridgeheads on the east bank of the Canal. On the other hand, the Israel forces had effected a counterattack which had given Israel a military situation constituting a good bargaining position with a view to future negotiations.

In the battle with Egypt over 1,000 Egyptian tanks were destroyed and vast quantities of equipment were taken in addition to 8,000 prisoners. Some 240 Israel prisoners were taken and these were exchanged for the 8,000 Egyptian prisoners following the cease-fire agreement signed with Egypt.

Naval Operations

At the outset of the war, the Egyptian navy had blockaded the Straits of Bab el-Mandeb, preventing commercial shipping from entering the Red Sea and reaching Israel's ports. The Israel presence at Sharm el-Sheikh enabled the Israel navy to effect a counter blockade in the Gulf of Suez which obstructed all Egyptian activity in the Gulf and which prevented the supply of oil to Egypt from her own oil wells in the Gulf of Suez.

A naval battle developed between the Egyptian and Syrian navies and a modern Israel navy equipped with missile ships, some of which had been built in Israel, and all equipped with Israel-built missiles. In a number of battles, the first missile battles in naval history, in which both the Syrian and Egyptian navies were engaged, the Israel navy destroyed most of the Syrian navy and part of the Egyptian navy and gained complete control of the seas, both in the Mediterranean and in the Red Sea. The Israeli naval operations were characterized by daring and initiative.

The Cease-Fire

On October 22 the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 338 calling upon all parties to cease all firing and immediately thereafter to begin the implementation of Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967 in all its parts. It also decided that immediately and concurrently with the cease-fire, negotiations should start between the parties concerned under appropriate auspices, with the aim of establishing a just and durable peace in the Middle East.

On November 11 the cease-fire agreement was signed between Egypt and Israel at Kilometer 101 on the Suez-Cairo Road. This agreement made arrangements for the supply of food, water and medical equipment to the beleaguered town of Suez and for the provision of non-military supplies to the Third Army on the east bank of the Suez Canal. It also made initial provisions for the exchange of all prisoners of war. These arrangements were honored, as was an unwritten undertaking that the blockade of the Straits of Bab el-Mandeb would be lifted.

The Geneva Peace Conference opened on December 21 with the participation of Egypt, Jordan and Israel, under the auspices of the United States and the Soviet Union.

Strategic Considerations

The Yom Kippur War has changed many concepts about modern warfare. It was the first time in history in which a naval missile battle took place. The effect of the antitank missile in the field of battle was much discussed, but as the fighting developed, the Israelis found a solution to this problem. It would appear that the conclusions drawn on this subject were very greatly exaggerated.

On the other hand, the efficacy of the sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles, such as the sam6 Russian missile supplied to the Egyptians and Syrians, proved to be very considerable, and had an important bearing on the course of the air war.

From a purely military point of view, the war which began under the worst possible circumstances that Israel could have envisaged and under the most promising circumstances that the Arab forces could have hoped for and for which they had prepared, resulted in a victory for Israel's forces. As the war developed, the degree of Russian connivance which was evidenced by the major Russian air and sea lifts mounted immediately after the commencement of hostilities in order to resupply the Egyptian and Syrian armies, became increasingly apparent.

To counter this massive Russian air lift and in order to preserve the balance of forces, the United States mounted an air lift to resupply the Israel forces, which had expended a considerable quantity of ammunition and had sustained comparatively heavy losses in the fighting.

The losses in lives in the Yom Kippur War on both sides were heavy: 2,522 Israelis and an estimated 15,000 Egyptians and 3,500 Syrians were killed.

For the political and other aspects of the war, see *Israel, State of: Historical Survey.

add. bibliography:

C. Herzog, The Arab-Israel Wars (1982); A. Rabinovich, The Yom Kippur War: Epic Encounter That Transformed the Middle East (2004); U. Bar-Joseph, Watchmen Fell Asleep: The Surprise of Yom Kippur and Its Sources (2005).

[Chaim Herzog]

Yom Kippur war

views updated May 23 2018

Yom Kippur war. So-called because on this day in 1973 (6 Oct.) Egypt and Syria attacked Israeli positions in the Sinai peninsula and on the Golan heights.