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The Yom Kippur War, Ramadan War, or October War also known as the 1973 Arab–Israeli War, was a war fought by the coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria against Israel from October 6 to 25, 1973. The fighting mostly took place in the Sinai and the Golan Heights, territories that had been occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat wanted also to reopen the Suez Canal. Neither specifically planned to destroy Israel, although the Israeli leaders could not be sure of that.


The war began when the Arab coalition launched a joint surprise attack on Israeli positions in the Israeli-occupied territories on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism, which also occurred that year during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Egyptian and Syrian forces crossed ceasefire lines to enter the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights respectively. Both the United States and the Soviet Union initiated massive resupply efforts to their respective allies during the war, and this led to a near-confrontation between the two nuclear superpowers.


The war began with a massive and successful Egyptian crossing of the Suez Canal. After crossing the cease-fire lines, Egyptian forces advanced virtually unopposed into the Sinai Peninsula. After three days, Israel had mobilized most of its forces and halted the Egyptian offensive, resulting in a military stalemate. The Syrians coordinated their attack on the Golan Heights to coincide with the Egyptian offensive and initially made threatening gains into Israeli-held territory. Within three days, however, Israeli forces had pushed the Syrians back to the pre-war ceasefire lines. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) then launched a four-day counter-offensive deep into Syria. Within a week, Israeli artillery began to shell the outskirts of Damascus. As Egyptian President Sadat began to worry about the integrity of his major ally, he believed that capturing two strategic passes located deeper in the Sinai would make his position stronger during post-war negotiations. He therefore ordered the Egyptians to go back on the offensive, but their attack was quickly repulsed. The Israelis then counter-attacked at the seam between the two Egyptian armies, crossed the Suez Canal into Egypt, and began slowly advancing southward and westward towards the city of Suez[57][58] in over a week of heavy fighting that resulted in heavy casualties on both sides.


The war had far-reaching implications. The Arab World, which had experienced humiliation in the lopsided rout of the Egyptian–Syrian–Jordanian alliance in the Six-Day War, felt psychologically vindicated by early successes in the conflict. In Israel, despite impressive operational and tactical achievements on the battlefield, the war led to recognition that there was no guarantee that Israel would always dominate the Arab states militarily. These changes paved the way for the subsequent peace process. The 1978 Camp David Accords that followed led to 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 of influence entirely.


The most important result of that war might be the success of President Sadat in putting an end to the no-war, no-peace situation in the Middle East, forcing the superpowers to think more seriously about peace in the region, in addition to restoring Egypt’s leading role among Arab countries.


After the war, the army became stronger and the Egyptian economy once again benefited from the resources of the Suez Canal, which was subsequently reopened. In addition, the high value of Arab oil as a valuable economic tool was augmented.


That war resulted in Israel admitting that it was not invincible and that their opponents can cause them harm through utilizing the economic resources of oil-laden allies. Israel has since realized that they depend on U.S. support for survival, economically and militarily.[]


The Egyptians’ will and tactics stunned the Israelis. One Israeli officer recounted how he mistook enemy soldiers atop sand dunes for trees: “One of my tank commanders radioed back, ‘My God, they’re not tree stumps. They’re men!’…Suddenly all hell broke loose. A barrage of missiles was being fired at us. Many of our tanks were hit. We had never come up against anything like this before.”


Major General Ariel Sharon recalled “These were soldiers who had been brought up on victories….It was a generation that had never lost. Now they were in a state of shock….How was it that [the Egyptians] were moving forward and we were defeated?”


The situation quickly became critical for Israel. In the first four days of the fighting, it lost 49 warplanes and almost 500 tanks. Panic swept through the Israeli government; unless the Egyptians could be turned, the entire country was at risk. In an October 9 meeting with Prime Minister Meir, Dayan discussed using the country’s nuclear arsenal—at least 13 bombs deliverable via Jericho missiles. Unwilling to deploy this ultimate weapon, Meir demanded American help. President Richard Nixon was sympathetic—his national security adviser and secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, believed that the defeat of Israel by a Soviet-armed Syria would be a geopolitical disaster—and approved $2.2 billion in supplementary military aid. The U.S. Air Force launched Operation Nickel Grass, which would airlift some 22,000 tons of jet aircraft, tanks, ammunition, and other equipment to Israel. Another 33,000 pounds of materiel arrived by sea. This was more than military aid; it was life support.


EVEN BEFORE THIS HELP ARRIVED, RESOURCEFUL Israeli commanders changed tactics. Instead of launching head-on assaults, they struck at the enemy’s flanks and used heavy machine guns to knock out infantry armed with antitank weapons. Soon, the Egyptian advance slowed and stopped. Nevertheless, already parts of the army had pushed as far as nine miles into the Sinai. Sadat had won his “four inches of territory.”


On October 28, Israel, under pressure from the United States, agreed to allow the Egyptians to deliver food and medical supplies to the trapped Third Army. The next day, Syria stopped fighting. A couple of weeks later, on November 11, Egypt and Israel agreed to a cease-fire drafted by Sadat and Kissinger. Syria refused to sign.


IT WAS A MESSY END to a savage war. The armor clashes had been the largest since World War II and remain some of history is costliest. The casualty counts for Egypt and Syria topped 60,000, with more than 2,000 tanks destroyed. Though Israel saw losses of fewer than 12,000 men, the Arab attacks had delivered a body blow to its military might. By one estimate, the war cost Israel the equivalent of its gross national product for a year. In the Sinai alone, the Egyptians had destroyed 110 helicopters and aircraft, about a quarter of Israel’s air power.



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