THE YOM KIPPUR WAR

 

 

                                                             

   ANWAR SADAT                                              HAFEZ AL ASSAD

 

 

 

 

The ceasefire after the Arab Israeli Six-Day War of 1967 was followed by years of extreme tension in the Middle East. Arab states bordering Israel continued to demand a restoration to  the pre - war frontiers, but Israel sternly refused. Early In 1973 Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, secretly began planning with Syrian President Hafez Al Assad to end the dispute by military force.

Months before the planned attack, other Arab nations throughout the Middle East and North Africa secretly aided both the Egyptian's and Syrian's. Iraq transferred fourteen new Russian built Mig 21 fighter planes to Egypt along with an Iraqi Infantry division eighteen thousand strong to Syria.

Libya provided Egypt with an additional twenty French built Mirage fighters. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait would finance the war with over a billion dollars in aid. Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco  contributed a total of fifteen thousand troops and Jordan sent two armored brigades and three artillery field batteries.

The combined forces of Egypt and Syria totalled some 875,000 Men, 450 Combat aircraft, 2,500 Tanks, 3,000  Armored fighting vehicles and 1,700 Artillery pieces.

The Israeli armed forces would counter with 400,000 Men, 500 Combat aircraft, 1,700 Tanks, 3,500 Armored  fighting vehicles and 1,000 Artillery pieces.

The Arab coalition's plan was to launch a surprise attack on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, the holiest day in all Judaism, knowing full well that the Israeli military would be participating in the religious celebrations and would be unprepared for a major assault.

Arab intelligence had concluded that in the first wave of the attacks on the Golan Heights alone, only a mere  150 Israeli tanks would oppose the 1,200 Syrian, and in the Suez region possibly 2,000 Israeli soldiers would stand against 80,000 Egyptian's.

In the early morning hours of October 6th 1973, Syrian and Egyptian military forces launched a surprise attack  on the Golan Heights and Suez Canal in an attempt to reclaim territories lost to the Israeli's six year's prior.

During the initial stages of the assault, the Israeli forces were swiftly overwhelmed. Within two days, the Egyptian's had successfully crossed the Suez Canal, occupied the strategic Israeli built Bar Lev defensive works and penetrated 20 miles inland of the Sinai peninsula. In northern Israel, Syrian armor had advanced 25 miles into the Golan Heights and were threatening to cross the Jordan River. By nightfall  of the 7th, both Israeli fronts had been shattered and her forces in complete disarray.

 

EGYPTIAN SUPPLIES CROSS THE SUEZ

 

 

 

 

But in a stunning display of organization and logistics, Israel had fully mobilized her entire armed forces and were prepared to launch a counterattack by the morning of the 8th.

The Israeli assault was to be against the Egyptian center towards the Bar Lev defensive fortifications and then on to the city of Ismailaya. Major General Avraham Adan’s 162nd Armored division comprising 200 Centurion tanks and supported by 4,000 men of the Arieh mechanized Infantry Brigade with a further fifty Patton light Tanks were to  spearhead the attack.

That same day the Israeli Air Force launched Operation Tagar, aiming to neutralize Egyptian targets to Adan’s front. The IAF carried out 200 sorties on the east bank of the canal, but the newly deployed Egyptian SAM  (Surface to Air missile) batteries had inflicted a heavy toll, downing twenty Israeli fighter bombers.

Adan's forces would find themselves up against a well entrenched Egyptian 2nd infantry division. Armed with the new Soviet SAGA anti tank missile system (which could be carried by a single Infantrymen) and remotely steered onto its target. The unsuspecting Israeli Tanker’s suffered heavy losses, with forty tanks destroyed and an equal number put out of action then abandoned by their crews. 

That afternoon the Egyptian 21st Armored division counter attacked, but by late evening it was clear the assault had failed. The swift arrival of Israeli General Ariel Sharon’s 143rd Armored division had stabilized the lines destroying one hundred enemy tank's in the process. For the moment military operations within the Sinai ceased.

 

SAM MISSILE SYSTEM

 

 

 

 

To the north the Syrian's attack on the Golan Height’s had made substantial gains into Israeli held territory. It was imperative Israel shift her weight of attack from Egypt to Syria to prevent a crossing of the Jordan river. On the night of October 8th, they launched a series of attacks along the entire Golan front.

The attacks made very little progress due mainly that the Russian supplied T- 62 Tanks were equipped with infra red targeting system's and the British supplied Israeli Centurions were not. By dawn the burning hulls of over one hundred and fifty Israeli tanks littered the battlefield in stark contrast to Syrian loses of only twenty five.

On the morning of the 9th, the Israeli Air Force arrived and engaged with the enemy air wing, downing twenty five Syrian Mig's for the loss of five Mirages. This operation allowed the ground forces to establish a thin defensive line which they fought desperately to hold against renewed Syrian attacks.

On October 10th, the Israeli Air Force continued its mastery of the air destroying an additional thirty five Syrian fighters for the loss of six, by days end the Israeli's had established complete air supremacy over the battle field.

 

MIRAGE - 3

 

MIG - 21

 

 

 

 

With air supremacy assured, the armored Regiments of Colonel's Ori and Ran, supported by the 14th and 19th Brigades under Peled then advanced. However their assault ran straight into the advancing 1st and 3rd Syrian Tank Divisions supported by the 9th Infantry.

Although the Syrian's enjoyed a vast numerical superiority. The Israeli tanker's possessed three major advantages over their enemy. Overall better leadership, armor protection and superbly trained crews. As the battle commenced, these factors would inflict a three to one fire and kill ratio against their Syrian adversaries. By nightfall Syrian resistance had completely collapsed, with the morning of the 11th revealing the entire Syrian Army within southern Golan in full retreat.

After another week of hard fighting, Israeli artillery units began shelling the outskirts of the Syrian capital of Damascus itself. Al Assad now pleaded with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to launch an attack and take pressure of his forces allowing them to regroup.

Sadat now faced a momentous decision. Against the advice of his generals, he felt he had no choice but to support his ally and ordered the Egyptian armed forces to go back onto the offensive. The plan was for the Egyptian 3rd Army to advance a further twenty miles and capture the vital and strategic passes of Giddi and Mitla.

This decision however would later prove catastrophic for the Egyptian's, for it now placed their forces out in the open dessert and no longer  protected by the S.A.M. missile defense shield.

From the outset the attack was exposed to withering Israeli fire. The Egyptian ground forces were also armed with the T- 62 battle tank and when matched against the Israeli Centurion, suffered the same disadvantages as their Syrian counterparts. After two bloody days the offensive was called off, with the Egyptian 4th Armored Division suffering two hundred and sixty tanks destroyed in contrast to Israeli losses of fifty.

 

 

CENTURION

 

T - 62

 

Israeli General Ariel Sharon now wanted to exploit the favorable situation and launch a counterattack at the seam where the Egyptian 2nd Army (North) and 3rd Army (South) had their flanks linked to one another, an area  where the Suez ran into the Great Bitter Lake.

Sharon's plan was for the Israeli forces to Secure a corridor, bridge the canal and then fan out to the North and South, effectively cutting off and trapping the Egyptian Armies with their backs against the west bank of the Suez.

At dawn on October 15th the Israeli offensive began. Almost immediately they came up against strong elements of the Egyptian 22nd Armored and 16th Infantry divisions blocking the proposed breakthrough at Deversoir.

Fierce fighting now raged throughout the day and into the night. The Egyptian positions were heavily fortified and their units put up very stiff resistance against repeated Israeli attempts to force a pass.

At 11:00pm Sharon decided to leave a covering force and bypass Deversoir continuing with the main assault to reach the canal. Three hours later Israeli forces had completed phase one of the assault. Sharon then ordered one thousand Israeli commando's to effect a crossing. At 4:00am  they succeeded in establishing a small bridgehead on the west bank of the Suez.

It would take another four days of hard fighting to hold the bridgehead, secure the corridor, and complete the bridge across the Suez, which now allowed Israeli forces to begin phase two of Sharon's plan.

Israeli Armor and Infantry now pored across the canal, fanned out to the north and south with the main  objective being the destruction of the Egyptian Sam missile batteries. Once  knocked out, the Israeli Air Force could attack in force and support the attack.

 

ISRAELI  BREAKTHROUGH

 

By October 21st Israeli forces had captured the town of Fayid and continued southward along the western edges of the Great Bitter Lake virtually unopposed, destroying hundreds of unprotected Sam installations as they advanced.

Sharon's northern thrust did not fair as well running headlong into General Halil's Egyptian 22nd Armored  supported by the 2nd Infantry division. After gains of only fifteen miles the Israeli thrust ground to a halt failing to capture the town of Ismailiya and thus cut off the Second Army's supply lines.

On October 23rd, Israeli troops finished their drive south, captured the last road linking Cairo and Suez, effectively encircling 50,000 men and 500 Tanks of the Egyptian Third Army east of the Suez Canal

 

ENCIRCLEMENT OF THIRD ARMY

 

Egyptian fighter aircraft now launched repeated desperate attacks in support of the Third Army, but without the Sam Missile Systems in support, suffered immense losses against the Israeli Air Force.

Despite being surrounded, the Third Army under General Wassel managed to maintain its combat integrity and defend its positions against repeated attacks, It was not on the verge of collapse as the Israeli's had anticipated.

Despite the isolation of the Third Army, Israeli commanders were unclear if they could protect their forces on the west bank of the canal from a determined Egyptian assault by the 2nd Army and still maintain sufficient strength along the rest of the front.

Both sides were now totally exhausted and had no reserves to throw into the battle. International pressure, particularly that from the United States and Soviet Union urged both sides to end hostilities. On October 25th, Israeli leader Golda Meir and Anwar Sadat agreed to a permanent ceasefire, the war was over.

 

ARIEL SHARON - Center

 

The  twenty day October war had cost the Israeli's 3,000 men dead, 7,250 wounded and 300 captured.105  combat aircraft, 900 tanks and 500 armored fighting vehicles.

Egyptian casualties were 5,000 men dead, 11,7000 wounded and 8,300 captured. 325 combat aircraft, 1,000 tanks and 600 armored fighting vehicles.

Syrian losses amounted to 7,500 dead,15,500 wounded and 7,000 captured.110 combat aircraft,1,300 tanks and 900 armored fighting vehicles.

Israel's victory though complete had come at a high cost. Israeli's openly criticized their government's lack of preparedness. In April 1974, the nation's Prime Minister, Golda Meir was forced to step down.

Although Egypt had again suffered military defeat at the hands of its Jewish neighbor, the initial Egyptian successes greatly enhanced Sadat’s  prestige in the Middle East and gave him an opportunity to seek peace with honor.

For Syria, the Yom Kippur War was a disaster. The unexpected Egyptian - Israeli cease fire exposed Syria to complete military defeat and Israel seized even more territory in the Golan Heights.

In 1974, the first of two Egyptian - Israeli disengagement agreements providing for the return of portions of the Sinai to Egypt were signed.

In 1979 Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the first peace agreement between Israel and one of her Arab neighbors. In 1982, Israel fulfilled the peace treaty by returning the last segment of the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt.

 

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