Yom Kippur War
|Yom Kippur War/October War|
|Part of the Cold War and Arab–Israeli conflict|
Egyptian forces crossing the Suez Canal on October 7
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 6-24, 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 surprise 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 during the Six Day War. Syria's aim of the war was to liberate all of the Golan Heights using military means. However, Egypt's Anwar Sadat wanted to use the military to stir diplomatic talks. Sadat achieved this in his limited war.
During the first few days of the war, Egypt and Syria scored astounding victories. Israel was shocked by the attack and was on the verge of defeat. The first Israeli counterattacks failed against both Egypt and Syria. However, Israeli attacks later repelled the Syrian forces and pushed them back further into Syria. The IDF came 40 kilometres from Damascus, the capital of Syria. The Iraqi army joined the war with Syria and the Israeli army stopped advancing.
On the Egyptian front, Israel's attacks against Syria had served as a 'distraction' against the Egyptian offense. This allowed the Egyptian army to dig deeper into Sinai, around 12km, an extra 2km to the original 10km plan. Israel feared a massive military defeat and so called on America for aid. Initially, America refused so Israel threatened to use its nuclear weapons, this threat was enough to persuade President Richard Nixon to send aid to Israel. America conducted Operation Nickel Grass, which gave Israel a resupply of 20 tons of military equipment and ammunition. This proved vital to Israel and it allowed Israel to continue fighting and claim a victory. Henry Kissinger, United State of Secretary at the time, later said to Israel, "America saved you during the Yom Kippur War."
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 in Operation Nickel Grass. Syria soon pleaded Egypt to attack Israel to lessen the pressure on it. On October 14, Egypt attacked again, trying to advance even more into the Sinai. Israel defeated the attack, and the Egyptians lost about 250 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 to 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 countries 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 negotiated. They reached an agreement to separate their forces. The agreement led to Israel retreating behind the Suez Canal. 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. Syrians on the other hand do not like to talk about the war as much of it was seen as a defeat rather than a victory or stalemate.
Sources[change | change source]
- "Anwar Sadat and Yom Kippur War"
- "Who Won the October War"
- "The 1973 October War: The Egyptian Perspective"
- "The 1973 October War: The Egyptian Perspective"
- Yom Kippur War, BBC Documentary at YouTube