By: Cristiane Heinrichs, Emerson Silva and Clarissa Diniz
The October War | Yom Kippur War


·         Also known as the Yom Kippur War, the October War was the combat in which President Sadat (Egypt) and Assad (Syria) united against Israel to gain the territories lost in 1967.

·         For both Assad and Sadat the war promised major gains:

o   Restoration of the Arab pride lost in 1967

o   Popularity, legitimacy, longevity and large contributions from the oil kingdoms (mainly Saudi Arabia).

o   Territory lost in 1967.

Countdown to War

·         Sadat attempted to initiate peace agreements with Israel

o   Israel rejected since Sadat wanted Israel to withdraw from the Arab land it obtained in the 1967 Six Day War.

·         By May 1971, Sadat decided war was his only option.

·         Sadat requested large quantities of sophisticated weapons from the Soviet Union.

o   In order to pressure the Soviets into providing aid, Sadat began negotiations with the United States.

·         Sadat expelled 15 thousand Soviet Personnel in order to gain US sympathy

·         Unwilling to lose their position in the Middle East, the Soviets sent MIG-23’s, SU, SAM, tanks, anti-tanks and missiles

·         Sadat and Nasser spent 1967-1970 preparing for war

·         Yom Kippur (Oct. 6) was the date chosen for war since Israel’s radio stations would be shut down making speedy mobilization more difficult

o   Day of Atonement, holiest day of the year for religious Jews

·         Iraq and Jordan were the largest and most important contributors to Syria

·         Egyptian inferiorities included the fact that it lacked an air force and an armored corps.

·         In addition, North Korea also provided aid to Egypt and Syria (aerial aid)

·         The Arab strategic surprise was owed largely to Israel’s perception that the Arab forces were incompetent, weak and incapable to such attacks

·         The IDF, Israeli Defense Force, declared war to be “highly improbable”

·         Arabs would go to war even though they knew they might not win

·         Another fact that made the attack a surprise was the fact that Sadat was considered a “small-time politician”, “a fool”, a “clown”

·         Up to October 1973 Sadat maintained peace negotiations with American and UN officials

·         Another deception was the “25 year strategy”, in which Egypt claimed they would focus solely on internal reform

·         The hijacking of a train “Schoriau Incident” diverted Israel’s attention from the Arabs

·         Arab leader even “deceived” his own army: they only became aware of war at the day of the attack.

Signs of War

·         Dayan understood that the Arabs did not actually have to win a war, all they needed was not to lose it too decisively

·         King Hussein (from Jordan) remarked to Meir that Syria was in it’s “pre-jump-off positions” for an offensive war

·         Information about the attack was finally given but the timing was wrong, they were told 6:00pm, but actually it was 2:00pm

Morning of Oct. 6

·         Mobilization was in small amount since Israel knew that American support would be crucial, thus Israel could not be seen as an aggressor


The Battle for the Golan

·         Biggest tank battle since WWII

·         Oct. 6th 1973- Syria launched a surprise attack at the base atop Mount Hermon against the IDF’s electronic intelligence. Syrian’s flag flew above it for sixteen days.

·         Major battle, fought day and night until Oct.9 was the one that took place north of Quineitra.

o   Outcome largely determined  by Israel’s superiority gummer and  tenacity

·         IDF scheme:

o   Use IAF jets as flying tank killers and hold the Syrian army until reserves arrived

·         IDF did not Syrian SAMs to be so effective- they greatly released the IAF ground support

·         IDF unleashed an air strike against destroying the SAMs – operation FAILED

·         Towards end of battle: almost all Israeli tanks were without ammunition and the IDF men were exhausted of fighting the battle

·         Sides never knew the real situation of the other side. Syrian troops were in better conditions than the IDF troops but they were the first to retreat.

o   “Israel won by a hair”

·         Oct. 7-8 Israel reorganized and on the 8th launched a two-division counterattack in the Southern Golan

·         Oct. 9th Israel dove into the center of Damasais, bombarded the General Staff and Air Force Headquarters building

·         Oct. 11th IDF went into action again. To their surprise the Syrian held their stand.

o   They were now fighting for “their homeland, especially their capital city.”

·         Oct. 14 Israel conquered 20-square-mile territory in the Bashan and were barely 20 miles from Damascus. No more great advantage achieved on ground.

·         First week, Jordan was out of the war. Oct.12th it moved in.

·         Oct. 21-22 was the last battle of the north – IDF recapture Mount Hermon.

Southern Front

·         “Bar-Lev line” held by the IDF along the Suez Canal.

·         Egyptian two stage plan

o   Cross the canal and establish bridgeheads

o   After “operational pause”,  armored wave would cross and push eastward to the Militia and Cridi Passes

·         Oct. 6 air assault begins by 150-200 planes together striking IDF camps, radar installations, airfields and intelligence bases. Two KELT missiles were launched signaling that it too had “capacity to hit civilian centers”

·         For months Egypt had been practicing the crossing. By Oct. 607 Egypt managed to push across the canal with many weapons and tanks.

·         Israeli’s command were clueless about what was being held.

·         Oct. 6-7 Egypt had scored major achievements in both combat and logistics. IDF stood in terrible situation. “Now we are being defeated”.

·         Dayan said “Syrian army was breaking through the Golan” and IAF had to stop it. “Sinai is sand. The Golan and Jordan valley are home.”

·         Morning of Oct. 8 IDF launched first counter-attack on the bridgeheads. Whenever they approached they were badly mauled by the Egyptians.

·         On Oct. 9 the Israeli units were ordered to withdraw. The attack was considered by Israel “a tank man’s nightmare” because of such Dayan on Oct. 8 spoke of mobilizing high school student and those who passed the age of being at the reserves.

·         Israel from defeat on the 8 reach three conclusions

o   Given the strength of the Arabians the IDF was incapable of mounting simultaneous offenses on the north and south.

o   Wait until having sufficient strength to amount attack on the south

o   The army would not be successful in attacking Egypt frontally.

·         IAF reached the point it would no longer be able to provide effective support for another major ground offensive.

·         Dawn of Oct. 14 Egypt launches second-stage offensive, they dispersed their offensive both geographically and chronologically which caused them to lose which caused the turning point of the war.

·         Israel decided upon launching the counterattack which took place OCT. 16 and took the Egyptians by surprise they failed to understand the situation in the west bank.

·         The attack failed to unblock the Straits of Tiran but caused many Egyptian loses.

·         Both sides were running against time. Egypt:  set-up solid defense line west of the bridgehead before Israel broke out. Israel: move into the open desert, destroy the Sam bases, not allow Egypt to set up a viable line of containment and achieve strategic objective before cease-fire imposed by UN and superpowers

·         Main battle was fought on OCT. 19 which was to press northward across the canal’s West Bank toward Ismailia and cut off the Second Army

·         Oct. 19 Sadat accepts cease-fire and leaves Assad done but IDF does not stop and in the evening of the same day it moves 25 miles.

·         Oct. 21 Kissinger and Breghnev (soviet union) accomplish Resolution 338

·         Israel and Egypt violate it. Israel by allowing troops to continue task. Egypt doesn’t accept cease-fire.

·         Oct. 24 Israel commands ordered to take Suez Canal. They knew it was guarded by 2 battalions but they believed Egypt was demoralized and ineffective. They were wrong; Suez canal remained in Egyptian hand.

·         Security Council Resolution 339 and 340 Oct. 23 and 25 called for immediate cease-fire implicitly backed by the threat of the Soviet military intervention.

·         Israel lost 2,300 dead, 5,500 wounded 294 prisoners

·         Egypt lost 12,000 dead, 35,000 wounded 8,400 prisoners

·         Syria lost 3,000 dead 5,600 wounded 411 captured.

Superpower Involvement

·         Superpowers played major role in the battle from conduct and course of the war to their policies in military supply and cease-fire

·         After 19 days of combat both sides were in urgent need of supplies:

a)      USSR – on Oct. 10th mounted the “biggest airlift in their history”

b)      USA – on Oct. 13th had a greater air lift. Both a response of Soviet’s mount and Israel’s request (the request may have included at least a implicit threat to use nuclear weapons if the conventional one ran out)

·         Superpowers only looked for cease-fire when their own clients were in a bad war situation

·         On Oct. 19th the oil states announce a 70% increase in oil prices and a monthly 51% reduction in output until Israel withdrew completely from territories and gave Palestine “legal rights.”

a)      This in turn caused the US to run after a cease-fire but the told Israel after they signed the cease-fire that they would not mind if they continued the war for that night.

·         USSR blamed Israel for the breakdown of the initial cease-fire

·         Oct. 22- Egypt requests a dispatch of a joint Soviet-American force to assure cease-fire.

a)      Israel refuses

b)      USA stands in a very DIFFICULT position between Israel and the USSR

·         Late Oct. 23- Soviet places seven divisions in Easter Europe on standby and threatened to send it unilaterally.

·         Oct. 25 – US counters USSR by putting nuclear forces on alert and demanding Israel to cease all fire, movement and withdraw to Oct. 22nd position.

Resolution 338

·         Adopted on October 22, 1973- The resolution was passed at the UNSC meeting by 14 votes to none.

( – an extract of the resolution can be found here)

Outcome of War/ Security Council Resolutions

·         Security Council resolutions 339 and 340 signed Oct. 23rd-25th called for  an immediate cease-fire implicitly backed by the threat of the soviet military intervention

·         Deaths, wounded and prisoners of the war:

a)      Israel: 2,300 dead / 5,500 wounded / 294 prisoners

b)      Egypt: 12,000 dead / 35,000 wounded / 8,400 prisoners

c)       Syria: 3,000 dead / 5,600 wounded / 411 prisoners

·         Israel’s navy was the only IDF army promptly prepared for war

·         Neither Syria nor Egypt army had been routed.

·         Syrian Army was defeated and pushed back into Syria.

·         Although the IDF had pushed into Bashan and gained a chunk of land in Syria, the Syrian army was able to push them back from advancing into their home (Damascus)

·         In the South (border with Egypt) situation was different, if cease-fire was not achieved; the Third army would have pounded into submission within days.

·         Egypt chalked two BIG achievements:

1)      Armed forces broke a major psychological barrier, wiping out the shame of the major defeats

2)      Conquered and held on to two strips of territory

Very informative Youtube videos

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