The Yom Kippur War

Sub Title : Surprise multipronged attack and Israel’s determined push back

Issues Details : Vol 17 Issue 5 Nov – Dec 2023

Author : Ashwani Sharma , Editor-in-Chief

Page No. : 20

Category : Geostrategy

: November 27, 2023

Also known as the October War or the Ramadan War, was fought from October 6 to October 25, 1973, between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria. The war took place in both the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights, territories that Israel had captured during the Six-Day War in 1967.

Background. The Yom Kippur War was initiated by Egypt and Syria in an attempt to reclaim territories lost to Israel in 1967. The date chosen for the attack was significant because Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, and it coincided with Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, ensuring a high level of support from the Arab world.

Outbreak of War. The war began with a surprise attack on Israel. Egyptian forces crossed the Suez Canal and breached the fortified Bar Lev Line, while Syrian forces attacked the Golan Heights. The initial Arab victories were a shock to Israel, which had been caught off guard.

Course of War. After absorbing the initial attacks, Israel rapidly mobilized its forces. Despite heavy losses, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) managed to push back the invaders:

  • Egyptian Front: Israeli forces eventually managed to cross the Suez Canal into Egypt, encircling the Egyptian Third Army and moving within 100 kilometers of Cairo before a ceasefire was implemented.
  • Syrian Front: On the Golan Heights, after fierce fighting, Israeli forces managed to repel the Syrians and pushed into Syrian territory, approaching within 40 kilometers of Damascus.
  • Outcome. The war had significant consequences:-
  • Although both sides suffered heavy casualties, the conflict ultimately led to Israeli tactical and operational success.
  • The initial Arab victories restored a measure of pride and confidence to Egypt and Syria, despite their eventual military defeats.
  • The conflict laid the groundwork for future peace negotiations, notably leading to the Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel in 1978 and the subsequent Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty in 1979.
  • The Yom Kippur War influenced the political landscape in Israel, with increased public scepticism about the government and military leadership.
  • The war also had global implications, leading to an OPEC oil embargo that caused a worldwide energy crisis.

The Yom Kippur War remains one of the most significant conflicts in Middle Eastern history, with lasting implications for the region’s geopolitics and Israeli-Arab relations.

Military Actions between Yom Kippur and 2023

  • Lebanon War (1982): This conflict began when Israel invaded southern Lebanon in response to attempted assassinations against Israeli personnel and persistent attacks, including rocket fire into northern Israel by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) operating in Lebanon. The war resulted in the expulsion of the PLO from Lebanon and the establishment of a security zone in southern Lebanon. The war also saw the infamous Siege of Beirut and the Sabra and Shatila massacre, which drew international condemnation.

First Intifada (1987-1993): While not a conventional war between state armies, the First Intifada was a significant uprising by Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip against Israeli occupation. It was marked by widespread protests, civil disobedience, and clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

Second Intifada (Al-Aqsa Intifada) (2000-2005): This was another major uprising by Palestinians. It was more violent than the first, with frequent terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, and a strong military response from Israel. This period saw a significant loss of life on both sides.

2006 Lebanon War (July War): This conflict was between Israel and Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed Shia Islamist militant group based in Lebanon. It began with Hezbollah’s cross-border raid into Israel and subsequent kidnapping of Israeli soldiers, leading to a full-scale conflict. Israel conducted a major military operation in Lebanon, including airstrikes and a ground invasion, while Hezbollah launched rockets into northern Israel. The war ended with a United Nations-brokered ceasefire.

These conflicts have had profound effects on regional politics, military tactics, and the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East. Each conflict has contributed to the complexity of the Arab-Israeli dispute and has had long-standing implications for peace and security in the region.