On 6 October 1973, the combined forces of Egypt and Syria launched a massive two pronged assault against Israel. On the Sinai Peninsula, the Egyptians breached the Israeli defenses along the Suez Canal and pushed into Israeli held territory. In northern Israel, along the Golan Heights, Syrian armor forces assaulted the lightly defended Israeli positions, attempting to retake the territory lost in the 1967 Six Days War.
The attack by the Arab nations caught the Israelis off guard, despite the telltale signs of growing militancy among their Arab neighbors. It also happened to coincide with the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, which meant that the Israeli reserve forces were largely celebrating the holiday at home with their families. The Israelis initially struggled to formulate a counterattack against their Egyptian and Syrian opponents, but within days on the initial attack with the reserves recalled and deployed to the front lines the Israelis were able to turn the tide of battle. Within a week of the initial attack the Israelis were on the offensive against Egypt and Syria and were poised to strike against each of their opponents capitals with their ground forces. The conflict ended on 25 October, a few short weeks after it had started with the Israelis once again victorious. What had started out so promising for the Egyptian and Syrian forces quickly turned to an abysmal defeat, yet for the Israelis the victory could not be wildly celebrated because the surprise attack had shown the failures in Israeli intelligence and weakness in their defenses.
War between Israel and their neighbors was not a recent occurrence. Since the formation of the Jewish state in 1948, Israel had been in perpetual conflict with their neighbors with the Egyptians largely commanding the Arab forces. Time and again the small Jewish state found itself fighting on numerous fronts against their Arab opponents, yet always prevailed victorious. In 1967, following growing tension between the Arab states and Israel, which included the Egyptians forcing the United Nations to withdrawal from the demilitarized zone in the Sinai Peninsula, Israel took matters into their own hands and struck a crucial blow.
In a surprise air attack, Israeli planes attacked Egyptian, Syrian, and Jordanian airfields on the morning of 5 June 1967. The attack completely debilitated the air forces of their Arab counterparts, leaving Israel with complete air supremacy over the battlefield. Israeli ground forces struck against Egyptian forces in the Sinai, pushing them across the peninsula and controlling the whole of the region. In the north Israeli forces seized the crucial Golan Heights, a region that was vital to providing water to the agriculture of northern Israel. In the West Bank, Israeli forces were able to drive Jordanian forces out, and for the first time in nearly 2,000 years the Jewish people once again had complete control over the city of Jerusalem.
Look for more information regarding the history of conflict between Israel and Egypt in the upcoming Modern War issue #19 with the article “The Battle of the Chinese Farm” and join the conversation on Facebook!