6 October – On this day

The Yom Kippur War, Ramadan War, or October War also known as the 1973 Arab–Israeli War, began on this day in 1973 when a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria attacked Israel.

With the exception of isolated attacks on Israeli territory on 6 and 9 October, the military combat actions during the war took place on Arab territory, mostly in the Sinai and the Golan Heights. The strategic aims of Egypt and Syria was to recapture the Sinai and the Golan Heights respectively. The Egyptian’s also wanted to reopen the Suez Canal. Both Arab powers were limiting their objectives to the rapid seizure of these lost territories because they knew that the US and Soviet Union would intervene to bring a halt to the conflict.

The war began when the Arab coalition launched a joint surprise attack on Israeli positions in the Israeli-occupied territories on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism, which also occurred that year during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Egyptian and Syrian forces crossed ceasefire lines to enter the Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights respectively, which had been captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. Both the United States and the Soviet Union initiated massive resupply efforts to their respective allies during the war, and this led to a near-confrontation between the two nuclear superpowers.

The war began with a massive and successful Egyptian crossing of the Suez Canal. After crossing the cease-fire lines, Egyptian forces advanced virtually unopposed into the Sinai Peninsula. After three days, Israel had mobilized most of its forces and managed to halt the Egyptian offensive, settling into a stalemate. The Syrians coordinated their attack on the Golan Heights to coincide with the Egyptian offensive and initially made threatening gains into Israeli-held territory. Within three days, however, Israeli forces had managed to push the Syrians back to the pre-war ceasefire lines. They then launched a four-day counter-offensive deep into Syria. Within a week, Israeli artillery began to shell the outskirts of Damascus. As Egyptian president Anwar Sadat began to worry about the integrity of his major ally, he believed that capturing two strategic passes located deeper in the Sinai would make his position stronger during the negotiations. He therefore ordered the Egyptians to go back on the offensive, but the attack was quickly repulsed. The Israelis then counter-attacked at the seam between the two Egyptian armies, crossed the Suez Canal into Egypt, and began slowly advancing southward and westward towards Suez in over a week of heavy fighting that inflicted high casualties on both sides.

On October 22 a United Nations-brokered ceasefire quickly unravelled, with each side blaming the other for the breach. By October 24, the Israelis had improved their position considerably and completed their encirclement of Egypt’s Third Army and the city of Suez. This development led to tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. As a result, a second ceasefire was imposed cooperatively on October 25 to end the war.

The war had far-reaching implications. The Arab World, which had been humiliated by the lopsided rout of the Egyptian–Syrian–Jordanian alliance in the Six-Day War, felt psychologically vindicated by early successes in the conflict. In Israel, despite impressive operational and tactical achievements on the battlefield, the war led to recognition that there was no guarantee it would always dominate the Arab states militarily. These changes paved the way for the subsequent peace process. The 1978 Camp David Accords that followed led to the return of the Sinai to Egypt and normalized relations—the first peaceful recognition of Israel by an Arab country. Egypt continued its drift away from the Soviet Union and left the Soviet sphere of influence entirely.

The Israeli’s committed some 400,000+ troops, 1700 tanks and 440 combat aircraft while total Arab forces (including allies) were 1,000,000+ troops, 3600 tanks and 452 combat aircraft. Total losses are more difficult to estimate with official data sketchy or conflicting, but based on available data:

Israel: 9,750+ dead or wounded, 1000+ tanks destroyed or captured, 200+ aircraft destroyed

Arabs: 26,000+ dead or wounded, 8,783 captured, 2,250+ tanks destroyed, 350+ aircraft destroyed

Territory held at end of 1973 conflict
Territory held at end of 1973 conflict