Forty years ago, the bloodiest confrontation occurred stories Arab-Israeli Relations - Doomsday War. The Egyptian and Syrian armies began attacking the positions of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) on the day that fell on Yom Kippur in the Jewish calendar that day (in Hebrew, the Day of Atonement). In Arabic literature, there are other names of this confrontation - from neutral “October war” and “War of the Tenth day of Ramadan”, to the shocking - “October victory”, “Great war”.
During this war, Israel suffered the greatest casualties in its history - 2656 soldiers were killed and 11 630 received injuries of varying severity. About 500 Israelis were taken prisoner. The losses of the Egyptians and Syrians are estimated only roughly. They are about 9000 killed and roughly 18 000 wounded. The Israeli captive turned 9370 Egyptian and Syrian soldiers and officers.
MOLDOU MEIR COULD SECURE ONE ANGEL ONLY
In Jerusalem, they were well aware that after the IDF defeated the armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan during the Six Day War in June 1967, the Arab world would not accept defeat and sooner or later re-enter the battle with the Jews. However, Israel’s military and political elite were still impressed by the past crushing victories of the IDF.
On the eve of the Judgment Day 1973, the top leadership of the Jewish state decided not to break away from the people and took a short vacation in order to be on the most important Jewish holiday with their family and closest relatives. Yehuda Avner, who served as assistant to the five heads of government of Israel, author of the acclaimed book “Prime Ministers”, writes in an article entitled “Days of Wrath and Great Victims” published in The Jerusalem Post, an English-language Israeli newspaper, dedicated to the 40 anniversary of the War Doomsday: “The very idea of an Arab attack would be an insult to the divine vision of the military doctrine adopted in Jerusalem that day. It was based on the fact that neither Egypt nor Syria was able to wage an all-out war. ”
The hero of the Six-Day War, Minister of Defense General Moshe Dayan, managed to convince the then Prime Minister of the country Golda Meir that in Cairo and Damascus they do not even think about a new battle with the Israeli army. According to Dayan, the leaders of the neighboring Arab states are aware that it will take them at least ten years to recover from the 1967 defeat of the year and achieve combat capability that can give hope of victory over the Israelis. Moreover, according to recently declassified data, the agents of AMAN (Israeli Military Intelligence Service) and Mossad (Israeli Foreign Intelligence) warned their immediate superiors that Egypt and Syria would start a war with Israel on the Day of Judgment. However, the director of AMAN, General Eli Zeira, supporting the point of view of Dayan, did not pay attention to the warnings of his agents. And this is despite the fact that the director of the MOSSAD, Zvi Zamir, did not doubt that Egypt and Damascus were preparing an attack on Israel precisely on the Day of Judgment.
It must be said that an Angel agent worked at Mossad. This pseudonym hid none other than Asraf Marouane, the son-in-law of former President Nasser, who after the death of his father-in-law received a position in the office of the new president, Anwar Sadat. It was the “Angel” who transmitted information about the breakthrough to the Sinai being prepared by the Egyptians. However, the Israeli leader demanded evidence from Zamir from other agents. Then the director of Mossad personally went to Europe to check information about the war being prepared by the Arabs. Early in the morning of October 6, he gave an urgent crypto telegram to Jerusalem, in which there were only three words: “Today the war will begin!”
Only after this, in fact, the cry of despair, Golda Meir gave the order to mobilize reservists. Moreover, according to Israeli intelligence, the Egyptian breakthrough was supposed to begin at six in the evening, but Sadat moved him to two in the afternoon.
In Israel in the evening, on the eve of the Day of Judgment, and the next light day, ordinary life is suspended. Local television and radio does not work, newspapers do not go out, public and private transport runs only in Arab neighborhoods. All institutions, educational institutions, shops, restaurants, cafes are closed. It is clear that this day, the only one of the year, seemed to the strategists who planned the attack on the Jewish state to be very attractive.
In Cairo and Damask, they didn’t learn much
According to biblical laws, human life is the most precious thing, and in the name of its preservation, it is permissible to violate all religious precepts. Moreover, they are simply canceled. Therefore, even on Judgment Day, hospitals, police stations, fire stations and all public utilities continue to operate in Israel. However, only in standby mode, with a minimum number of employees. On the Day of Judgment, the majority of soldiers receive layoffs and only duty teams remain at military bases. They took the first blow of the Egyptians in the south and the Syrians in the north.
Egyptian and Syrian strategists did not take into account one important factor. According to the Israeli military concept, the first strike of the enemy takes on tsava sadir (personnel army). And at the same time during the 48 hours miluimniki (reservists) are mobilized, who, joining the personnel units, constitute the power of the IDF. So, given the Doomsday, all highways in Israel were free and full mobilization was carried out in less than 15 hours.
In his memoirs, entitled “My Life,” then-Prime Minister Golda Meir recalls the last day before the war: “On Friday, October 5, we received a message that worried me. The families of Russian advisers in Syria hastily packed and left the country. It reminded me of what happened before the Six Day War, and didn’t like it very much. What kind of rush? What do these Russian families know, what do we not know? .. From the whole flow of information that reached my office, it was this little message that put a root in my mind. But since no one around was worried about this, I also tried not to succumb to obsession ...
I asked the Minister of Defense, the chief of staff, the chief of intelligence: do not they think this message is very important? No, it did not change their assessment of the situation at all. I was assured that in the event of an alarm, we would be warned in time, and, in addition, sufficient reinforcements were sent to the fronts to keep the ceasefire line, if necessary. Everything necessary has been done, the army, especially aviation и tank units are in readiness number one. "
In fact, there was no deception at all. There was the lack of professionalism of Golda Meir as an analyst and ordinary human carelessness, deadly for statesmen. Yakov Kedmi (Kazakov), a native of Moscow, who in 1992 – 1999 led Natyv (Lishkat Ha-Nesher - Bureau of Liaison with Russia and Eastern Europe) during the Yom Kippur War served as a tanker officer. In her recent book of memoirs, Hopeless Wars, Kedmi writes: “Golda Meir relied on assurances and promises from the army, and the army did not live up to expectations. Neither the Air Force, nor the Ground Forces, nor the Northern or the Southern Fronts fulfilled their obligations. Accused of all intelligence. Well, what if intelligence warned that the war would start on October 6? Would we be able to prevent the Egyptian army from forcing the canal? Or would additional forces be transferred to the Golan Heights? After all, the General Staff was convinced that with the balance of power, which he himself determined, regular units of the Israeli army would be able to keep both the Egyptian and Syrian armies on the 1967 borders of the year for at least 48 hours. ”
Egyptians successfully destroyed Israeli armored vehicles weaponsshipped from the USA and the USSR. Photo from the book Gammala Hammad "Military clashes on the Egyptian front."
Publishing House Dar al-Shuruq, Egypt
Publishing House Dar al-Shuruq, Egypt
AND OUR AND YOUR
This is how the United States behaved during the Doomsday War. In English, this phrase sounds even more unattractive: To run with the hare and hurt with hounds, which in an accurate translation means "Run with the hare and hunt with the dogs."
A prominent Israeli publicist, Dov Kontorer, in a note entitled “Part of the free world” published in the Vesti-2 newspaper, supplemented to the Russian-language Israeli newspaper Vesti, states that the then United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was not very sympathetic to Israel (despite its Jewish origin), made many gestures towards President Sadat in an attempt to incline him to the American side. And these attempts, in the end, were crowned with success, despite the enormous free economic and especially military assistance that the Soviet Union had provided to Egypt for decades. For example, Counteror writes: “In July, 1972, Egypt declared its desire to become part of the free world, expelling the main body of Soviet military personnel from its territory. This gesture was appreciated by the United States, which entered into a trusting dialogue with the Egyptian leadership. Already in May, 1973, the result of this process was the absolute US veto on any version of the Israeli preventive attack. The leaders of the Jewish state stated in the most categorical terms that the new war in the Middle East should under no circumstances start the first Israeli shot. But Israel, which has no strategic depth, in the event of a sudden attack by the enemy armies of the states surrounding it, risks losing the opportunity for any tactical maneuver.
In 1981, the Israeli historian Mordechai Sacker in the book “Soften Folder” reported that Kissinger convinced Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan not to pay attention to the intelligence reports. When Egypt and Syria attacked Israel, Kissinger at first cut off the supply of arms and ammunition to the Jewish state. It is this that Sacker explains the information that is not confirmed by any documents or witness testimony that Moshe Dayan and Golda Meir, in case of an Egyptian and Syrian breakthrough to the center of the country, were ready to use atomic weapons against them, and then commit suicide.
The Syrians unexpectedly attacked the Israelis in the Golan Heights with three motorized and two armored divisions numbering at least 1200 tanks and about 45 thousand soldiers and officers. Israeli positions were held by all 180 tanks and 4500 military personnel. The tenfold superiority of the Syrians and the effect of surprise played a part. In the early hours of the war, Syrian paratroopers, having landed by helicopter, captured fortifications on Mount Hermon, known as the "eyes of Israel." Syrian MiGs bombed Jewish settlements in the north of the country. The breakthrough plan of the so-called “Purple Line” - the border fixed by the truce between the Jewish state and Syria established after the Six Day War was prepared with the active participation of the Syrian Defense Minister, then 41-year-old Mustafa Tlas, who had carefully studied the work of Marshal Georgy Zhukov. Much later, in 1986, in Paris, at Sorbonne University, Tlas defended his doctoral thesis on the strategic talent of Georgy Zhukov.
October 8 for Syrian tanks to Haifa, the northern capital of Israel, was only a few hours to go. Israeli air raids were broken on five belts of missile defense, created on the approaches to Damascus. It was then that the world's media first showed captured Israelis. Eyewitnesses of the battles of that October day in the Golan testify: the first three days the Syrians attacked without interruption, wave after wave, passing through minefields and using special bridges overcoming anti-tank ditches. "Katyusha" conducted a powerful shelling of Israeli positions. However, the IDF grouping in the Golan continued fierce resistance.
Syrian aviation had Soviet-made 300 aircraft. In the first three days there could be no complaints about the Syrian air defense. With its 20 military bases, the IDF fired 120 rocket launchers. Thus, Syria’s missile defense system covered its attacking divisions. It is wrong to believe that the Syrians were armed only with Soviet-made weapons. The Americans delivered SAM rockets to Damascus (the first letter S comes from the English word Surface, translated from Russian as “surface”; the letter A from English Air means “air”; M from Missle means “target”). It was these missiles that made up the power of the Syrian air defenses during the Doomsday War, which caused significant damage to Israeli aviation.
TANKS, AND NOT ONLY
On the southern front, the situation at first developed for Jerusalem almost tragically. On the eve of the Day of Judgment, 10 – 15% of the servicemen stipulated by the criteria remained on the “LB”. In addition, the confusion that arose during an unexpected blow, mixed all the plans. Thus, according to a number of data that became known after the Doomsday War, a defensive anti-tank ditch built by the IDF parallel to the Suez Canal, in the very first minutes of an enemy attack, was to be filled with gasoline and immediately set on fire. It was assumed that the resulting wall of fire will be another obstacle to the advancement of the Egyptians. But there was no gasoline in the ditch, there was nothing to set fire to, and for the Egyptians the Suez Canal was not a serious obstacle.
To break through the “LB”, the Egyptians used 160 water cannons, essentially water cannons, purchased in England and Germany. These guns blurred the passages in the multimeter sand mound, which was a barrier to infantry, and especially tanks. Egyptian infantry began to consolidate on the Asian coast of the canal within 30 minutes after the start of hostilities. However, heavy fire from Israeli bunkers deprived the Egyptians of any maneuver. To reinforce their infantry, Egypt threw tanks that passed along the pontoon bridge across the canal and along the 70 made into the embankments of the aisles.
Towards the Egyptians, the IDF commanders threw their few tank reserves. But Israeli armored vehicles - again, due to the surprise of the strike - were advancing without prior reconnaissance and without the support of infantry. Therefore, their counterstrike failed. After all, the Egyptian assault groups for every three or four soldiers had an RPG-7 anti-tank grenade launcher.
But Israeli tanks were burning not only from Soviet grenade launchers. In the early days of the war, Soviet anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) of the “Baby” type delivered to the Egyptians perfectly proved themselves. It was the Egyptian ATGM operators that became the first Arab heroes of that war. Mohammed Ibrahim Abd el Moneim al-Musri, who was 1973 years old in 25, burned Israeli tanks with his “Little” 27. He was awarded the 2 degree Order of the Star of Sinai. Sergeant Abdel Ati Sharaf destroyed 23 enemy tank in front of his commanders and officers of the Libyan army. The Egyptians awarded Sharaf, as well as al-Musri, the Order of the Star of Sinai of the 2 degree, and the Libyans received their Order of Honor.
Here I will note that the Libyan Jamahiriya supplied the Mirage fighters of French manufacture to the Egyptians and provided financial assistance in the amount of one billion dollars. Iraq sent to the aid of the Syrians expeditionary corps as part of 30 thousand troops, 500 tanks and 700 armored personnel carriers. Algeria provided three fighter and bomber squadrons, a brigade of soldiers and tanks. Sudan sent 3,5 thousand soldiers to the aid of the Egyptians, and Tunisia sent about a thousand. Morocco sent three brigades to help the Arab brothers, and Pakistan sent 16 pilots. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait provided enormous financial assistance (so far, its monetary value is unknown) and several army battalions. Arab states demanded that the Jordanian King Hussein enter the fighting, but he, not believing in victory, declined to participate in the Doomsday War. Only in the last hours of the war did Jordanian legionnaires come to the aid of the Syrians. But this help did not solve anything.
One of the tanks destroyed by al-Musri was commanded by Lt. Col. Asaf Yaguri, who was captured. Together with him, the Egyptians captured two more officers and three soldiers. The officers were left alive, and the soldiers were shot. Yaguri was the highest-ranking Israeli officer captured by Arabs during the Doomsday War. After 46 days, this officer and all 300 Israeli soldiers captured in Egyptian and Syrian captivity were exchanged for almost 9 thousand Egyptian and Syrian prisoners.
After the success of the first days of the war, the Egyptians began to run out of steam. There was a temporary lull. After the reserves approach, Cairo resumed the October 14 attack in 6.30 in the morning by two tank and four infantry divisions. Using a huge margin in the number of tanks and military personnel, the Egyptians advanced 6 – 10 kilometers, but they could not overcome the stubborn resistance of the Jews. Egyptian troops were stopped by Israeli tanks 200, dug into the ground, as well as by helicopters armed with American ATGMs like TOW (from the English abbreviation Tube-launched optically-tracked wire guided - “electronic launching optical missile system on a track”). Interestingly, the same anti-tank missiles Americans put to the Egyptians, the Saudis and armies of other Muslim countries, but they were not fully used in the battles against the IDF. In these battles, the commander of the Israeli armored units in Sinai, General Abraham (Albert) Mendler, was killed - the very “Baby” hit his staff APC. But the death of a senior Israeli military leader did not save the Egyptians from defeat.
Ariel Sharon, the future prime minister of Israel, called in the IDF on the very first day of this war the turn of the war. On the night of October 16, a small detachment of seven Soviet amphibious tanks PT-76 captured by Israel as trophies in the Six-Day War and eight again captured Soviet BTR-50P crossed the Bitter Lake at the junction of the 2 and 3 of the Egyptian armies. The Arabs did not allow even the idea of landing in their rear Israeli tanks. Therefore, they initially did not attach importance to this enemy beachhead. And expensive for such inattention paid.
BATTLE ON "CHINESE FARM"
Israeli historians believe that the victory of the IDF in this battle, which lasted four days, from 15 to 18 of October, decided the outcome of the Doomsday War in favor of the Jewish state. Often, the battle there is called the "Middle East Stalingrad." The “Chinese farm”, located at the northern tip of the Big Gorky Lake, had nothing to do with China. In the northwestern part of this region, before the Six-Day War, an experimental farm of Japanese agriculture was located. The Israeli soldiers who captured this place, who did not understand the differences between Chinese and Japanese characters, gave it the name "Chinese Farm" ("KF"). The Israeli command believed that control over the KF was vital for the implementation of the Fearless plan to force the Suez Canal. This plan was intended to turn the tide of the war in favor of the Jewish state. The fact is that KF covered from the east the place where Ariel Sharon’s 143 Division was to capture the bridgehead and begin building a pontoon bridge and forcing the canal.
On the night of 15 on 16 of October, the division commander, General Sharon, personally supervised the creation of a beachhead on the beach and the delivery of a brigade of paratroopers Colonel Dani Mata and an armored brigade of Colonel Haim Erez to the port. In this case, the paratroopers who received the order to gain a foothold in the KF, were completely cut off from the main forces. In fact, they fought alone. Later, the commander of the troop platoon Hezy Dahbash said: “We then received the task to destroy individual Egyptian groups armed with anti-tank missiles ... For the paratroopers, the task is simple and familiar. But we were completely unprepared that a whole army would stand against us! In the first minute there was a feeling that hell had opened. ”
And in fact, 300 thousand Egyptian soldiers fought against 10 Israeli paratroopers, 2 thousand tanks fought against them. In fact, the Dahbash group, which diverted the main forces of the enemy, was obviously doomed to death. Apparently, the Egyptians did not realize that they were opposed only by a handful of Jews, and they hesitated with the final blow. The battle lasted two days. Of the Israeli paratroopers 300 killed 128, and 62 were injured. However, Sharon's division won the time, and with the support of aviation, his tanks, having crossed over to the African coast, rushed to Cairo, destroying everything in their path. But neither Washington nor Moscow could allow the fall of the Egyptian capital. Yes, and in Jerusalem they understood that another complete war could immediately follow the full capitulation of Egypt, in which unexpected players could take part. Therefore, Jerusalem concluded a truce with Cairo with the assistance of the United States and the Soviet Union.
Damask rescued iraqis
On the northern front, the situation is similar. The Syrian attack soon choked. The Israeli forces, having received reinforcements, launched a counter-offensive on October 8 and 9. By the evening of October 10, the IDF had pushed the Syrian army back over the 1967 ceasefire line of the year, and on October 11, the Israelis had already fought with the Syrians and two Iraqi divisions in Syria.
Defense Minister Moshe Dayan strongly objected to further progress on the territory of Syria. He did not rule out direct military intervention by the Soviet Union. He objected to the head of the IDF's General Staff, Lieutenant-General David Elazar. He believed that it was necessary to advance to a depth of about 22 kilometers and defeat the Syrian group, which can counterattack. Golda Meir took Elazar's side. The Israelis assembled all the surviving tanks into the 7 Brigade and attacked the Syrians under the cover of aviation and artillery.
Syrian troops retreated. The road to Damascus was open. In Jerusalem, they did not even think of taking Damascus for the same reasons as Cairo. Syrian troops feared falling into the "pot". They were saved by the Iraqi expeditionary force. At the end of the day on October 12, the Iraqi tank division attacked two Israeli tank brigades from the march. It was the first battle of the Iraqi tankers in the history of the armed forces of this country. Having no experience, the Iraqi crews came under targeted fire from Israeli tanks. In addition, the Iraqis are very tired, they did not have enough fuel and ammunition. In this battle, the Israelis shot down, according to some data, 80, according to others - 100 of Iraqi tanks. Thus, the Iraqi division was able to knock down the attacking impulse of the IDF for a very short time, but could no longer restrain the Jews.
On the morning of October 16, a Jordanian tank brigade, supported by the Syrian Infantry Division, came to the aid of the Iraqis. The Jordanian and Syrian soldiers in this battle fought bravely, but lost to the Jews from time to time melee fights. In addition, coordination between the Iraqi and Jordanian military was disrupted.
Soon, the IDF broke through the Syrian fortifications and saddled the highway leading to Damascus. For reasons of international concern, the Israelis did not develop the offensive and October 17 stopped 40 kilometers from the Syrian capital. From the last forces, the Syrian army attempted to win back the strategically important peak Hermon on the Golan Heights, but on October 22 the IDF hoisted the Israeli flag there.
GENERAL POWER DOWN
One of the most important consequences of the Doomsday War is to include a review of the attitude of Israeli society to its generals. After all, for many years they looked at the IDF as a sacred cow. For immigrants from the army, especially in high ranks, the doors to politics and big business were always and everywhere open. As for business, this is a separate issue, but in politics the power of the generals is over. Their actions were considered not only ineffective, but even dangerous. Hagay Alon, an Israeli columnist who was born on that very 1973 year, in an article published in October 2010 in the popular Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv, called the Doomsday War "uncomfortable." He noted that as a result of this war, Israeli claims to the status of a world power began to look untenable. According to Alon, the Jewish state is a strong regional player. Perhaps very strong. But no more than that. Israeli generals - not magicians and wizards. They make mistakes that other military men in other countries committed before them.
A prominent Israeli military historian, a former paratrooper, a participant in the Israeli-Arab battles Uri Milstein in an interview comparing the world wars of the twentieth century to the Doomsday War, drew attention to the following facts: "The Germans took into account the experience of the First World War, when they had to constantly dig in and lead sluggish exchange of fire. They decided that they could no longer fight like that. Germany needs a strong, mobile army capable of attacking the enemy, suppressing its resistance and quickly moving deeper into its territory ... The Germans were mistaken only in one thing: they believed that the Russian army would not be able to regain its power after suffering enormous losses. The Egyptians mistakenly thought that the Israelis would lose their morale after the losses they suffered. ”
In Egypt and Syria, the outcome of the Doomsday War is regarded as a victory. On the one hand, there is a clear exaggeration. On the other hand, it was after that war, as a result of the negotiations, that Israel returned the entire Sinai Peninsula to the Egyptians. Until the last centimeter. However, according to most non-engaged historians, both Israeli and Arab, the Israelis won the Doomsday War, but the Arabs did not lose it.