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Yom Kipper War : Opening Day of battle

November 17, 2011  by: Madan G Singh  Points: 12   Category: Others    Views: 499

The 1973 Egyptian Israeli war also known as the Yom Kipper war ushered in a peace treaty between the two nations. The first day of the battle was the most important


In 1973 President Anwar Sadat decided that the time had come to change the equation with Israel. After the 1967 rout of the Arabs in the war where the Egyptians had lost their entire Air Force in the first day of battle, the moral was low. They were thus keen to make amends. Aided by his Soviet advisors (Sadat at that time was in the Russian camp) he chose Yom kipper for the day of the assault.

Yom Kipper is the holiest day of the year for the Jews and is celebrated as the Day of Atonement with a 25 hour fast. Sadat and his advisors rightly thought that the Israeli guard would be down and the Egyptian army could achieve surprise.

The Israeli Army had a defense line along the Suez Canal which was the de-facto border after the defeat of 1967 and the capture of Sinai by Israel. We shall have a look at this defense line.

The Bar Lev Line

The Israeli army had in the Sinai Peninsula the 252 Armor Division. This had 2 tank brigades namely the 14th tank brigade and the 401st tank brigade. One tank brigade the 460th tank brigade had just been positioned at Golan facing the Syrians. Thus when the Egyptians crossed the Suez in the early hours of the morning the 14th brigade was the only armor unit stopping the Egyptians.

The Israelis had divided the defense of the Sinai into 3 zones. The northern zone was manned by the 275th Infantry Territorial Brigade, while in the central zone the defense was in the hands of the 14th tank and in the south the 52nd Tank battalion with 32 tanks held fort. In all the Israeli had 289 tanks ready for action.

For their defense the Israelis had created a system of observation posts all along the Suez Canal, which has a length of 157 km. The Israelis had also mined the bank of the canal as well as established barged wire defenses. This line of defense was referred to as the Bar-lev line. The Israelis had also a second line of defense in the shape of oil pipes, entering the canal. In the event of an assault these pipes would spill oil in the canal and set the canal on fire. But over the years these pipes had rusted and their utility was thus limited. To defend the Bra lev line the Israelis had 28 Infantry platoons. The Israelis had some pieces of artillery which were well defended. These were the 155mm and 120 mm heavy guns. But all in all the Israeli's never expected an Egyptian attack.

The Onset of Yom Kipper Battle

This was the order of battle that faced the Egyptian army who were well aware of the disposition and strength of the Israeli force as spy satellites of the Soviet Union regularly passed information to the Egyptians.

On the day of the attack the Israeli units because of the Yom Kipper festival were understaffed. More important the Israeli guard was down as Israeli intelligence did not expect an Egyptian attack.

The America spy satellites did see some troop movements, but these were not considered significant. Thus when the Egyptian army struck across the Suez Canal the Israeli forces were initially taken by surprise. The Egyptians could establish a bridgehead, but that is all where they went as the Israelis quickly recovered and regrouped. The Egyptians just could not move beyond the bridgehead.

The opening day of this war, popularly called the Yom kipper War is important as the Egyptian army could get some pride back and strengthened the hands of Sadat in the subsequent peace negotiations, when Israel vacated Sinai in return for a peace treaty with Egypt.


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