What Was the Yom Kippur War?

B. Schreiber

The Yom Kippur War was a 1973 war that was fought between Israel and the allied Egyptians and Syrians. The war put an end to a Middle East cease fire that had been in place since 1970, as the Egyptian and Syrian militaries surprised Israeli forces on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur. Egypt and Syria were fighting to regain territory they had lost as a consequence of defeat in the 1967 Six-Days' War against Israel. While Israel won the Yom Kippur War in 19 days, it faced negative domestic and international effects afterward. The Cold War undertones of the conflict may have heightened international desire for the later Egyptian-Israeli peace.

The Yom Kippur War in 1973 was fought between Israel and the allied forces of Egypt and Syria.
The Yom Kippur War in 1973 was fought between Israel and the allied forces of Egypt and Syria.

Israel occupied new territories after its victory in the Six-Day's War, including the Golan Heights that had formerly belonged to Syria and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. The leaders of Egypt and Syria joined forces shortly before the war, but for different reasons. Egypt hoped to make Israel recognize its strength in order to force a peace settlement. The president of Syria was seeking political prestige at home by recapturing the Israeil-occupied Golan Heights. The Yom Kippur War began when the two countries' armies attacked under joint command on October 6, 1973.

The UN peace agreement after the war did not address the state of Palestinians living in Israeli-occupied territories.
The UN peace agreement after the war did not address the state of Palestinians living in Israeli-occupied territories.

During the first days of the Yom Kippur War, it seemed the Arab armies of Egypt and Syria had scored quick victories by their rapid advances. Indeed, Israel had been caught unaware by automatically assuming its own military superiority. Then, billions of dollars' worth of United States military aid soon bolstered the position of the Israeli defense forces and curbed further Arab advance. In spite of Soviet aid given to Egypt, an Israeli counter-attack turned back both the Egyptian and Syrian armies. As the Yom Kippur War threatened to become a conflict between the nuclear powers of the United States and the Soviet Union, the two powers urged a new cease fire at the United Nations (UN).

United Nations Security Council Resolution 338 formally ended the Yom Kippur War on October 22, 1973. U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger later helped to negotiate military disengagement between Israel and Syria. While Israel had won by turning back both armies, the high cost of the war caused economic turmoil in that country, and Israel faced international isolation. Political parties in Israel also went through a period of infighting after the war. Also, the UN peace agreement did not address the state of the Palestinian people living in the Israel-occupied territories, which became a more contentious issue following the war.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


@anon335212: Israel gave up Sinai as part of a peace treaty.

Also, Israel did not completely leave Sinai until the early 1980's, almost a decade after the fighting had ended. If Egypt really had won the war, Israel's presence in Sinai should've ceased immediately, and not almost ten years later. The Egyptians did not have a leg to stand on (metaphorically) and if not for American intervention, who knows what would have happened? Israel had the upper hand by the end after all.

In fact, by the time the fighting had ended between Egypt and Israel, the Israeli forces were about 100 km from Cairo. They had pushed beyond the Suez Canal and further.

On the other side, the Israelis were only 40 km from Damascus, and they were shelling the Syrian capital. That does not sound like a victory for either Egypt or Syria.

By the end, Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat had contacted Henry Kissinger regarding a peace treaty, and that does not sound like a winner.

The Arabs had already lost two major wars they instigated against Israel. Their ego couldn't stand another hit, so they decided to rewrite history in their favor.

Furthermore, Egypt became the first Arab state to recognize Israel as a sovereign nation. Once again, would they have recognized their enemy if they had, in fact, won the war?

In 2010, during a visit to Cairo, I stopped by the museum dedicated to the war. To be honest, they had me fooled; I was convinced Egypt had won the war by that time. It wasn't until years later when I studied the conflict more closely that I realized the huge gaps in the Egyptians' side of the story. Like I said, they couldn't afford another loss and lying would be more comforting than admitting yet another defeat.

In conclusion, Egypt and Syria carried out a surprise attack on Israel with the support of ten other nations and soldiers from two more (Iraq and Jordan) and they outnumbered the Israelis with about 300,000 soldiers, yet Egypt ended up losing thousands of lives more than the Israelis had.

Israel had pushed further into Egyptian territory. Egypt had completely ruined their relations with their ally, the Soviet Union, and harmed their relations with the rest of the Arab League. They became the first Arab nation to recognize their sworn enemy as an independent nation. They had once again been humiliated on the world stage and not long after that, President Sadat was assassinated by his own people. And it took almost 10 years for the Israelis to finally give back Sinai as opposed to immediately, which is how it usually works when one side wins a war.

Once again, does this sound like a victory for the Egyptians?


If Israel won the war at October 1973 as you claim, why did they leave Sinai for the Egyptians? It is well known that Israel is an occupation state which never give up lands for others.

Post your comments
Forgot password?