LThe coordinated offensive launched by Presidents Anwar El-Sadat and Hafez Al-Assad on October 6, 1973, began with the crossing of the Suez Canal by 100,000 Egyptian soldiers, supported by a thousand armored vehicles.
At the same time, 35,000 Syrian soldiers, supported by eight hundred tanks, broke through, after fierce fighting, the Israeli lines on the Golan Heights.
A helicopter-borne Syrian commando even managed to seize the Mount Hermon station, the highest point in the area. Three hours before the assault, Prime Minister Golda Meir had warned the United States of the imminence of the conflict, about which Israeli intelligence, with informants at the top of the Egyptian state, had not no doubt. But Moshe Dayan, the defense minister, was convinced that his air force could contain the Arab offensive and preferred not to immediately mobilize the reserves.
The revenge of the “Six-Days”
Dayan’s authority was all the less contested as he remained the triumphant of June 1967, the man who had conquered for Israel, in just six days, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as well as the Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Syria’s Golan Heights. But Dayan, still intoxicated by this lightning victory, had not taken seriously the patient rearmament efforts led by Cairo and Damascus.
Above all, he had not understood that the successors of the two defeated in 1967, Sadat (who succeeded Nasser upon his death in September 1970) and Assad (who overthrew Jedid two months later) had to, if only to consolidate their power, erase the humiliation of the “Six-Days”. The relative slowness of the Israeli reaction was therefore attributed to the Yom Kippur holiday, the date of the start of hostilities, hence the name “Kippur War” often given to this conflict. The Arab side prefers to call it the “Ramadan War”, since it took place during the Muslim fasting month. As for historians, they favor the “October War”.
On October 8, Michel Jobert, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, asked about his country’s position, responded with another question: ” Does trying to set foot back home constitute a necessarily unforeseen attack? » This reaction sparks a lively controversy, François Mitterrand describing it as “ cynical “.
But only Assad hopes to recover the Golan by force, Sadat having only resorted to arms to break the diplomatic deadlock and bring about mediation by the United States. Henry Kissinger, just appointed to the State Department, nevertheless convinced Richard Nixon to launch an airlift of military assistance to Israel. A few months after the peace agreements on Vietnam, Washington cannot allow allies of the USSR to impose the terms of the negotiation on the battlefield. US rotations towards Israel are intensifying, even as the Golan Heights are being reoccupied and the 3e Egyptian army risks encirclement in the Sinai.
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