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Arab-Israeli Wars

The 1973–74 War (The Yom Kippur War)

During 1973 the Arab states, believing that their complaints against Israel were going unheeded (despite the mounting use by the Arabs of threats to cut off oil supplies in an attempt to soften the pro-Israel stance of the United States), quietly prepared for war, led by Egypt's President Anwar Sadat. On Oct. 6, 1973, the Jewish holy day Yom Kippur, a two-pronged assault on Israel was launched. Egyptian forces struck eastward across the Suez Canal and pushed the Israelis back, while the Syrians advanced from the north. Iraqi forces joined the war and, in addition, Syria received some support from Jordan, Libya, and the smaller Arab states. The attacks caught Israel off guard, and it was several days before the country was fully mobilized; Israel then forced the Syrians and Egyptians back and, in the last hours of the war, established a salient on the west bank of the Suez Canal, but these advances were achieved at a high cost in soldiers and equipment.

Through U.S. and Soviet diplomatic pressures and the efforts of the United Nations, a tenuous cease-fire was implemented by Oct. 25. Israel and Egypt signed a cease-fire agreement in November, but Israeli-Syrian fighting continued until a cease-fire was negotiated in 1974. Largely as a result of the diplomatic efforts of U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Israel withdrew back across the Suez Canal and several miles inland from the east bank behind a UN-supervised cease-fire zone. On the Syrian front too, Israeli territorial gains made in the war were given up.

After the war Egyptian and Syrian diplomatic relations with the United States, broken since the 1967 war, were resumed, and clearance of the Suez Canal began. The 1973–74 War brought about a major shift of power in the Middle East and ultimately led to the signing of the Camp David accords.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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