Two Deep Mysteries of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War
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Forty-seven years ago, Egypt and Syria launched a massive surprise attack on Israeli forces dug into fortifications along the Suez Canal and Golan Heights. The âlimitedâ Arab objective was to recapture both strategic areas that had been seized from the two Arab states in Israelâs victorious 1967 War.
Re-armed with modern â but by no means top drawer â Soviet weapons, Egypt and Syria sought to drive the Israelis back, then wait for the great powers to impose a truce. It was a badly flawed strategy, which assured the heavily armed Israelis would control the military initiative with their superiority in air power and armor.
At first, the Arab surprise attack caught Israel flat-footed. Israeli reserve armored forces were still in storage when Egyptian and Syrian armor and infantry stormed across the 1967 cease-fire lines.
Warnings of the impending assault from the most important Israeli spy, Ashraf Marwan â amazingly the son-in law of the late Egyptian president, Gamal Abdel Nasser â were ignored or shrugged off in Israel which was still filled with hubris over its lopsided, US-assisted victory in the 1967 War.
This was the first big mystery of the 1973 War. Was Marwan really a Mossad spy or a double agent, as Egypt later claimed, disinforming Israel on the time of the Arab offensive? Marwan later fell to his death â or was pushed â from a London apartment.
Syriaâs armor drove into the Golan Heights from their starting positions on the plains east of Golan and the Mount Hermon massif.
The opening Arab assault was a remarkable success. I walked much of the Suez Canal soon after the war and was awed that Egyptâs military engineers had managed to get so many tanks and men across the wide canal under enemy fire.
Equally amazing was Egyptian infantry using highly effective new Soviet Sagger anti-tank missiles and air defense units employing SAM-6 anti-aircraft missiles to blunt Israeli counter attacks.