Every day, find a summary of the events that happened 40 years ago during the Yom Kippur War right here. Follow the advance of the troops on the ground day by day, with historical pictures and maps pointing out where battles occurred.
- October 6, 1973
- October 7, 1973
- October 8, 1973
- October 9, 1973
- October 10, 1973
- October 11, 1973
- October 12, 1973
- October 13, 1973
- October 14, 1973
- October 15, 1973
- October 16, 1973
After the Six Day War in 1967, Israel gained new territories and therefore faced new challenges. The IDF had to guard the Sinai border along the Suez Canal, where it installed numerous posts on what was called the Bar-Lev line. The Golan Heights was also new territory for the IDF to defend.
After they were swiftly defeated in the Six Day War, the Arab countries surrounding Israel wanted to redeem themselves, and sought to regain lost territories. From 1972, the Egyptian and Syrian militaries rebuilt themselves from the ground up. They acquired up-to-date equipment, mainly through the USSR: MiGs, T-55 and T-62 tanks, anti-aircraft missiles (SA2-3-6-7) and Sagger anti-tank guided missiles. By October 1972, Anwar Sadat, President of Egypt, was already speaking about attacking Israel in private meetings with his army staff… Read more
At 2:00 p.m., the Egyptian artillery and air force bomb IDF positions along the Bar-Lev line at Israel’s southern frontier in the Sinai. Nearly 2000 tanks and artillery posts take part. Five Egyptian infantry divisions cross the canal in small boats. IDF forces on the ground are the 252th Sinai Division of Brigadier General Avraham Mendler and under it the 14th Armored Brigade of Colonel Amnon Reshef, guarding a 200km-long frontier. They both suffer losses, notably due to Egypt’s use of the easily-transportable Sagger anti-tank guided missile. By night, Egyptian T-55 tanks have crossed the canal.
The Israel Air Force is called on to act but Egypt’s anti-aircraft missiles take down planes and limit the Air Force’s ability to strike. The first aerial encounter occurs over the southern part of the Sinai (out of range of anti-aircraft missiles). Egyptian MiGs (17 and 21) are discovered in Israeli skies, and two F-4 Phantoms are sent in pursuit. After six minutes of aerial fighting, seven Egyptian MiGs are taken down by the IDF pilots. This is the first aerial hit of the war.
At night, five battalions of Egyptian commandos (around 900 soldiers) are brought by helicopters deep into strategic points in the Sinai in order to attack and disturb the arrival of IDF reserve troops. Aware of their intention, the Israel Air Force sends Phantom and Nesher fighter jets to find and destroy the Egyptian helicopters. Together they take down about 20 helicopters while another six are taken down by the Armored Corps on the ground. The commandos’ attack is ineffective. Very few helicopters manage to land their troops.
At 2:00pm, Syrian forces attack with artillery and air strikes. Three Syrian divisions are advancing towards Israeli territory. The Syrian Armored Division joins them during the night. On the ground, the IDF has two armored brigades of the 36th Division, led by Rafael Eitan. The 188th Armored Brigade covers the south of the Golan Heights, while the 7th Armored Division covers the north. Combat is intense, and as night falls, the Syrians gain great advantage because of their tank night vision systems, which Israeli tanks do not have. The IDF manages to stop the Syrian army in the northern Golan Heights, but in the south, Syrian tanks and troops manage to cross the border and enter Israeli territory.
At 3 p.m., Syrian commandos land on Mount Hermon, dropped in by helicopters. IDF soldiers are quickly forced to move into the army post and hide. Some of the soldiers locked in try to escape, but with no success. Over 10 soldiers are killed and more than 30 are taken as prisoners of war.
Soon after the start of war, Israeli naval forces send five missile boats to attack Syrian boats near the Latakia coast at night. The first Syrian boat is taken down by 76 mm cannon fire. Two IDF ships are in pursuit of the second Syrian boat. Once the reach the correct range, they fire two missiles and hit the boat. The Israelis use electronic warfare techniques to evade Syrian missiles, and sink three Syrian missile boats, a torpedo boat and a mine-layer.
On the second day of the war, tens of thousands of Egyptian troops cross the canal with hundreds of tanks. They take control of many IDF posts along the canal. The IDF armored units are not prepared to face such force and suffer great loss. The 162th Reserve Division lead by Avraham Adan and the 143th Reserve Division lead by Ariel Sharon are brought in to reinforce the 252th Sinai Division lead by Avraham Mendler. Adan’s division would head to the northern front, Sharon’s division to the center and Mendler’s division to the south. In a reunion of the Southern Command, the Chief of Staff declares: “I ask you remember your divisions are all that stands between the Egyptians and Tel-Aviv.” By the end of the day, the Egyptians have installed 13 bridges and have gained a bridgehead of three-to-four kilometers east of the canal.
The Israel Air Force tries to target the Egyptian bridges but their anti-air missiles pose too many problems. It decides to launch Operation Tagar with the intention of neutralizing the Egyptian airport before destroying the anti-aircraft missile launcher and finally destroying the anti-aircraft missiles themselves. The IAF has to abort the mission because they are needed in the north to support troops on the Syrian front. Because the first planes are already armed and ready, the IAF decides to go for the first wave of attacks at 06.45 a.m., and targets seven Egyptian air bases at 7:20 a.m.
During the night, two Egyptian missile boats fire at a radar position of the Israeli Navy not far from El-Arish. The Navy sends two missile boats in pursuit. They fire an anti-ship missile (Gabriel) but do not hit the Egyptian boats because of a technical failure. Called by the Navy, the IAF send two F-4 phantoms to target the Egyptian boat. After the first few misses, the jet makes a hit and sinks the first Egyptian boat. But the Navy is out of missiles and the IAF cannot make another attack. It is then decided to stop pursuing the other boat. During the same night, two Dvora boats are instructed to seek and destroy Egyptian boats in the Gulf of Suez. They enter an anchorage and destroy Egyptian boats and kill their commandos. These two events limit the initiative of the Egyptian Navy during the war.
During the night, Israeli tanks fight hard, but Syrian tanks succeed in entering Israeli territory. Many tanks cross through Rafid and go north-west to Hosnieh and Nafah, the Northern Command base. Others go southwest to the Tel Saki army post and to the Ramat Magshimim and Nov villages. 600 Syrian tanks are now inside Israel. The Syrians continue west and try to reach the Jordan River and conquer the bridges.
The IDF decides to send its reserve troops to the front to the escalating situation. The 210th Division under the command of Dan Lener sends tanks to the field as quickly as possible. They effectively stop the advance of the Syrian forces and secure the Nafah base.
Meanwhile, the 7th Brigade of the 36th Division has to face a second attack of the Syrian forces on the northern front and stops it, but at a heavy price. A third division is heading to the northern front, the 146th division lead by Moshe Peled.
After aborting an operation in the Sinai, the Israel Air Force launches Operation Dugman 5 in an attempt to destroy the Syrian anti-air missile units and give themselves space to act and support armored forces on the ground. Preparations are rushed because of urgent need and at 11.30 a.m., 60 Phantoms are sent in the air. For three hours they destroy launching sites, but because Syrian batteries are mobile, most of the sites are empty. Only one unit is destroyed out of the 25 planned. During the operation six Israeli planes are hit by anti-air artillery.
After these two operations, the IAF decides not to target the anti-air unit. The IAF does provide support for Israeli forces on the ground, especially on the southern Golan Heights front, to stop the advance of the Syrian forces.
The IDF Southern Command launches the first counter attack. Adan’s 162nd Division, made up of 175 tanks, were to attack the 2nd Egyptian Army in the north, and Sharon’s 143rd Division, made up of 3 armored brigades, were to attack the 3rd Egyptian Army in the south. Adan’s division suffers great losses during the fighting. Chief of Staff Elazar and GOC Southern Command Gonen order the 162th Division to retreat and cancel the 143rd Division’s attack. The Egyptians gain even more ground. After this failure, it is decided that the IDF will stabilize a defensive line in the Sinai and not go on the offensive, allowing the military to concentrate its efforts on the northern front in the Golan Heights.
The Israel Navy continues to fight in the Mediterranean Sea. Two Israeli missile boats discover four Egyptian missile boats and fire a chaff missile north of their position to misguide the Egyptians. They fall for the ruse and open fire on the chaff’s location, revealing their position. The Israel Navy then charge the Egyptian position, and the Egyptians fire another round of missiles before heading back to Alexandria. When the Israeli ships are in range, they fire and successfully hit three Egyptian missile boats.
The Northern Command decides to counter attack on the southern Golan Heights.
The 146th Division led by Moshe Peled advance on the Syrian border from El-Al and Ramat Hamagshimim alongside the Route 98. They successfully retake control of IDF posts and liberate soldiers who were hiding in the posts.
Two brigades, one of the 36th Division and the other of the 210th Division, fight immense tank battles and push back the Syrian forces from their offensive on the Nafah IDF base and away from Husnieh.
On the northern sector of the front, Syrians tanks try again to take control of Quneitra but the Israeli 7th Brigade holds on to its positions and fights bravely without any reserve troops to back it up.
On Mount Hermon, a force of Golani Brigade soldiers with half-tracks and two tanks is sent to retake control of the military post. They are caught in an ambush and suffer great losses. The brigade commander gives the order to retreat. 23 soldiers are killed in the battle.
IDF forces move into defensive positions and are ordered to hold their positions against Egyptian attacks.The Egyptians now have to move out of the range of the SAM anti-aerial missiles to reach the Israeli tanks. Fights continue, and the 143rd division lead by Sharon loses about 50 tanks in attacks on Egyptian forces. No noticeable change in the front line occurs today.
IDF Dabur class boats successfully attack an Egyptian patrol boat on the Red Sea.
The Syrian forces attack Quneitra but IDF defensive positions hold their ground. With an advantage on the hilly ground, the 7th brigade manages to stop the final attack of the Syrian tanks in the great battle of what will come to be known as the Valley of Tears. The tanks battle in extremely close range.
In the air, on the morning of the 9th of October, Phantom jet fighters fly at low altitude into Lebanon before heading to Damascus. They successfully bombard the Syrian Army headquarters. During the attack, two IDF planes are hit. The first falls in Syrian territory while the other makes an incredible run back to the Ramat David IAF base with one of its motors on fire.
At this stage of the war, most Syrian forces present in Israel have been destroyed or are on the way back to Syrian territory.
The Egyptian Front
Overnight, the Egyptian infantry moves closer towards the Israeli line. Covered by artillery and Sager missile, they attack by early morning, but find the IDF ready to defend itself. The Egyptian infantry suffers significant losses. In southern Sinaï, Egyptian commandos are killed.
Lt. Gen. (res.) Haim Bar-Lev is appointed the new commander of the Southern Command in order to turn the situation around.
The Syrian Front
As they watch their Syrian ally losing the advantage, the USSR decides to send more supplies by aerial and maritime lifts. The IAF acts and bombards a series of airports in Syria, forcing some of the Soviet planes to make their way back home.
After only four days of fighting while largely outnumbered, the IDF now takes back control of the entire Golan, except for the post on Mt. Hermon. IDF commanders begin to plan crossing the frontier and moving towards Damascus. Hundreds of Syrian tanks are destroyed, and the counter attack is about to begin.
The Armoured Corps and Infantry prepare themselves for the next phase of the war, the counter-attack. Two notable and successful IDF operations take place on this day.
The Navy sends a ship to approach the city of Hurghada in the Gulf of Suez, where Egyptian missile boats are stationed. In the afternoon, three rubber boats are sent on site, with Navy soldiers on each one. At nightfall, the soldiers dive and after 20 minutes, they reach the anchorage. They recognise a boat with four propellers and assume it is the missile boat. They attach to it a naval mine. During the night, the soldiers return to the rubber boats. They are spotted, but manage to escape. The naval mine destroys the Egyptian missile boat.
The purpose of Operation Pontiak was to draw attention to the Egyptian interior front, and hit the 3rd Egyptian Army command in the southern part of the Suez Canal. IDF soldiers are transported by CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters, together with artillery materials, for a distance of about 500 kilometers at low altitude. There are 22 soldiers in total. Artillery soldiers maneuver the machinery, and reservists of the Sayeret Matkal secure them during the operation. They fire close to a hundred shells and are all transported back with no injuries.
The Syrian Front
After discussions within the army and the political echelon, it is decided to cross the border and continue to attack the Syrian Army. The 36th Division, lead by Eitan, attack first in the northern Golan Heights. The 210th Division, lead by Lener, is to follow with an attack on the central Golan Heights.
An initial IAF raid hits several aeroplanes. Eitan’s division launches the attack on the ground in the morning. Success is immediate and the losses are limited. The division reaches the villages of Hader and Bet-Jen.
After this success, Chief of the General Staff Elazar decides to send Lener’s division into the fight. Unfortunately, the Syrian forces are better prepared on this front, and IDF forces lose close to 40 tanks. Nevertheless, Lener decides to achieve his goal at any cost and is able to reach Khan Arnabeh.
Israel has now destroyed Syrian anti aerial missile units and a conquered territory 4-5 kilometers into Syria.
On the maritime front, the Israel Navy decides to target Syrian ports during the night and neutralize the forces present there. At the first port, the Israeli boats are discovered and come under heavy fire. They have to maneuver out of the missile range in order to destroy the port. The attack on the second port is similar: Syrian missile boats fire at the Israeli ships, but miss their targets. The IDF fires back and hits one of the Syrian boats. As a result of the operation, two ports and another strategic point are hit.
The Egyptian Front
The 2nd and 3rd Egyptian Armies bring major forces east to the canal in order to begin the second wave of attacks while the IDF reorganises itself.
The Syrian Front
Two divisions (the 36th and the 210th) continue to advance into Syrian territory. During the advance, Syrian air forces attack the Israeli division by heavy bombing and slow them down. The IAF also participates in the efforts of the counterattack, and clears some of the way for the ground forces.
While they are refueling and reloading, the divisions discover Iraqi divisions that approaching their positions. The 210th Division reorganizes their ranks and gets ready for battle. They succeed in destroying 20 Iraqi tanks, who withdraw from the zone. Lener (the division’s commander) decides to pursue them. Tank fights take place later once it is already dark. The Iraqi T-55 and T-62 tanks are equipped with night vision systems and thus hold an advantage over the Israeli tanks. Because of their losses, the IDF forces have to return to their positions.
Later in the same night, the 210th Division observes a large group of forces coming at them. Lener decides to hold his position. Fights occur at close range. The Iraqi advantage of night vision soon fades with the rising of the sun. By now, IDF tanks have destroyed tens of Iraqi tanks, and the Iraqi retreat.
At this point, the IDF is about 50 km away from Damascus, but Iraqi forces had slowed down counter-attack efforts.
The Iraqis plan to send more backup forces into Syrian territory, so the IDF decides to send in the Paratroopers Sayeret in order to disrupt their plans. Helicopters drop them 250 kilometers deep into Syrian territory. The soldiers see Iraqi forces, and fire at multiple tank transporters. They then blow up the bridge that the transporters were crossing towards the Syrian war front. All the soldiers are then transported back safely to Israel. Thanks to the operation, thousands of Iraqi troops and hundreds of Iraqi tanks are stopped before reaching the battlefield.
The Egyptian Front
Combatants of the Sayeret Matkal are brought by helicopters deep into Egypt from the Refidim air base. They succeed in hitting an airport.
The commander of the 252th Division, Avraham Mendler, dies after his vehicle is shot at. Kalman Magen is appointed commander of the division.
Egyptian commandos transported by planes are identified by field observers. A force of the Sayeret Shaked is sent to the presumed landing point to eliminate them. Soldiers are wounded on the Israeli side, but the operation is a success.
The Syrian Front
Eitan’s and Lener’s divisions continue to fight the Iraqi forces. The Israel Air Force continues to act in Syria. IDF phantoms strike the Al-Mazza international airport in Damascus, and are the target of anti aircraft missiles. One of the fighter jets is hit and has to be abandoned over Lebanese territory. The pilot and its navigator parachute down into the sea, and a helicopter is immediately sent to rescue them. While saving the pilot, the helicopter comes under fire. The IDF sends Skyhawks to take down the source of fire. The Syrians then react by sending MiGs into the area. The IDF sends Mirage fighter jets (the Skyhawk was not meant for aerial fights) who destroy 2 MiGs. The Syrian planes retreat and the Israeli pilots are rescued.
Jordan decides to send forces into Syria and declares a state of national emergency.
The Egyptian Front
On the 14th of October, the Egyptians decid to launch their second main attack on all parts of the defensive line of the IDF. Close to 2000 tanks would engage in battle. This becomes one of the biggest tank battle in history.
The front is divided into three parts: the north under the command of the 162th Division, lead by Adan, the centre under the command of the 143th Division, lead by Sharon, and the south under the command of the 252th Division, lead by Magen. The attacks start early in the morning with Egyptian artillery fire and air strikes, but the battle quickly turn into a tank fight.
In the north, the Egyptians attack east of the city of Quantara and Islamiya, but Adan’s division destroys about 40 tanks in couple of hours. The Israeli troops manage to advance and free captured IDF posts.
In the centre, the fights are more difficult. The IDF loses dozens of tanks, but the victory is still largely Israeli.
In the south, the fights are more complex, and the Israel Air Force has to intervene. In two days time, the IDF victory is complete.
The victories on this day are decisive and represent the turnaround of the war on the southern front. The superiority of the IDF tanks has finally expressed itself, and the breakdown of the Egyptian offensive opena the crossing of the canal. The Israeli had lost 25 tanks, and the Egyptians 210.
In the air, the IAF decides to attack an important air base of the Egyptian forces in order to regain air superiority. In the afternoon, about 50 Phantoms take off. They are identified soon after, and the Egyptians order send MiGs-21 to intercept the Israeli planes. Arriving close to their target sites, the Phantoms are confronted by the MiGs-21, but are not equipped for an air battle. Some of the IDF jets just drop their bombs where they can and return to Israel. Others fight and reach their planned targets. During the fights, Five Egyptian MiGs are taken down while only two Israeli planes fall. This fight was later known as the Air Battle of El Mansoura.
At sea, the IDF knows that Egyptian naval forces are about to reinforce the Egyptian army next to the city of Suez. Five Dabur class boats are sent to destroy the ships inside an anchorage in the Suez Gulf. Once close to it, the Dabur boats enter successively into the anchorage and open fire on all the boats. The Egyptians do not have the time to respond. The IDF destroys 19 Egyptian ships and all Five Israeli Daburs return home safely. No boat makes it out of the anchorage.
The Syrian Front
The fights goes on in the territory now controlled by the IDF but Israeli forces do not advance any further and guard their positions. They now have to face a Syrian Army reinforced by Iraqi and Jordanian soldiers. The artillery and the air force still bombards strategic points. During the night, the paratroopers helped by tanks conquer the strategic point of Tel Shams deep in Syria.
The Egyptian Front
After the defeat of the Egyptian attack, the IDF senses it has the momentum and decides to attack the second and third Egytpian Armies. Over the last few days, the Israeli forces have identified a weak point in the defensive Egyptian line, just north of the Great Bitter Lake. They decide it would be the perfect place to pass through the canal. Operation Knight of Heart is set overnight and the 143rd Division receives the order to execute it. The 14th Brigade of Sharon’s division is sent to secure the ‘Chinese Farm’ area north of the passage. Another brigade has to cross the canal on rubber boats and secure the bridgehead on the western side of the canal.
A deceptive attack is first orchestrated east to the position of the Egyptian forces. It works, and allows the IDF forces to advance along the Tartur and Lexikon axis (close to the crossing point). They then launch their attack on the Egyptian forces. Despite the fact that they are surprised by the attack, the Egyptians re-organize and quickly turn to offense.The first wave of IDF combatants sent into the ‘Chinese Farm’ endure great losses. The central effort of the IDF troops is to clear the area for the transport over the bridges of material brought to the Suez Canal. Fights at very close range continue into the night alongside the Lexikon and Tartur axis.
The Israel forces are now closer than ever to the African continent but it will still take great effort to complete the operation.
The Syrian Front
Fights occur between the Iraqi forces and Lener’s division in the southern part of the territory gained by the IDF. Once again, there are no main changes on the front. The Syria-Jordan-Iraq coalition moves against the Israeli forces with no success.
The Egyptian Front
During the night, the fight over the ‘Chinese Farm’ causes more then 100 Israeli casualties. The 14th Brigade has to fight all night long and by the morning, the IDF finally takes control over the Lexikon-Tartour crossing. They continue to fight during the day to maintain their positions and prevent the Egyptian forces from entering the crossing area.
During the same night, paratroopers cross the canal aboard rubber boats in order to secure the bridgehead. Unfortunately, the transport of the bridge is getting more and more difficult since it needs to be moved on a much bigger distance than it was intended to. In the morning, the bridge breaks down. Other means to cross the canal are brought on site such as small boats able to transfer tanks. More than 20 tanks cross the canal and together with the paratroopers enter the African continent and destroy three anti-aircraft missile units and clear the skies for the Israel Air Force. They also destroy different military objectives. The surprise on the Egyptian side is total.
At sea, the Navy continues to attack targets on positions west of Alexandria.
The Syrian Front
The Iraqi forces coordinate an attack with the Jordanian and Syrian forces on Lener’s division. But due to poor communication, the Jordanian tanks, which are very similar to the IDF’s tanks, are bombed by the Iraqis. The Israeli forces see the movements and open fire on the Jordanians. They loose about 20 tanks and decide to withdraw from the area.