From October 6-25 1973, a number of Arab states including Egypt and Syria launched a joint attack on Israel on Yom Kippur, sparking the Yom Kippur War. Israel had become accustomed to war with Arab States, this being the fourth, but the Yom Kippur War fell on Judaism’s holiest day in Judaism, and was met with particular regret.
The Yom Kippur War started when Egypt crossed ceasefire lines to make its way into the Sinai Peninsula. Meanwhile Syria crossed ceasefire lines when it entered the Golan Heights – the Arab nations had managed to make such advances because they had somewhat surprised the Israel Defense Forces. The Heights themselves had been the scene of war six years earlier when Israel had captured the territory during the Six-Day War.
The Israeli Air Force first efforts in the Yom Kippur War were rather unsuccessful, with outdated technology failing to better the enemies’ mobile SAM batteries. The Air Force initially turned its attention north, focusing on strategic targets such as electricity generation and the oil industry to disrupt Syria’s infrastructure and capacity for war. The successful counter-attack that followed allowed Israel to recapture territory in the Golan Heights and push Syria even further back from where they had started, allowing the focus of the Yom Kippur War to turn to Egypt.
Egypt had started being more aggressive across the entire front on October 14. As its resources were stretched, the Israeli Defense Forces managed to repel this attack and eventually crossed the Suez Canal into Egypt, which had itself been the scene of war at the height of the Suez Crisis in 1956.
As the Defense Forces managed to attack the Egyptian’s air defense from the ground the Israeli Air Force was finally able to attack from the skies. Despite the two countries both increasing the ferocity of their air attacks diplomatic talks began and eventually a ceasefire was declared between the two nations on October 25 and the Yom Kippur War was over.
While 102 aircraft were eventually lost and 91 air force personnel were killed, the Israeli Air Force played a vital part in bringing the Yom Kippur War to an end, and without these sacrifices the outcome may have been very different.