The war began when the Arab coalition launched a joint surprise attack on Israeli positions in the Israeli-occupied territories on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism, which also occurred that year during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Egyptian and Syrian forces crossed ceasefire lines to enter the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights respectively. Both the United States and the Soviet Union initiated massive resupply efforts to their respective allies during the war, and this led to a near-confrontation between the two nuclear superpowers.
The war began with a massive and successful Egyptian crossing of the Suez Canal. After crossing the cease-fire lines, Egyptian forces advanced virtually unopposed into the Sinai Peninsula. After three days, Israel had mobilized most of its forces and halted the Egyptian offensive, resulting in a military stalemate. The Syrians coordinated their attack on the Golan Heights to coincide with the Egyptian offensive and initially made threatening gains into Israeli-held territory. Within three days, however, Israeli forces had pushed the Syrians back to the pre-war ceasefire lines. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) then launched a four-day counter-offensive deep into Syria. Within a week, Israeli artillery began to shell the outskirts of Damascus. As Egyptian President Sadat began to worry about the integrity of his major ally, he believed that capturing two strategic passes located deeper in the Sinai would make his position stronger during post-war negotiations. He therefore ordered the Egyptians to go back on the offensive, but their attack was quickly repulsed.
The Israelis then counter-attacked at the seam between the two Egyptian armies, crossed the Suez Canal into Egypt, and began slowly advancing southward and westward towards the city of Suez in over a week of heavy fighting that resulted in heavy casualties on both sides.
On October 22 a United Nations–brokered ceasefire quickly unraveled, with each side blaming the other for the breach. By October 24, the Israelis had improved their positions considerably and completed their encirclement of Egypt’s Third Army and the city of Suez. This development led to tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. As a result, a second ceasefire was imposed cooperatively on October 25 to end the war.
The war had far-reaching implications.
The Arab World, which had experienced humiliation in the lopsided rout of the Egyptian–Syrian–Jordanian alliance in the Six-Day War, felt psychologically vindicated by early successes in the conflict. In Israel, despite impressive operational and tactical achievements on the battlefield, the war led to recognition that there was no guarantee that Israel would always dominate the Arab states militarily, as it had consistently through the earlier First Arab–Israeli War, the Suez War and the Six-Day War. These changes paved the way for the subsequent peace process. The 1978 Camp David Accords that followed led to the return of the Sinai to Egypt and normalized relations—the first peaceful recognition of Israel by an Arab country.
Egypt continued its drift away from the Soviet Union and left the Soviet sphere of influence entirely.
“In the future, we will meet and engage much bigger salvos,” he said. They will come from multiple directions, and a “regional war” is a more realistic scenario than a single-front escalation.
Gazan and southern Lebanese weapons storage facilities house many thousands of rockets, Haimovich said, adding, “It doesn’t matter how many. We are dealing with a complicated environment.”
Israel’s enemies have concluded that firing large numbers of inaccurate rockets is insufficient, and in recent years, they have begun moving away from that tactic, and toward accurate, guided projectiles, he said. With rockets becoming accurate, the difference between rockets and missiles has become fudged, he added.
Hezbollah can cover more than 75 percent of Israeli territory with its rockets and missiles. “If we are talking about the multi-directional threat, this is much more complicated than what we faced five to 10 years ago. We will deal with very big numbers of salvos, of more than 50 to 100 [projectiles]. It doesn’t matter if this is [fired] by Hezbollah or Hamas. We will meet new surprises on the battlefield, that’s for sure,” the air defense chief said.
Additionally, enemies will fire cruise missiles at Israel in the next war, he warned.
“It’s not a nightmare. It’s a very realistic scenario.
This is the way we prepare and train our commands and units to be ready for the next event.”
The appearance of Islamic State in Sinai has added to the list of entities that can fire projectiles at Israel, Haimovich said.
In response to the mounting threats, the IAF’s air defense units are focused on creating flexibility, and updating their battle doctrine, to ensure they are dealing with future, rather than the past.
The IAF’s air defense units will need to be able to select the right targets out of a very crowded sky in any future conflict, Haimovich said, describing that task as a “huge challenge.”
He admitted that Israel has a lack of resources, and not enough interceptors to defend against the full range of aerial threat. “This means we have to maximize our interceptors. It [also] means that rockets and missiles will hit the State of Israel in the next escalation,” he armed.
The IAF’s mission is to minimize the damage, he added.
He called for the acquisition of more air defense batteries and interceptors, but added, “This isn’t enough.” Integrating the various air defense systems, creating cross-branch IDF cooperation, and working with the US are all needed, he argued.
“We need to prepare our units. I really don’t know when next war will occur. It’s a kind of race between us and the other side. Our challenge is to always be in front, and to be one step ahead of our enemies and neighbors,” Haimovich said.
“It’s not very optimistic, but this is a realistic scenario.”