Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The miraculous October 1973 victory | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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I find it particularly painful when some of my colleagues show a lack of appreciation for the victorious October 1973 war; a miraculous humanitarian and military victory by any standards.

The great crossing [of the Suez Canal] took Egypt and the Arab people from a state of frustration and defeat to a state of self-confidence and renewed belief. The Arabs realized they could change the reality if they really desired to, and they achieved this through determination, faith and modern technology.

Those unaware of the magnitude of the great crossing must imagine the military and strategic scene in the build up to that afternoon on 6 October 1973. Israel had constructed a 173 kilometer long battlefront with 32 well-fortified outposts and around 200 secondary stations. These outposts were strengthened with reinforced concrete similar to that found in a nuclear fallout shelter, and immune to the heaviest field artillery.

Israel erected an 18 meter high sand wall at an angle of 60 degrees adjacent to the [Suez] canal. The wall was also reinforced with concrete materials meaning it was impossible to penetrate.

The well-fortified outposts were equipped with enormous flame-throwers and highly flammable napalm explosives.

The Suez Canal was 20 meters deep, and at the time it typically took between 45 and 55 minutes to cross from one bank to the other.

In summary, by any standards, everything seemed to suggest that the Canal was relatively impossible to cross, and attempting to do so would be tantamount to mass suicide for the Egyptian army.

On 6 October 1973 at 2:00 p.m., 120,000 Egyptian troops began to cross the Suez Canal with the first wave reaching the far bank in a record time of seven minutes. They constructed mobile bridges and transported heavy mortars and armored vehicles across, all with a casualty rate of less than one percent.

At that time, Colonel Gaddafi came out to accuse Egypt of launching a war of “mobilization rather than liberation”.

Yet Gaddafi forgot that during the war Egypt launched the first surface-to-surface missiles in naval history and excelled in using portable rocket launchers and guided anti-tank missiles. Furthermore, Egyptian pilots flying MiG-17 fighters were successful in downing Israeli Phantom-5 and Mirage jets.

Preoccupied with his own foolish endeavors, Gaddafi overlooked the fact that the greatest air battle in post-World War II human history was fought above the city of Mansoura, Egypt, between 250 jet fighters from both sides. The battle lasted for 50 minutes, a duration that was unprecedented in air combat at the time.

Peace be upon every martyr, upon the heroes, and upon the leader of the October 1973 war.