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Six Day War and Yom Kippur War

Updated on February 2, 2013

Anwar Sadat role

There were two main wars in which Anwar Sadat was heavily involved in, the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War. He greatly impacted and influenced politics in the Middle East and the West. Anwar Sadat was born on December 25th 1918, to a family of thirteen children. He grew up in the lower class village of Mit Abul Kom raised by his Sudanese parents. Growing up Anwar was heavily influenced by four people, who helped shape his views and beliefs. First was a name named Zahran who also came from a small village resembling the one Anwar grew up in. Sadat began admiring Zahran after the British hung him for participating in a riot which had resulted in the death of a British officer. Sadat particularly admired the courage Zahran displayed on the way to his hanging. The second was Kemel Ataturk who established numerous civil service reforms by initially creating the modern state of Turkey and forcing the downfall of the Ottoman Empire. Thirdly while touring Egypt in 1932; Sadat was captivated by Mohandas Gandhi while he preached the power and effect of nonviolence when fighting for justice. Lastly was the antcolonialist, Adolf Hitler. Sadat admired him because Hitler was a potential rival to British Control. These four men greatly influenced and shaped Sadats personality and mentality. “He held these men in very high esteem but abandoned their notoriety at least publicly after he became president (Rabinovich, 13).”

Sadat later attended the Royal Military Academy in downtown Cairo where he graduated and due to his some what radical thought joined the revolutionary Free Officers Movement. Free Officers Movement was established in 1996, it was composed of a group of young members of the military all under thirty five and all from peasant or lower middle class backgrounds. They were dedicated to overthrowing the British due to their control and influence over Egypt. The movement was founded and lead by the second president of Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser. Many of the following politicians in Egypt at that time was not surprised when after holding many positions in the Egyptian government, he was chosen to be Vice President by President Gamal Abdal Nasser. However a year later, September 1970 Nasser met his faith and Sadat became the new President (Hiro, 457).

Anwar Sadat’s importance in the Twentieth Century lies with his participation in the Six Day War and the 1973 Yum Kippur War. At the time things may have appeared to be stable but there was an underlying tension, beginning to grow and war was once again inevitable. Thus due to mistrust an arms race quickly developed. Egypt and Syria were aided with Soviet hardware but Israel had the backing from Europe, Germany, Britain and France. “This is when Syria felt serious threats from Israel and signed a defense treaty with Egypt on November 1966 (Hiro, 33).” Also Jordan was receiving arms and supplies from Britain and the United States. Tensions continued to thicken when Israel and Syria had disagreements over diverting water from the Jordan River. Israel almost completed their project of taking water from the Jordan River and running it to the Negev Desert, when Syria began a very identical irrigation near the river however if Syria would of completed they would of dried the river bed at the Israeli location. “Early in the morning of June fifth, Israel mounted preemptive air and ground assaults. It attacked all seventeen Egyptian airfields and destroyed three-fifths of Egypt’s warplanes (Hiro 34).” After the air raids from Israel Syria felt an all out attack from Israel was inevitable. Since Egypt and Syria had signed a mutual defense treaty they began a very extensive and elaborate military buildup. Nasser who was in power at the time along with Sadat who was vice president, demanded the withdrawal of UN forcers from the Gaza and Sinai. After Secretary General Thant agreed and removed the troops, Nasser and Sadat announced a blockade of Israeli shipping at the Strait of Tiran. This action was seen as an apparent declaration of war against the Israelis. Jordan and Iraq joined Syria and its military alliance with Egypt; it appeared Israel did not stand a chance against this Arab coalition.

On the fifth of June Israel launched a very strategic and devastating attack on Arab air forces. This was Sadat’s first trial on the international scene. Sadat openly offered the Israelis a peace treaty in exchange for the return of the Sinai lands taken in the attack. This treaty went unsigned and thus strengthening the conflict. The armies of Egypt and Syria had grown considerably more then Israel’s, however the outcome was seen as manifest destiny to the Israelis, and the war would not be lost (Rabinovich, 7). At the beginning of the Six Day War the combined armies overwhelmed the Israeli army by a soldier count of three to one, however Israel was still able to fight and win despite being smaller. The Israeli attack destroyed about 300 Egyptian, 50 Syrian and 20 Jordanian airplanes, most of them were destroyed while I plane hanger and still grounded. This action virtually ended any chance of an Arab air attack. Following the air strike on Arab powers a ground invasion was set into place. Invasions into the Sinai, Gaza Strip, Jordan and ultimately Syria were next on the Israeli agenda.

Since the Arab forces had little or no air support Israeli forces planed three strategic routes on all three fronts. It was by this measure they were able to seize the entire Sinai Peninsula to the east bank of the Suez Canal, the West Bank of Jordan, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights of Syria (Hiro, 34). The aftermath was astonishing. Israel lost 700 lives while the Arab powers totaled more than 18,000. “The humiliation of the Six Day War had cast its debilitating shadow over Egyptian new president Anwar Sadat, ever since he assumed office in October 1970 (Rabinovich, 10).”

By 1973 Sadat had taken presidency in Egypt after the death of Nasser. It was on October 6th Egypt and Syria decided to surprise attack Israel. This war became known as the Yom Kippur War because it fell on one of the most religious days of the Jewish calendar (Hiro, 585). Egypt and Syria made an offensive bombing raid on the Sinai and Golan Heights, as both of which had been captured by Israel during the Six Day War six years earlier. This attack however was due to growing tension over the years and mainly because of two important factors.

The first factor was the failure to resolve everlasting territorial disputes between Arabs and Israel, since the war in 1967, which boiled down to the argument over the return of the Sinai to Egypt and the Golan Heights to Syria. Sadat played a major role in this war because he initiated an agreement with Israel, stating Israelis return of the Golan Heights and Sinai. Obviously this request was seen as absurd and was not going to be signed by Israel. This truly convinced Anwar Sadat that if he wanted to permanently change the situation and gain legitimacy back in Egypt, he must initiate war. The second reason for a preemptive strike on Israel was due to the fact that Israel’s generals had no reason to trade territory for peace. They felt safe enough that there was not going to be an Arab attack within the next few years, also Sadat has been threatening war for the past two years and never initiated anything. Israel felt these were simply amateur negotiation attempts to force Israel to sign the agreement. What the Israelis truly misinterpreted was the very cunning move by Sadat, who was able to attack by making Israel believe the armed forces stationed along the canal, were simply being used for military exercise.

On October 6th Sadat with Egypt and Syria made their move, with an unaware Israel as their target. “Unlike previous armed conflicts, when Israel had taken the initiative, the time Egypt and Syria mounted preemptive attacks on Israel. However these were only to obtain the occupied Arab territories (Hiro, 34-35).” Egypt’s forces swiftly crossed the Suez Canal and overran the Bar Lev line (ADL, 2005). Syria after there land moved into the Golan Heights. Together Syria and Egypt had Israeli forces out numbered twelve to one. The very next day the Prime Minister of Israel reinforced its confidence in the Israeli Defense Force on a televised conference (Blum, 175). It only took a few days before Israel was able to change the direction of the war. Israel managed to push Syria back and Egypt was doing such a bad job they called the Soviet Union for support. This decision by Egypt ultimately ended in disappointment.

The end result was Sadat and the Arab soldiers suffered over eight and a half causalities and financially cost them an entire year’s GDP. Israel lost six thousand of their soldiers and it also cost them their entire years GDP. The war also resulted in a few agreements depicting the separation of forces between Egypt and Syria. They also wrote out a strip of territory where no troops are allowed and if they were it would be carefully restricted. These agreements were not perfect and did not guarantee future conflict however it was an important stepping stone in the push for peace.

On October 6th 1981 Sadat met his untimely death when he was assassinated while attending a memorial for the Yom Kippur War. Two grenades went off in very close proximity of the ceremony, and then men began to open fire on Sadat and other dignitaries. These attacks although not confirmed, were supposedly carried out by the Independent Organization for the Liberation of Egypt. Feelings for his death were mixed, many Arab state believe he was not for peace but was rather a tyrant, other countries such as the United States president has said “America has lost a great friend, the world has lost a great statesman, and mankind has lost a champion of peace” Ronald Reagan. Due to his beliefs of peace, and the liberation of Egypt, over his time in politics he gained great respect but also made great enemies. However he did bring Egypt closer to a peaceful sovereign country which was the most important factor for the strive, towards peace.



1) The Anti Defamation League (ADL)

Copyright 2005, Anti Defamation League.


2) The Yom Kippur War – The Epic Encounter That Transformed the Middle East

Rabinovich, Abraham. Copyright 2004., Schocken Books. New York

3) The Essential Middle East – A comprehensive Guide

Hiro, Dilip. Copyright 1996, 2003., Carroll & Graf Publishing Group Inc. New York

4) The Eve of Destruction – The Untold Story of the Yom Kippur War

Blum, Howard. Copyright 2003., HarperCollins Publishers Inc. New York


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