Why the Israel-Hamas war resonates with the Yom Kippur War of 1973

Sushim Mukul
Sushim MukulOct 09, 2023 | 18:09

Why the Israel-Hamas war resonates with the Yom Kippur War of 1973

"Tell them to send everything that can fly," exclaimed former American President Richard Nixon as Egypt and Syria jointly launched a coordinated attack on Israel in 1973.

This attack was a response to Israel's triumph in the Six-Day War, also known as the June War of 1967.

The Six-Day War

  • In the June War of 1967, Israel achieved a rapid victory, occupying historic Palestine, the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt in the south, and the Golan Heights from Syria in the north.
  • The territory Israel occupied became larger than its own land.

Subsequently, the war that ensued in 1973 became known as the Yom Kippur War, or in Arab circles, the October War of 1973.

Let's hark back to what Nixon urged and the ensuing actions of the United States in 1973. This occurred at the height of the Cold War, approximately a decade after the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

First similarity

  • Nearly half a century after the United States intervened in the West Asian power dynamics, an area it has never been a stranger to, the US Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin, announced on Sunday the dispatch of the Ford carrier strike group.
  • Comprising 5,000 sailors and a complement of warplanes, accompanied by cruisers and destroyers, this deployment aimed to be prepared to assist Israel after Hamas executed a surprise attack that resulted in over 1,100 casualties and thousands wounded on both sides.

Does this sound familiar?

  • In times of crisis, whether in the 1970s or today, Israel finds the United States as a reliable friend and strategic partner against its hostile neighbours. The geopolitical landscape of the 1970s also prompted the involvement of Russia, supporting the Arab nations.
  • Today, the role once played by Russia has shifted to China, now the de facto second superpower, advocating for the establishment of a Palestinian state. China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasises, "The fundamental way out of the conflict lies in implementing the two-state solution and establishing an independent State of Palestine."

Here we have superpowers taking center stage in a theater of war.

Second similarity

  • It lies in the Israeli name of the war itself, Yom Kippur. 
  • Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement in Judaism, which is a 25-hour holiday for fasting, prayer, and reflection.
  • Observed on the 10th day of Tishrei, it's a time to seek forgiveness, reconcile with God, and reflect on one's actions.
  • Following the festivities that year many troops were on leave and that impacted the relatiation of the Israeli defence forces as well.
  • Drawing parallels to Saturday’s attack, many Jews in Israel were gearing up for Simchat Torah, which is a Jewish holiday, celebrating the completion of the annual Torah reading cycle.
  • It's an occasion when the Torah scrolls(five of the Hebrew Bible books) are paraded and danced with.

Third similarity

  • It partly stems from the second one, which is the lack of military readiness allegations on Israel's part.
  • Moreover, there were allegations of Israeli intelligence failures and initial territorial losses due to the surprise Arab attack.
  • It is said that the Israelis, emboldened by the victories in the past wars against its Arab neighbours, underestimated the threat.
  • Israel reportedly scrambled its fighter jets after an hour or so of the commencement of the attack.
  • Similarly, the Saturday attack was also a surprise one, with more than 5,000 missiles being fired on Israeli cities, along with Hamas infiltrations at several points, which ransacked the Jewish population, killed, tortured and raped many women.
  • Israel, today is considered a security state, ever more advanced than others in its vicinity, racked up with all modern channels of surveillance.
  • The surprise attack, thus surely points to a severe lapse being overlooked.
  • The famed iron dome surveillance and anti-missile system was also overwhelmed in various instances, responding to the swarm of incoming missile attacks, which were said to be over 5,000 in number.
  • Another thing that came to light recently was the meetings of Iranian officials with Hamas counterparts, which were not picked up in time.

Fourth similarity

  • While I sum it all up, a look at the magnitude of the attacks in both instances, brings up another similarity, the fatality of the attacks.
  • While the exact number of casualties varies depending on the source, it's estimated that around 2,500 to 2,800 Israeli soldiers and civilians were killed, while the Arab coalition, primarily led by Egypt and Syria, suffered an estimated 8,000 to 18,000 casualties.
  • Since the attack began on Saturday, over 1,100 lives have been lost on both sides, and it's likely that those who are still missing may be deceased, with a few exceptions where some might have survived.
  • Following the attack, a United Nations report indicates that more than 120,000 people in Gaza have been left without homes, rendering them homeless.
Last updated: October 09, 2023 | 18:18
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