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The October War: between victory and defeat

Egyptian forces crossing the Suez Canal on 7 October 1973, during the October War [Wikipedia]
Egyptian forces crossing the Suez Canal on 7 October 1973, during the October War [Wikipedia]

Forty-four years have passed since the October War when the army passed through the fortified Bar Lev Line, which many claimed that even the napalm bombs could not bring down. Our courageous soldiers brought this down with water hoses and were able to breach the wall within 6 hours. This caught their enemy off guard, despite knowing hours before that the Egyptian and Syrian armies would be launching a joint attack on Israel.

Jordan’s King Hussein flew his own helicopter to Israel on the night of the war and met with former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. He informed her of the time of attack, as well as the spy Ashraf Marwan, Gamal Abdel Nasser’s son-in-law, or the “angel” as Mossad called him. A book was written about him called, “The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel”.

Despite knowing the time of the attack it was too late and they weren’t able to do anything, especially since this day coincided with the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. Choosing this day for the attack was good planning. They prepared well for the attack, which was also on the 10th day of Ramadan, and Israel would not have imagined that a war would be waged in Ramadan. All of these plans and preparations were carried out in order to practice strategic deception, and the decision to wage war fell on the shoulders of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

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The time for the attack came and all of the air force planes departed from various Egyptian airports (about 200 planes) at different times in order to pass over the Suez Canal at the same time, 12pm, which was Zero Hour. At the same time over 2,000 cannons fired on the eastern banks of the canal.

Under the cover of missile and artillery fire, and under the umbrella of the planes, the brave soldiers were able to cross from the western to the eastern banks. This was a crossing from defeat to victory and from humiliation to pride. This war was a unique and heroic epic battle in Egypt’s modern history in which the Egyptian people rallied behind the army and backed them as they fought the Israeli enemy in an unforgettable scene that cannot be erased by time. This was a great crossing into a high rank amongst the countries of the world that changed the world’s view of Egypt and its army.

The October victory managed to erase the shame of defeat in 1967, but it is regrettable that people doubt this victory, and even the war itself. They claim it was a play acted out by Sadat and Israel, directed by Kissinger, US Secretary of State at the time, in order to stir the stagnant situation and pave the way to peace with Israel. This is what did indeed happen in 1977, when President Sadat went to Jerusalem.

Such unjust lies against President Anwar Sadat and a denial of the heroics committed by the officers and soldiers who fought in the October War, as well as the sacrifices made by the martyrs whose pure blood was shed in Sinai have been spread by Nasserites, who hate the fact that victory was achieved at the hands of a president other than their constantly defeated leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser.

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They do not speak about their leader’s defeats, but they consider the October War as the ultimate defeat in which Egypt was handed over to the Israelis, and constantly promote this, as if we are a nation that enjoys defeat. One of the reasons we hear such voices doubting the October victory is the fact that the Egyptian army lost its status and prestige amongst the people ever since it took to the streets and killed innocent unarmed Egyptians, causing a grudge between the army and a large number of Egyptians.

In addition to this, the army changed its doctrine, no longer considering Israel its enemy; instead it was terrorism, which of course refers to the Islamists. The army is no longer the same army of the October War, who fought to defend its country. It has become an army that produces pasta, biscuits, jams, and pickles; an army whose soldiers roam the streets selling food products and causing misery.

The great victory of October 1973 has been turned into a defeat by the 2017 army, thanks to its new leaders who did not participate in the war, but instead reaped the fruits of the blood of the innocent martyrs and built their huge empire on their bodies.

It is no coincidence that military manoeuvres and exercises between the Egyptian and Israeli army are scheduled for 6 October. It is also no coincidence that this day was chosen to displace the people of Rafah and expand the buffer zone between Egypt’s Rafah and Palestine’s Rafah by 500 metres, at Israel’s request, making the distance between the two 1.5 kilometres.

Al-Sisi wants to erase this victory over Israel from the Egyptian memory. He didn’t even mention our victory in his speech on the anniversary of this day. It is as if we were fighting a nameless invisible enemy. However, no matter how hard he tries the memory of the October War victory will remain alive in the hearts of the Egyptians and will remain written in history.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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