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Glossary: The Yom Kippur War, or Ramadan War, October 1973


Definition: The Yom Kippur War, as it is known in Israel, or the Ramadan War, as it is known in the Arab world, broke out on Oct. 6, 1973, when Egypt's Third Army took Israeli defenses by surprise in the Sinai Peninsula while Syria attacked in the Golan Heights. Israel had captured the Sinai and the Golan in the 1967 Six-Day War. Momentum went the Arabs' way during the first week but rapidly swung in Israel's favor after that.

Israel was helped in large part by an armament airlift ordered by President Nixon. The Soviet Union's Leonid Brezhnev objected and threatened to intervene militarily. In response, U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, with Nixon's approval, raised America's nuclear threat level. Kissinger simultaneously pressured Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir not to demolish the Egyptian Third Army, which Israel had surrounded by the third week of the war. Kissinger's aim was to give Egypt a face-saving route to a cease-fire. Hostilities ended on Oct. 26, with Egypt better positioned to negotiate a peace treaty.

Egypt and Syria suffered some 15,000 combat deaths during the three-week conflict. Israel suffered 2,688 combat deaths, the largest toll of any of Israel's conflicts with Arab nations or Palestinians.

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