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Despite Israel’s overwhelming victory in the Six-Day War of 1967 and its oft-repeated offers of peace, its Arab neighbors refused to enter into negotiations with Israel or even to recognize its existence. On Yom Kippur 5734 (October 6, 1973), Egyptian and Syrian armies crossed the 1967 ceasefire lines on the Suez Canal and the Golan Heights, respectively. Israel was caught off guard, since it had not expected its neighbors to launch an all-out war at that time. Also, in contrast to the situation in 1967, Israel’s air force was greatly hampered by new, highly effective anti-aircraft missiles with which the Soviet Union had supplied both Egypt and Syria gradually since the Six-Day War. Egypt succeeded in establishing bridgeheads east of the Canal, and Syria captured Mt. Hermon and the city of Kuneitra. Until Israel was able to mobilize its reserves, the outcome of the war was in doubt. On October 12, however, the tide began to turn in Israel’s favor. Israeli forces recaptured all the territory taken by Syria, pushed the Syrian armies behind the 1967 cease-fire lines and eventually advanced to positions about 20 miles away from Damascus. On October 17, the Israelis crossed the Suez Canal, eventually coming within about 50 miles of Cairo. All the while, Russia had been constantly sending arms shipments to Syria and Egypt to replace the vast quantities of airplanes and tanks they had lost. Under the circumstances, and in view of Israel’s heavy losses, particularly of airplanes, the U.S. began a massive airlift of weapons to Israel.

As long as the Arabs appeared to be winning the war, Russia did not seek an end to the fighting. But as Israel gained the upper hand, Russia summoned Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to Moscow and began to press for a ceasefire. On October 24, finally, all fighting ceased. Israel had lost almost 3,000 soldiers; Arab losses were close to 20,000. On November 11, 1973, Israel and Egypt signed a ceasefire agreement at Kilometer 101 on the Suez-Cairo highway, and four days later, the two sides began to exchange prisoners of war.

On May 29, 1974, Syria, the most implacable of Israel’s enemies, agreed to sign a disengagement pact with Israel under terms to those agreed upon by Israel and Egypt. One June 5, 1974, the agreement between Israel and Syria was signed in Geneva.

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