The War of Attrition
Written by Peter Fitzgerald
History of War - War in The Middle East
Many think of War of Attrition as more of a war policy, like that of the French in the World Wars were they simply wished to kill more Germans than losses incurred themselves to thus win the war. This is not actually the case as it was a war between Israel and Egypt in the late 1960’s.
The War of Attrition actually started in July 1967 and ran until a ceasefire was put in place on 7th August 1970.
The war occurred after the Six Day War when Israel won a resounding victory, even taking the Golan Heights, Gaza Strip and West Bank which are still disputed today.
Prior to the War of Attrition
In the Six Day War between the 5th and 10th June 1967 Israel was at war against the neighbouring countries of Jordan, Syria and Egypt. This war was short lived and Israel easily gained victory, a victory that meant Israel gained the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, the West Bank from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria.
The Arab countries were furious with these moves by Israel in gaining more ground at the expense of other nations around them. Egypt decided they were going to take everything a step further than political anger, they responded in kind with military might.
War of Attrition
On the 1st July Egypt started its war on Israel by using an artillery company to fire on an Israeli force at the Suez Canal. This artillery attack killed the senior commander of the Israeli force and injured 13 others. While all this was going on, thirty commandos from Egypt attacked a tank and infantry regiment, defeating the Israeli forces.
Israel responded by sending the Air Force to attack Egyptian artillery positions and then a few days later attack other key targets, this ended with an Israeli plane being shot down by the Egyptians.
Over the rest of July Egypt lost planes and torpedo boats while Israel looses planes and tanks.
August 1967 was relatively quiet but Israel did try to launch one attack on Port Fouad which the Egyptians repelled easily.
October was a different story as the Egyptian Navy managed to sink and Egyptian destroyer called INS Eilat killing every member of crew on board, they numbered 47.
This action resulted in the Israelis bombarding key oil refineries and hitting Egyptian towns of Ismailia and Suez which killed and injured civilians.
1968 started quietly with no action until the second quarter of the year, this is when artillery bombardments and air strikes occurred on both sides. Israel also made a number of helicopter attacks with Commandos on targets over the Egyptian border.
1969 saw the war intensify further with heavy fighting, massive military operations and numerous raids and heavy bombardments. Israel even managed to kill300 Egyptian soldiers and blow up 8 planes and numerous tanks in one attack using the whole of their air force.
1969 saw the United States and USSR try to broker peace between the two nations but this failed and the war continued.
1970 started in earnest in much the same way 1969 finished. In January Israel launched an attack that finished with them killing 70 Egyptian soldiers and taking 62 prisoners while only losing 3 soldiers of their own.
In February Egyptian Frogmen responded by blowing up Israeli boats.
April was the month that many would want to forget as the Israeli Air Force repeatedly bomb an Egyptian Primary School killing 47 school children.
May, June and July saw many more attacks on both sides but in August a ceasefire was agreed with neither side being allowed to engage any military up to fifty kilometres either side of a ceasefire line. While this may sound great the Egyptians took no notice and straight away carried on moving surface to air missiles into the area.
The true ceasefire occurred in late September 1970 when the Egyptian President Nasser died of a heart attack and the Vice President took control and straight away agreed to end the war.