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Index / Political / Modern Wars /
War of Attrition

State of war between Egypt and Soviet Union on one side and Israel on the other, 1969-1970, involving disjoint warfare. Fighting was staged around the Sinai peninsula, which was under Israeli occupation.
The background for the war, which by every measure came about from Egyptian aggression, was the complete humiliation suffered by Egypt and its president, Gamal Abdel Nasser in the Six-Day War. The war came about after Egypt had rebuilt its armed forces with Soviet aid.
The war had major importance in Arab propaganda. By keeping up a state of war with Israel, Egypt was able to create the image of not having been defeated in the Six-Day War. That would emerge as more than just propaganda, as Egypt was clearly better able to fight Israel this time, although they could not do this without the extensive aid of the Soviet Union. In 1970, Egypt even made territorial advances, shortly before the cease-fire was agreed upon.
Israel used the tactic of "asymmetrical response," by which any aggression was responded by attacks far harder and mortal.
The war caused the death of about 12,500 people, of which 10,000 were Egyptian, about 2,600 Israeli. A clear majority were military. Soviet Union is reported to have had only 3 casualties.
The war ended in a cease-fire, half-hearted agreed by Nasser, and put into effect by new president, Anwar as-Sadat.
The War of Attrition was not only a continuation of the Six-Day War, it was also part of the build-up to the Yom Kippur War, 3 years later.

1967 June 8: The Six-Day War ends on the Egyptian front, involving a complete and humiliating defeat of the Egyptians.
October 21: Egyptian navy sinks an Israeli ship, killing 47.
1968 June: Egypt starts shelling the Israeli front line east of the Suez Canal.
October 30:: Israeli forces bring Egyptian electricity supply down, forcing Egypt to stop their attacks.
1969 March 8: Egypt restarts attacks on Israeli strongholds. Israel responds with attacks deep into Egypt. — July: Israeli attacks on the northern canal sector, destroying important anti-aircraft positions, tanks and artillery.
October: Talks between the USA and the Soviet Union about ending the war.
December 9: A peace plan is presented, calling for Israeli withdrawal from Sinai and Egyptian commitment for peace (i.e. acceptance of the state of Israel). The plan is rejected both by Israel and Egypt.
1970 January 22: Nasser manages to get increased Soviet aid, both in equipment and troops. The number of Soviet soldiers increase from less than 4,000 to around 11,000.
April 8: Israeli attacks kill 47 Egyptian schoolchildren in a military compound.
August: Egyptian and Soviet forces move closer to the canal zone.
August 7: A cease-fire agreement is reached. Egypt immediately violates the specifications, moving equipment and troops into the contested area.
October: New Egyptian president, Anwar as-Sadat agrees with Israel to end fighting, as specified in the August 7 agreement.

By Tore Kjeilen