In the build-up to the Yom Kippur War, the Israelis were placed under extreme American pressure not to launch a pre-emptive strike; something they had done, with devastating success, in 1967. Consequently, the Egyptians were able to take the initiative. When they launched their offensive across the Suez Canal on 6 October, they had vast superiority in troop numbers and armaments in the Sinai theatre. Crucially, Egyptian investment in Soviet SAM anti-aircraft batteries mitigated Israel’s aerial superiority. In conjunction with the Egyptian attack, Syria launched an offensive in the Golan Heights, also with SAM protection and numerical superiority. In Sinai, the Egyptians rapidly established three bridgeheads across the Suez Canal, and then overran Israel’s line of 16 forts bordering the Canal. They bombed, and rendered temporarily inoperable, Israeli airfields in Sinai and on 8 October captured the town of El Qantara. Two days in, the military prognosis for Israel seemed grim.
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