The Yom Kippur War began on this date in 1973. It’s also known as the Fourth Arab-Israeli War, the Ramadan War, and the October War. It began with a joint attack by Syrian and Egyptian forces — supported in part by the Soviet Union — on two fronts in Israel. The Arab allies planned the attack to recapture the land that Israel had taken during the Six-Day War in 1967; the territory included the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights.
The day of the attack was chosen with care. October 6 was the date of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar, and is a strict Sabbath day, which means no work may be performed on that day. As a result, many Israeli soldiers were not at their posts, and Israel was literally caught off guard. Iraq and Jordan stepped in to support the other Arab forces, and the United States airlifted weapons to Israel. Gradually the Israel Defense Forces reclaimed the territory that had been taken back by the Arabs. The United Nations issued a cease-fire resolution on October 22, and open hostilities finally ended on October 26. Israel technically won the war, but sustained heavy casualties and loss of military equipment. The reputation of Anwar el-Sadat, Egypt’s president, grew throughout the Middle East due to his forceful and decisive attacks at the beginning of the war, and he claimed it as an Egyptian victory.
The following year, Israel agreed to return part of the Sinai to Egypt. The rest of the peninsula was returned in 1982. Syria was not included in the cease-fire agreement between Egypt and Israel, so nothing was to stop Israel from driving Syrian forces back and claiming even more of the Golan Heights than they had before.