Declassified Yom Kippur War Archives Highlight Painful Intelligence Lapses


IDF tanks crossing a mobile bridge built by the IDF on the Suez Canal, during the Yom Kippur War in 1973. (GPO)

On Sunday, Israel declassified a sizable cache of documents and images from the 1973 Yom Kippur War, whose 50th anniversary falls later this year. Some of the revelations offer insight into intelligence failings that made the conflict one of the most painful episodes in the state’s history.

The comprehensive new site, created by the Defense Ministry, features some 15,000 photos, 6,000 documents, 215 films, 170 maps and 40 tape recordings.

The attack on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights and Sinai Peninsula by the Syrian and Egyptian militaries on Oct. 6, 1973 famously came as a nasty surprise to Israel’s top intelligence and military brass. The entire state apparatus was seized with a nearly fatal complacency that ended the glittering political careers of Prime Minister Golda Meir and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan. Israel neutralized the two invading forces after nearly three weeks, but at great cost.

The ministry said in a statement that the site “was established to tell the story of a generation, to immortalize the bravery of the fighters, and offer an official platform for passing down the war’s legacy to future generations.”

One of the documents featured on the website is an infamous intelligence file marked with the serial number 433. Circulated an hour and a half before the war’s outbreak, it said that intelligence had “recognized signals” that Egypt and Syria were planning “to a initiate war in the near future.”

Fatally, the authors refused to credit the possibility that a decision to launch the war had already been made, writing that Egypt and Syria were “aware that there is no chance of succeeding in a war.” The newly opened archives show that hours before this misleading brief was fired off military intelligence received concrete warnings that the invasion was impending.

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