Israel releases records of 1973 war ahead of 50th anniversary

Israel releases records of 1973 war ahead of 50th anniversary
Although almost all of the records have been released, certain records have segments censored and other files are still classified on national security grounds.
3 min read
08 September, 2023
The 1973 war between Israel, Egypt and Syria caused tens of thousands of casualties and later lead to the Camp David accords between Egypt and Israel [Getty]

Israel has declassified almost all its records relating to the 1973 war ahead of the 50-year anniversary of the conflict with Syria and Egypt.

Although only in Hebrew, some 3,500 archive files, 1,400 original paper documents, 1,000 photos, 750 recordings, 150 minutes of government deliberations, and eight video clips were uploaded onto a new website in a project that took over two years to complete.

State archivist Ruti Abramovitch was quoted by The Times of Israel as saying that it was "the largest exposure the State Archives has ever done".

According to the Israeli State Archives, the documents include the "government's deliberations, military-political consultations, meetings of the Knesset committees, correspondence of the Foreign Ministry" and assessments of the war.

Some of the documents reveal Israel's discussions over the prospect of an attack, including questions surrounding a potential pre-emptive strike against Egypt and Syria or the possibility of an intelligence leak as a preventative measure to stop the war.

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Dayan stated before the war that Israel "can't allow ourselves to deliver a preemptive strike at this time, from a diplomatic perspective. In the current situation, even five minutes before is impossible".

Other intelligence matters include newly revealed pictures of Egyptian businessman and alleged double agent Ashraf Marwan, who was known as the 'Angel' by Israeli intelligence.

Included were transcripts of warnings Marwan gave Israeli Mossad chief Zvi Zamir of a "99 percent chance that the war will start tomorrow", with the Egyptian military moving "almost the entire army across the Suez Canal" and the Syrian army planning to "capture the Golan Heights".

Haaretz reported on how the documents revealed alleged conversations and warnings about the war from King Hussein of Jordan about Syrian preparations for their attack on the occupied Golan Heights.

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Part of these details regard alleged communications between Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir and King Hussein on the eve of the war, although some key documents surrounding the official correspondence are still classified and certain documents censored on national security grounds.

Censored sections and classified documents are expected to be released on the 90-year anniversary of the war - in 2063.

The 1973 conflict is known as the Yom Kippur war in Israel as it began during the Jewish holiday, and the Ramadan war in the Arab world because it coincided with the Muslim holy month. Both sides declared a victory with Egypt and Syria's initial successes proving that the Israeli military was not invincible as once assumed.

The nearly three-week war, which saw tens of thousands of casualties, paved the way for the 1978 Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel and led to the signing of a peace treaty between the two in 1979. This move was hugely unpopular in the Arab world and saw Egypt suspended from the Arab League for a decade.