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Israel Declassifies Secret Documents about October War

Israel Declassifies Secret Documents about October War

Saturday, 26 September, 2020 - 09:45
A tank destroyed in the Sinai during the October 1973 war (Getty Images)

Israel declassified confidential documents revealing that the intelligence was aware of Egyptian and Syrian preparations to wage a war in 1973. However, the reports were disregarded and Israel was targeted by a surprise attack.


The declassification of these documents come ahead of the 47th anniversary of the war.


It turned out that Israel intentionally withheld the communique out of its belief that it was unlikely for Arabs to fight or get involved in a war following the defeat in 1967.


The Israeli government declassified the urgent warning — known as the “golden message”. It also published the intelligence report based on it, released to the government.


Besides, it disclosed the heated exchanges between the then-head of Military Intelligence Maj. Gen. Eli Zeira and the Agranat Commission.


Notably, Zeira decided to withhold the document, and the Agranat Commission investigated the government and military’s failures to expect the war.


According to the revealed documents, Israel decoded a cable that the Iraqi Embassy in Moscow dispatched to Russia. It said that 11 Russian airplanes arrived in Damascus to evacuate hundreds of Russian experts along with their families.


After 15 hours, the intelligence informed then-Prime Minister Golda Meir, former Defense Minister of Israel Moshe Dayan, and then-Israeli Chief of Staff David Elazar of the cable's content.


At the time the message was received, the Israeli army had also seen a similar mass exodus of Soviet advisers and their families from Egypt and all Soviet ships leaving Egypt’s Port Said and Alexandria.


One day before the war, Zeira described the matter as "exceptional".


Yet, he said that Egypt and Syria waging a war was unlikely. Later on, he admitted his failure to assess the situation and described it as a nightmare that lives with him.


In another letter to the Commission, Zeira addressed the claim saying that “in retrospect...we did not check the news as adding anything to the existing assessment, and we may have hoped to receive more significant news soon.”


“Indeed, I consider myself a partner in the responsibility for erring in the assessment of the enemy’s intentions. I do not shirk this responsibility and the mistakes that I made will live with me all my life,” he said.


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