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The Crossing

For the film by this name please see The Crossing (film)

The Crossing is a term used in Egypt to refer to the 1973 crossing of the Suez Canal by the Egyptian army at the start of the Yom Kippur War. New Egyptian president Anwar Sadat's regime was quite unstable and threatened by student demonstrations. They were unable to force through economic reforms that they felt was necessary to Egypt's survival.

In an attempt to restore Egyptian morale and secure the regime's position Sadat decided to attempt to defeat Israel on the battlefield. Egypt had, for many years, suffered repeated defeat at the hands of the Israelis, most dramatically in the Six Day War of 1967 where much of the Egyptian military had been destroyed and large chunks of Egyptian territory had been taken by Israel.

This territory taken by Israel included the Sinai Peninsula just across the Suez Canal from Egypt. Sadat hoped to overwhelm the Israeli forces stationed there. His Soviet advisors thought otherwise and argued that it would take many days of fighting and a 50% casualty rate for Egypt to capture the canal. Sadat decided to proceed anyway.

Sadat, in cooperation with the Syrians, launched the attack on October 6, 1973. It was a spectacular success. Within hours over 80 000 Egyptian soldiers crossed the canal. In the attack only 200 Egyptians lost their lives. It was the first Arab victory over the Israelis in a generation.

After the assault Egyptian forces dug-in and tried to hold defensive positions in the Sinai. While this proved unsuccessful the Crossing had achieved Sadat's aims. It had forced the two superpowers to once again become interested in the Middle East. The victory also greatly reinforced Sadat's domestic position. For the rest of his life he was referred to as "The Hero of the Crossing," and this status let his often corrupt and incompetent regime persist until 1981. The attack, combined with pressure from the United States, also brought Israel to the negotiating table and in 1977 the Camp David Accords a comprehensive Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty was signed, which among other things saw the Sinai returned to Egypt.