|Egyptian special forces taken as POW in the west side of the Suez canal|
|Egyptian BTR 50 in the sweet water canal in the west side of the Suez canal|
|Egyptian truck in the sweet water canal west to the Suez canal|
On 14 October the IDF attacked the command and control of the Egyptian Army
in Jabbel Ataqa and destroyed 250 Egyptian tanks
The Israelis immediately followed their success of 14 October with a multidivisional counter-attack through the gap existing between the Egyptian 2nd and 3rd armies. Sharon’s 143rd Division, now reinforced with a paratroop brigade commanded by Col. Dani Matt, was tasked with establishing bridgeheads on the east and west banks of the Canal. The 162nd and 252nd Armored Divisions commanded by Generals Bren Adan and Kalman Magen respectively would then cross through the breach to the west bank of the Canal and swing southward encircling the 3rd Army in an enveloping action. The offensive was code-named Operation South-Hearted Men or alternatively, Operation Valiant.
On the night of 15 October 750 of Matt’s paratroopers crossed the Canal in rubber dinghies. They were soon joined by tanks ferried on motorized rafts and additional infantry. The force encountered no resistance initially and fanned out in raiding parties attacking supply convoys, SAM sites, logistic centers and anything of military value, with priority given to the destruction of SAMs. Several SAM batteries were destroyed in these attacks punching a hole in the Egyptian anti-aircraft screen and enabling the IAF to more aggressively pursue value targets. By now, the Syrians no longer posed a credible threat and the Israelis were able to shift their air power to the south in support of the offensive. The combination of a weakened Egyptian AA umbrella and a greater concentration of IAF fighter bombers in the theatre of operations did not bode well for the Egyptians who now bore the full brunt of the IAF. EAF attempts to interdict the IAF sorties resulted in one-sided dogfights in Israel’s favor.
Despite the success the Israelis were having on the West Bank, General’s Bar-Lev and Elazar ordered Sharon to concentrate on securing the bridgehead on the East Bank. He was ordered to clear the roads leading to the Canal as well as a position known as Chinese Farm, situated just north of Deversoir, the Israeli crossing point. Sharon objected and requested permission to expand and breakout of the Bridgehead on the west bank arguing that such a maneuver would cause the collapse of Egyptian forces on the east bank. But the Israeli high command was insistent, believing that until the east bank was secure, forces on the west bank could be cut off. Sharon was overruled by his superiors and relented. On 16 October, he dispatched Amnon Reshef’s Brigade to attack Chinese Farm. Other IDF forces attacked entrenched Egyptian forces overlooking the roads to the Canal. After three days of bitter, close-quartered fighting, the Israelis succeeded in dislodging numerically superior Egyptian forces from these positions. An ancillary target code-named Missouri was not taken but its capture or lack thereof proved to be of no consequence and ultimately, had no bearing or impact on the success of the Israeli counter-offensive.
The Egyptians meanwhile failed to grasp the extent and magnitude of the Israeli crossing nor did they appreciate its intent and purpose. This was partly due to attempts by Egyptian field commanders to obfuscate reports concerning the Israeli crossing and partly due to a false assumption that the Canal crossing was merely a diversion to a major IDF offensive targeting the right flank of the Second Army. Consequently, on 16 October, General Shazly ordered the 21st Armored Division to attack southward and the T-62 equipped 25th Independent Armored Brigade to attack northward in a pincer action to eliminate the perceived threat to the 2nd Army. However, the Egyptians failed to scout the area and were unaware that by now, Adans’s 162nd Armored Division was in the vicinity. Moreover, the 21st and 25th failed to coordinate their attacks allowing General Adan’s Division to meet each force individually. Adan first concentrated his attack on the 21st Armored Division destroying 50–60 tanks and forcing the remainder to retreat. He then turned southward and ambushed the 25th Independent Armored Brigade, destroying 86 of its 96 tanks and all of its APCs.
After the failure of the 17 October counter-attacks, the Egyptian General Staff slowly began to realize the magnitude of the Israeli offensive. Early on 18 October the Soviets showed Sadat satellite imagery of Israeli forces operating on the west bank. Alarmed, Sadat dispatched Shazly to the front to assess the situation first hand. He no longer trusted his field commanders to provide accurate reports.Shazly confirmed that the Israelis had at least one division on the west bank and were widening their bridgehead. He advocated withdrawing most of Egypt’s armor from the east bank to confront the growing Israeli threat on the west bank. Sadat rejected this recommendation outright and even threatened Shazly with a court martial. Ismail Ali recommended that Sadat push for a cease-fire so as to prevent the Israelis from exploiting their successes.
Israeli forces were by now pouring across the Canal on bridges, including one of indigenous design and motorized rafts. Adan’s division rolled south to the Ganeifah Hills while Magen’s division pushed west.Sharon’s drive north was halted 10 km south of Ismailia by a combined force of paratroopers and commandos. However, Adan and Magen beat the Egyptians decisively in a series of engagements, though they often encountered determined Egyptian resistance which incurred heavy Israeli casualties. In light of these casualties and the encountered resistance, Elazar made an adjustment to the operational plan, one that lacked the optimism of the original plan, which had promised a quick and decisive defeat of the Egyptians. In addressing the Israeli cabinet, Elazar said,"A battle is not being conducted according to the more optimistic model – the one that predicts the total collapse of the Egyptian army – but according to a realistic one...The Egyptian army is not what it was in '67. Furthermore, Magen's division, which possessed around 50 tanks on October 23, attempted to advance east towards Cairo from Kilometer 101. They advanced for eight kilometers, at which point they encountered an Egyptian armored force of the 3rd Armored Brigade, 4th Armored Division. After heavy fighting throughout the night, the Egyptians repelled the Israelis, who broke off the attack and returned to their original starting point.
By the end of the war, the Israelis had advanced to positions that were some 101 kilometers from Egypt's capital, Cairo and occupied 1,600 square kilometers west of the Suez Canal. The Israelis had also cut the Cairo-Suez road and encircled the bulk of Egypt's Third Army. The Egyptians held a narrow strip on the east bank of the Canal, occupying some 1,200 square kilometers of Sinai. One source estimated that the Egyptians had 70,000 men and 720 tanks on the East bank of the canal. However, 30,000 of these were now encircled by the Israelis.
Any notion that the 3rd army had any remaining offensive capabilities is absurd. if it were not for the goodwill of the IDF, they wouldn't even had drinking water.
|Encircled Egyptian 3ed army transfer water and food under IDF supervision|
|IDF M48 tanks crossing the Suez canal back home after the agreement with the Egyptians|