Bar Lev Line…the strongest Israeli defense line penetrated by the Egyptian army

A fixed military defense system, consisting of a series of impregnable military fortifications supported by natural barriers, was created by the Israeli occupation on the eastern bank of the Suez Canal in 1969, with the aim of permanently occupying the Sinai and preventing its re-occupation . Egyptian army.

It was described as the strongest military defense line of that time. However, the Egyptian army was able to penetrate its defenses and destroy its fortress within a few hours during the October 1973 war, thus recording the first Arab victory over Israel, ending the myth of the “invincible army”. Demolished.

Date Created

Throughout its war, Israel has relied on mobile defense line tactics in its defense, and has adopted the principle of keeping few forces on defense lines during normal times and mass mobilization only during wars. As far as the fixed defense line is concerned, it requires the permanent stationing of large numbers of troops and equipment, which contradicts the military Israel doctrine.

In view of the victory achieved by Israeli occupation forces in the June 1967 war, which resulted in the occupation of the Sinai Peninsula, one of Israel's priorities was to preserve the lands it had seized, which forced it to change its strategy. Did. Towards fixed defense – which was imposed by the reality of the field. – Preventing Egypt from re-entering the Sinai.

The Egyptian army launched a series of attacks on the Sinai in July of the same year, causing heavy losses to the occupying forces, and then work began in earnest on establishing permanent fortifications. Trenches were built and lined with sandbags, then shelters were established at constructed observation points, but these strategies…were primitive, and resulted in nothing but catastrophic failure.

Later, the occupation forces used sand generated from the excavation of sand dunes in the Suez Canal and the Sinai to create and enhance sand barriers, with the aim of preventing Israeli military movements from Egyptian observation points on the West Bank. . of the canal, and this effort was successful to some extent.

In late 1967, the occupation forces decided to establish a fixed defense line to the west of the Sinai Peninsula, including fortifications and defensive barriers, based on a proposal by Haim Barlev, Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army at the time, to name that line of defence. The name was the line, it got bored later.

Bar Lev assigned Avraham Adan, commander of the armored units, and General Yeshayahu Gavitch, commander of the Southern Region, to work on the project. Experts from Germany, Belgium and the US took part in planning the project, which began in mid-September. March 1968, took a full year, and its construction cost approximately $500 million.

This project was distinguished by the fact that, after construction, it covered the entire front line along Egypt, and then the process of its fortification continued, as Ariel Sharon, who was the commander of the Southern Front at that time, later planned to increase it. worked for. and strengthen the fortifications.

The objectives of establishing the “Bar Lev Line” include:

  • Israel's permanent presence in the Sinai.
  • To protect Israeli forces in the area.
  • To prevent Egyptian forces from crossing to the east of the canal and to destroy them if they attempted to cross.
  • Military fortifications and facilities.
L-R: Israeli General Haim Bar-Lev, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Israeli Army, General Yitzhak Rabin, Chief of Staff, and General Ezer Weizman during a meeting on 06 June 1967 at the beginning of the Third Israeli–Arab War.  On 05 June 1967, Israel launched preventive strikes against Egypt and Syria.  In just six days, Israel captured the Gaza Strip and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, Syria's Golan Heights and the West Bank and Arab territories of East Jerusalem (both under Jordanian rule), giving the conflict the name Six. - Day's battle.  (Photo by AFP Files/AFP)
From left, Haim Bar-Lev, Yitzhak Rabin and Ezer Weizman (French) in a meeting during the 1967 war

The “Bar Lev Line” was built along the Eastern Suez Canal with a length of 170 kilometers, starting from the Mediterranean Sea in the north to the Gulf of Suez in the south, and its width within the Sinai Peninsula reached about 12 kilometers. .

At the forefront of the fortification was an earthen mound, between 20 and 22 meters high, standing directly on the bank of the canal, and inclined towards it at an angle of inclination of at least 45 degrees, and in some places It used to reach around 80 degrees. Mines were planted in it and decoys were set up in it, which served as an obstacle. It is difficult for vehicles and armored vehicles to cross it, and attempts to cross it increase risk.

Behind the earthen barrier are the main fortifications of the line. They consist of two series of demolitions, and from their base are attached pipes to project “napalm” directly into the channel, creating a layer of flame up to one meter high, and raising the temperature of the water to boiling point. , so as to prevent any attempt to land in the sea or ocean. rout the Egyptian army.

20 observation posts were distributed along the line, each manned by 15 soldiers, whose mission was to report infiltration attempts and direct artillery towards them. Special platforms were also prepared for the tanks as fixed points for bombing in emergency situations.

The fortification had 22 defensive sites and 36 fortified points, equipped with cement, concrete blocks and iron bars to resist various types of bombardment. Each point is a complex facility consisting of several floors, with an underground depth estimated at 4,000 square metres.

Each fortified point included 26 positions for machine guns and tanks, interconnected by deep trenches, in addition to tank and artillery hangars, in which armor, anti-tank and artillery units were mobilized, and ammunition. And there are weapons stores.

Each point is surrounded by barbed wire and mines. The line is defended by a division consisting of 3 armored brigades and two infantry brigades, with approximately 260 tanks, 70 artillery pieces and over 400 soldiers.

A general view of tourists visiting the Moses Fountain – a former Israeli stronghold along the Bar Lev defense line, 11 October 1975.  (AP photo)
The location of the Bar Lev Line was later turned into a tourist attraction (Associated Press)

The “Bar Lev Line” provided shelter for troops protected from chemical weapons and gases, was equipped with ventilation and lighting, and included medical services, kitchens, recreation halls, and stores for supplies.

Each point was provided with a wired and wireless communication network for internal communication between different points as well as communication with the local leadership. On the other hand, terrestrial communications networks were linked to civilian networks in Israel, so that soldiers could keep in touch with their families there.

natural fortification

When it was established, the “Bar Lev Line” was described as the strongest line of defense in modern history. In addition to the military fortifications established by the occupation, the “Bar Lev Line” was distinguished by numerous natural defenses, which formed obstacles that were not easy to penetrate, especially the Suez Canal, which had previously been classified. Military experts call it the strongest natural water barrier in the world, because its waters have currents in many directions and at different speeds.

The southern and northern ends of the fortifications were surrounded by water barriers, with the White Sea to the north and the Gulf of Aqaba to the south, and so could not be penetrated in safety by them, especially since the Egyptian army did not have the right to At the time there was the military capability to launch seaborne landings that would allow both sides to be encircled.

With these characteristics, the “Bar Lev Line” was considered stronger than the French “Maginot” and German “Siegfried” lines, and military personnel described it as one of the largest defensive military fortresses in the history of military warfare. Did, and Israel was I am proud that this is an impenetrable line.

Egyptian forces succeeded in taking control of the eastern bank of the Suez Canal in less than 6 hours (Associated Press)

preparation for war

The berm was the first obstacle in the liberation of Sinai, so the Egyptian army began to think about the best way to penetrate it, and after several suggestions, the engineer, Major General Baqi Zaki Youssef proposed, which he presented to his division. The commander, Major General Saad Zaghloul Abdel Karim, was approved.

The idea of ​​the proposal revolves around the use of high-pressure water pumps, intended to open gaps inside the soil barrier, creating corridors that allow tanks to pass through. The idea was inspired by what was done during the construction of the High Dam, as pressurized water was used to collapse mountains of sand, and then used in the work. building construction.

After approving the proposal, Baki Zaki designed a super-powerful water pump to destroy the obstacles of sand and dirt and remove them within a short period of time. He entrusted the manufacturing of the pumps to a German company, under the pretext of using them in the field of fire fighting.

Between the years 1969 and 1972, the Engineers Department conducted more than 300 experiments on the pumps at “Al-Bala” Island in Ismailia, and the results revealed their efficiency and suitability for the mission, and accordingly approved their use in combat and soldiers were trained to use them.

Entering the “Bar Lev Line” and destroying its security

The Egyptian army suddenly attacked the “Bar Lev Line” on October 6, 1973, taking advantage of elements of military surprise and camouflage, which preceded the conflict, as Egypt had expressed no intention of taking military steps. That made the attack unpredictable, and also included an element of timing. The occasion was an influencing factor in the success of the attack, as the army launched it at a time when Israeli soldiers were enjoying Yom Kippur.

The battle was on three fronts: sea, air and land at the same time. The fortifications were bombarded by more than two thousand pieces of heavy artillery, while 280 military aircraft flew over the canal, then moved deeper into the Sinai, attacking the main Israeli forces. and command and control center.

At the same time, about a thousand artillery units heavily bombarded the “Bar Lev” forts and mine fields, while about a thousand rubber attack boats carried about 8 thousand Egyptian commandos, infantry soldiers, artillery observers and anti-soldiers. Delivered to. Tank missile units to the west coast. East of the canal.

During the battle, more than 30,000 Egyptian soldiers were able to cross the canal, and they used high-pressure water cannons to penetrate the berm. They were operated on huge diesel engines to reach high pressure rates, and created more than 80 cracks at various locations. The Egyptian private company conducted an operation through which it was able to block “napalm” pipelines in preparation for the crossing.

Egyptian forces succeeded in controlling the eastern bank of the Suez Canal with its points and forts in less than 6 hours. The Egyptian flag was raised on the “Bar Lev Line”, bridges were built over the canal by the Corps of Engineers, and armored teams began crossing the canal into the Sinai.

The crossing battle resulted in 126 Israeli soldiers being killed and 161 others captured out of 441 Israeli soldiers stationed in the fortifications, while 64 Egyptian fighters were martyred, 420 soldiers were wounded, 17 tanks were damaged and 26 vehicles were damaged. Went. Were incompetent.

The destruction of the “Bar Lev Line” defenses and the invasion of its strong points was Israel's first military defeat at the hands of the Arabs, which served to undermine Israel's prestige and led to the fall of the myth. “Invincible Army.”

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