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Last Updated: Monday, 30 October 2006, 14:27 GMT
Suez - an Israeli view
By Martin Patience
BBC News, Jerusalem

On 29 October 1956, Israeli forces invaded the Sinai peninsula as part of a covert plan concocted with the British and French to retake the Suez Canal.

Moshe Ein Mor was a 22-year-old lieutenant in the Israeli Army when the order came to invade Egypt.

Moshe Ein Mor
Moshe Ein Mor left the army as a lieutenant colonel in 1973

We jumped from the plane and there was a sea of 400 Israeli paratroopers strung out across the sky. The sun was setting and the road junction that we knew from our briefing was clear in sight.

We had guns strapped to our chests and we were told that we would probably have to use them as soon as our feet hit the ground.

But the jump went relatively smoothly, a few paratroopers received strained ankles and one broke his leg from our battalion, and much to our surprise there were no Egyptian forces waiting for us.

About an hour after we landed an Egyptian truck drove into view but we destroyed the vehicle quickly. In general, our first 24 hours were relatively quiet.

Our mission was to disrupt Egyptian forces heading to eastern Sinai to fight Israeli troops crossing the Sinai by land. We were located at a position about 60 km (37 miles) east of the canal and were ordered to hold on until a full brigade of paratroopers crossing by land rendezvoused with us.

map

On our second day, our position was discovered and we were strafed by four Egyptian warplanes.

We were like field mice hiding in shallow holes dug out of a rocky hillside. I lay with my face up so I could see the aircraft.

Pretty soon Israeli warplanes flew in and shot down two or three of the Egyptian planes.

Two hours after midnight, the rest of the brigade linked up with us. They had crossed the Sinai in amazingly quick time. Everything was a lot quieter than we thought it would have been.

We were trapped. Both sides were surprised to see each other - it wasn't planned this way
At noontime, the brigade began moving westwards through the Mitla Pass and towards the Suez canal. We were unaware that the Egyptians had reinforced a battalion deployed there.

Our troops suffered immediate casualties in the pass. We were trapped. Both sides were surprised to see each other - it wasn't planned this way.

Nobody knew where the Egyptians were firing from. We lost 38 men. After several hours of fighting, however, we destroyed the Egyptian battalion.

But the battle was a terrible mistake: we should have carried reconnaissance on the area beforehand.

My battalion wasn't involved in the fight. We were further back but we could hear the raging gunfire. It was like a curse: we wanted to be there as we saw ourselves as the best brigade in the Israeli military. But we were ordered to stay behind. I lost several friends that day.

Valuable experience

Once we got through the Mitla Pass, my brigade was sent to the western shore of southern Sinai. We arrived at Sharm el-Sheikh two days later. Before entering the town we took had took hundreds of Egyptian prisoners without much fighting but minor sporadic clashes.

For me the war was some kind of extension of Israeli military activities. In the 18 months leading up to the conflict, I had been involved operations to stop Arab infiltrators crossing into Israel and terrorising our community.

The war also showed the strength of the Israeli military and we learnt a lot about Egypt's capability of fighting us in a war. I think the conflict provided valuable experience for Israel.






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