Cease-fire violations along the jagged truce lines that separate the Israeli and Arab armies may continue for some time. But at week's end it was virtually certain that the fourth Middle East war since the founding of Israel in 1948 had come to an end, though at a terrible price. In 18 days of ferocious fighting, all the participants suffered heavy losses in both men and materiel; according to the U.S. Defense Department, as many as 7,700 Egyptians, 7,700 Syrians and 4,500 Israelis were killed or wounded, the largest number of casualties for all three nations in any war since 1948.
From a purely military viewpoint it was already clear that the Israelis had come breathtakingly close to a victory that would have matched their swift triumph in the Six-Day War. Despite the important advantages possessed this time by the refurbished Arab armiesthe element of surprise, the early losses they inflicted, their easy penetration of the Bar-Lev Line along the east bank of the Suez Canal and Israeli bastions in the Golan Heightsthe Israelis managed in scarcely more than two weeks to reverse the tide of battle and push the battlefronts into Syria and Egypt. At week's end the Israelis claimed that they had captured most of the city of Suez; their armies had fought to within 30 miles of Damascus and about 45 miles of Cairo.
Avoiding Disaster. Although the details were still obscured by censorship, the bridgehead made by an Israeli armored force across the southern sector of the canal may rank as the most brilliant military feat in the country's short but tempestuous history. In the end, Egypt may well have agreed to a ceasefire because it realized that to continue fighting would lead to another disaster.
Enlarging their bridgehead on the west bank of the Suez Canal (TIME, Oct. 29), Israeli forces last week proceeded to neutralize, both militarily and politically, the dug-in Egyptian forces on the east bank. With at least 20,000 men and 500 tanks at their disposal on the southern portion of the west bank, the Israelis cut the vital highway between Suez and Cairo, encircled and later captured most of the city of Suez and pushed on to the port of Adabiya. In the process, they trapped the Egyptian Third Army, which was still in position on the east bank of the canal.
The Egyptian public hardly realized what had happened. At the week's beginning, a mood of euphoria still persisted in Cairo. Many Egyptians initially resented the declaration of a ceasefire because they believed that it was cheating Egypt out of a clear-cut victory. In any case, full-scale fighting broke out again almost immediately. In the 24 hours that followed the ceasefire, the Israelis drastically improved their position on the west bank. They destroyed large numbers of missile and artillery sites and, most important, they isolated the Third Army, cutting it off from food for its 20,000 men and fuel for its 400 tanks. Time after time, the Egyptians fought ferociously to free themselves but failed.