Mubarak: ‘I started the Yom Kippur War’

In new recordings, former Egyptian president and air force chief says he attacked an Israeli position six minutes before the Arab armies’ surprise October 1973 attack began

Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, pictured in March 2010 (photo credit: AP/Markus Schreiber/File)
Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, pictured in March 2010 (photo credit: AP/Markus Schreiber/File)

Ousted Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak says he personally started the Yom Kippur War in October, 1973, by attacking an Israeli communications base in his fighter jet six minutes before the rest of the Arab armies’ surprise attack on the Jewish state began.

In most accounts, the war began at 2:00 pm on October 6, when at least 200 Egyptian fighter planes simultaneously hit three Israeli airbases, Israel’s missile batteries, command centers, numerous artillery positions, and radar installations, to devastating effect.

Mubarak, who was the Egyptian Air Force commander at the time, said only three other people knew of his mission, including former president Anwar Sadat.

Marking the 40-year anniversary of the war, Israel recently released then-prime minister Golda Meir’s long-classified testimony — in which she defends her decision not to launch a preemptive strike — from the commission of inquiry that investigated the actions of the Israeli military before and during the early stages of the war.

Mubarak also claimed that is was the late Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat who warned Israel of an incoming attack, and not — as is widely believed — the late Jordanian president King Hussein who met with Meir on September 25, 1973 to allegedly warn about a war on two fronts. Any mention of the meeting was glaringly absent from Meir’s testimony.

The war claimed the lives of over 2,500 Israeli soldiers and over 10,000 Egyptian and Syrian forces combined, by most accounts. The Egyptians have always considered the war a victory for their country, while Israel, taken by surprise, has agonized ever since about the costly failure to predict its outbreak and avert or preempt it.

Mubarak’s comments were issued in recordings, released on Wednesday, that were made toward the end of his time in prison before his release in late August.

On Tuesday, an Egyptian newspaper published further transcripts based on the recordings, in which Mubarak aired his opinions of regional leaders, and spoke of his relationships with the American and Israeli governments.

Mubarak claimed that a few months before he was removed from power, he was approached by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who suggested that the population of Gaza be resettled in Sinai. Mubarak said he turned down the offer.

Mubarak also referred to “intensive trade” between Israel and Egypt in the days when Yitzhak Rabin served as prime minister.

The former president told those around him that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan “has no friends,” adding that Erdogan “used to be good friends with the Syrian regime, but things have turned.”

Mubarak also divulged that Egypt had prevented an assassination attempt on the Saudi Arabian King, Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz, ordered by his long-time foe, Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s former leader.

The new material, which includes a description by Mubarak of his strained relationship with Washington during his time in power, follows recordings published by another Egyptian newspaper in June in which Mubarak blamed US President Barack Obama for pressing him to relinquish power during the 2011 uprisings against him.

Mubarak was recorded saying that he told the American president, “I do not take orders from you, and not from anyone, as far as the people of Egypt are concerned.”

Mubarak was released from prison in August after an appeal overturned his sentence, but is now on trial on charges related to the killings of some 900 protesters in the 2011 uprising.

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