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The War of Attrition: Nasser Terminates the War of Attrition Cease-Fire

(March 8, 1969)

After a lull on the Suez Canal front, the Egyptians opened a heavy artillery barrage along the entire length of the Canal on 8 March 1969, in a well-planned and premeditated offensive. The War of Attrition had entered a new phase. The Egyptian army called the shelling of the Israeli positions "active preventive defence". Following are excerpts from two statements by President Nasser, which were broadcast by Cairo Radio:

Nasser Addresses the Arab Socialist Union Congress (March 30, 1969)

" ... The so-called Middle East crisis, which is in fact our natural and rightful struggle, is now entering a very important and serious phase ... There was no danger in the situation that we faced immediately after the setback, simply because we had no material power to resist and deter the enemy. The enemy had all the means, and we lacked means to answer him. So there was no danger there. With the change in the picture and with the growth and escalation of our power, the enemy still possesses his means... Then the possibility of a clash was remote, but now the possibility of a clash exists, because our situation is different from what it was then...

"There was a time when we used to ask our soldiers at the front to account for their actions if they fired at the enemy on sight, for we were not prepared for complications. Now the picture has changed. We ask every soldier at the front to account for his action if he sees the enemy and does not fire at him."

President Nasser Addresses Aircraft Workers
(May 1, 1969)

Speaking at the aircraft plant sports club at Helwan, President Nasser said: We must know that we are in a state of war, and war means that we shall kill our enemies and that our sons too will suffer losses. We shall make sacrifices and die. No one fights without facing the danger of death. War means that we deal the enemy blows and perhaps he strikes us ...

"At the beginning of last month, our armed forces said that they were ready. We have been aware and have learned from Israeli leaders' statements that the Israelis seek complete calm on the front so that they can strengthen their fortifications and turn the cease-fire line into permanent borders... Our armed forces have therefore begun to implement their plan. They began its implementation at the beginning of last month rather, at the beginning of March, since today is the Ist of May. The armed forces' objective has been to destroy the Bar-Lev Line, which Israel says is indestructible and impregnable. After this series of battles along the Canal, the War Minister, General Fawzi, informed me and the Cabinet last week that our armed forces have so far been able to destroy 60 per cent of the Bar-Lev Line - the fortifications that Israel has set up on the Suez Canal. General Fawzi told us in the Cabinet that the armed forces would continue to implement their plan until they completed the destruction of the remaining 40 per cent of the Bar-Lev Line that the Israeli forces have set up east of the Canal...

"Our armed forces then said that all their unit patrols were prepared to proceed to the Sinai desert and carry out the sacred duty dictated by the country. Thus we began our operations on the east bank of the Canal. All of us - all of you - have heard about the patrols and the artillery battles. I can say that the purpose of the artillery battles the destruction of the Israeli fortifications - has been achieved to a great extent. I can only say that the purpose of the fighting patrols has also been achieved to a great extent ...

"We speak of preparedness while we are building our armed forces. We speak of struggle and the liberation of the occupied territory inch by inch, while we are working to destroy Israel's fortifications east of the Canal. We send our armed forces to Sinai to meet the enemy face to face and to fight him in hand-to-hand combat."


Sources: Israeli Foreign Ministry