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Arab Naval Battles against Israel (Egypt, Syria, Palestine)

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Soviet cogitations: 237
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Feb 2010, 11:57
Resident Admiral
Post 17 Feb 2018, 13:33
During the Cold War, the Arab-Israeli conflict was a key component of the military and geopolitical situation in Middle East. While initially only focused in fighting the newborn Israel State, with the rise of Nasser in Egypt, both Egypt and Syria turned into socialist-aligned nations. Even if no communist, both nations made socialist reforms and were widely supported by the Soviet Union economically and with military. Both the nations suffered multiple losses while scoring only few successes, and the reason of this disparity it is due the high professionalism, ingenuity, training, technological superiority and lesson-learned tactics from the Israeli Navy.

The following text contain data merging information from Egypt and Western internet sources and Israeli literature books.

The text does not cover events predating the rise of Nasser in Egypt or the subsequent Israeli actions on Palestinian and Lebanese militant groups.




BEFORE SUEZ CRISIS

28 September 1954
The first significant naval action since the rise of Nasserism in Egypt.
Unidentified Egyptian patrol boats (likely ex-British Fairmile B class) seized the Israeli merchant Bat Galim (500tons) with a cargo of 93t of meat, 30t of hides and 42t of plywood.
The ship never returned to Israel. Egyptian sources claimed sailors from the merchant opened fire against two fishing boats, sinking one (and killing two fishermen), but there is lack of confirmation if the action was indeed real or (as suggested by Israeli sources) fabricated.




SUEZ CRISIS

31 October 1956.
Egyptian escort destroyer Ibrahim el Awal attacked Haifa and shelled the city: the French destroyer Kersaint opened fire but did not scored hit. The Egyptian ship disengaged and chased by the Israeli destroyers INS Eilat and INS Yaffo. The Ibrahim el Awal suffered damages (2 killed, 8 wounded) at the engine and rudder by enemy fire and from an attack by Israeli Dassault Ouragans. The ship was forced to surrender the enemy: the Israeli will take her in service as INS Haifa. The action was the only destroyer versus destroyer battle of the Arab wars.
It is also the last time (and one of the few occasions since the Spanish Civil War) when a socialist-aligned nation lost a destroyer against a ship of similar class.
Image
Photo of the Egyptian destroyer being towed by Israeli vessel after the battle: she was ex-British Cottesmore (Hunt class), while both Israeli destroyers were larger and more powerful.


31 October 1956
The British light cruiser HMS Newfoundland attacked the Egyptian frigate Domiat.
Despite the huge disadvantage, the Egyptians attempted a brave resistance, but the ship suffered multiple hits: the British destroyer HMS Diana eventually finished her. There were 69 survivors (prisoners). Egyptians suffered 56 killed, British suffered 6 wounded after two hits scored on HMS Newfoundland.
It is also the last time (since the Spanish Civil War) when a socialist-aligned nation engaged (and damaged) an enemy cruiser in action.
It was also the (so far) last recorded loss of major warship due gunnery action in war.

Image
Photo of the British cruiser, Egyptian frigate was ex-Britsh HMS Nith (River class).


4 November 1956
Two Egyptian motor torpedo boats of Soviet project 183 class lost according modern western sources. Possibly scuttled alongside other vessels by Egyptians to block the Chanel (other decommissioned or not commissioned units scuttled).


November 1956
Egyptians lost the two landing crafts n°15 and n°20 (former American LCM type) according modern western sources. Possibly scuttled alongside other vessels by Egyptians to block the Chanel (other decommissioned or not commissioned units scuttled).





6-DAY WAR


5 June 1967
Israeli submarine INS Tanin landed 6 frogmen near Alexandria. They hoped to attack the project30-bis destroyer Suez, but the ship already sailed away from the harbor and the group split in the darkness, just to land on the beach and being captured by Egyptians. Having found no military target, the frogmen had attacked explosive on an old dredger and a barge, both damaged.
Egyptian Navy dispatched the destroyers Damiat and Port Said (again project30-bis), supported by three motor torpedo boats to track the submarine but without success.



6 June 1967
Some hours later of the failed attack in Alexandria, Israeli Navy carried a raid in Port Said.
Destroyer INS Yafo carried assaults crafts of Hazir-craft and the motor-launch Tzipor (acting as command craft). The planned attack suffered a number of delays and revisions (it was originally intended with explosive boats). Three Israeli motor torpedo boats also escorted the group. The assault crafts did not found the originally intended military ships and they did not attacked the merchants: one of the Hazir boat was attacked by Egyptian patrol boat with depth charges (no damage) and an all-out battle erupted with Egyptian coastal artillery firing at every possible target on sea. There was also risk of friendly fire when a pair of project205 missile boats (they were on patrol) encountered the three motor torpedo boats but no damage has been reported on both sides. While Egyptian sources claimed the sinking of four enemy crafts, a project205 boat grounded herself apparently due the high-speed maneuvering close the coast (she was eventually recovered).


6 June 1967
On the same day of the raid in Port Said, the Israeli submarine INS Tanin launched 4 torpedoes (in two salvoes) against the Egyptian frigate Tariq but they were observed and avoided. Tariq launched depth charges anddamaged the INS Tanin that managed to survive and escape. It was the only successful anti-submarine attack during the whole Arab Wars and the only fully confirmed successful ASW action in military warfare after WW2. Damage was not heavy (sonar, radar and electric gear).
Image
INS Tanin was former British HMS Springer of S-class
Image
Tariq was former HMS Whimbrel of modified Black Swan frigate class.


7 June 1967
After lingering in the same area, hoping to recover the frogmen, INS Tannin received order to return home but made a second torpedo attack against the same Egyptian frigate Tariq: once again torpedoes missed but the frigate did not noticed the attack and there was no reply. It was the second and only torpedo attack by submarine from the Israeli Navy.


8 June 1967
An inconclusive encounter between Egyptian missile boats (project 205) ferrying troops on retreat with Israeli motor torpedo boats. Termit missiles launched by Egyptians but missed and no hit or casualty reported on both sides.

8 June 1967
Israeli frigate INS Haifa launched depth charges against two different Egyptian submarine, claiming one of them as at least damaged or even sunk but this proved untrue. In the previous days, Israeli vessels claimed contact with other Egyptian submarines (project 633) but without claims.




WAR OF ATTRITION




July 1967
Israeli sources report about a frogman action on the Suez Canal. In collaboration with the Army and against ground target (two points of Egyptian rail line damaged), however the Egyptian ground fire hit and sunk a Israeli “Bertram” type boat used by the frogmen.




11 July 1967
Battle of Rumani Coast
During a patrol, the Israeli destroyer INS Eilat and the motor torpedo boats Aya and Daya encountered two Egyptian motor torpedo boats of Soviet project 183 class.
A gunfire fighting erupted, and INS Eilat separated and sunk both the Egyptian units before they could launch torpedoes.
According some western sources, other two additional project 183 class has been lost the following day, but this is probably a duplication of the report.
Image
Israeli sailors of one of the motor torpedo boats, celebrating right after the battle.



21 October 1967
The Israeli destroyer INS Eilat was operating close Port Said when the Egyptian forces attacked her. One project 183R class missile boat launched two missiles: both of them struck the target. A second project 183R missile boat launched her two missiles, while the first missed the second one scored hit causing further damage and the consequential sinking of the destroyer.
Israel suffered 47 sailor killed and more than a hundred wounded, Egyptian Navy scored the first significant victory to avenge the previous actions, also the loss of Eilat was the first ever-successful use of anti-ship missile in action. The action impressed all the naval observers (including the Soviets that estimated a higher number of missiles launches to achieve direct hits on destroyer-class ships). The victory also positively impressed many other Navies, including the Indian Navy that used Soviet-made missile boats against Pakistan.
Image
Photo of INS Eilat: she was former British HMS Zealous of Z-class
Image
Photo of two Egyptian project 183R units. This Soviet class was the first ever missile boat class to enter in service.



5/6 February 1969
Egyptian naval frogmen attacked the harbor of Eilat. Damages inflicted to the landing ship INS Bat Sheva and the armed transport ship Hydroma.
Image
The Landing ship was ex-South African Tzilngi


6/7 September 1969
Israeli naval frogmen made the “Operation Escort”, a raid in the bay of Suez close Ras Sadat, onboard of Hazir-class assault submersible boats planted limpet mines on two motor torpedo boats of project 183 class (some sources wrongly list two 183R missile boats lost) sinking them. One “Hazir” boat accidentally exploded on the way back, killing 3 frogmen, a fourth one recovered.



8 November 1969
Egyptian task force composed by two Soviet-made project30-bis destroyers, escorted by two missile boats and two motor torpedo boats, shelled Israeli targets on occupied Sinai, inflicting light damage (Israeli sources admit this damage, but doesn’t adds details).
Image
Photo of the Soviet-made destoryer El Zaffer in 1978 (ex-Smetlivy).


15 November 1969
Egyptian frogmen attacked the harbor of Eilat, damaging two ships. Some sources agree to identify the ships as the Israeli merchants Hey Daroma (1800 tons) and Dahlia (13700 tons), with Egyptians suffering one killed. However, other sources wrongly report the damage to auxiliary ship INS Bat Yam (reportedly destroyed in May 1970, while other sources report all three ships attacked including INS Bat Yam sunk.


22 January 1970
Egyptians lost two motor torpedo boats of class 183 according western sources. Unclear reason (probably Israeli action).
Image
Photo of one Egyptian boat in 1978, since early '70s the rear artillery system was replaced with BM-21 rockets for ground shelling.


4/5 February 1970
Egyptian frogmen attacked the harbor of Eilat, damaging the Israeli auxiliary ship INS Bat Galim and the LCT landing ship INS Bat Sheva (already damaged in 1969).


6 February 1970
Egyptian minesweeper Minya (Soviet project 254M) sunk by Israeli aircraft in Gulf of Suez.
Image
Photo of one Egyptian sister-ship: however Minya was the only one in service part off the M subclass (more advanced).


7/8 March 1970
Egyptian frogmen reportedly sunk an Israeli oil barge.


13 May 1970
Egyptian missile boat of project 183R class launched 2 missiles toward the Israeli fishing boat Orith (70tons) in northern Sinai. Both missiles exploded close the ship causing a quick sinking. 2 sailors died, 2 swam to the shore. The sinking is the second-ever success scored by Arab missile boats during the wars with Israel: it was surprising because the powerful missiles were not designed to sink small vessels.


15 May 1970
Egyptian frogmen planted an explosive charge in Eilat harbor under sea (rather than using limpet mines on the hulls), and inflicted further damage to the grounded auxiliary ship INS Bat Galim making her unrepairable. 1 Israeli diver working on the ship was killed and two wounded (both former frogmen members, now part of the reserve and officially working on the ship as civilians). Israeli will eventually scuttle her in open sea. Apart losses of frogmen vessels and Israeli merchant targets (tankers, fishing boat etc,) INS Bat Galim was the second (and last) official “INS” Israeli Navy ship lost in war action with the Arabs after destroyer INS Eilat.



16 May 1970
Israel air strike on Ras Banas: Egyptian destroyer El Qaher and a project 183R missile boat sunk by Israeli aircraft. A landing ship also damaged.
Image
Photo of the destroyer while serving during WW2 as British HMS Myngs of Z-class.



BEFORE YOM KIPPUR/OCTOBER WAR


5 January 1972
Israeli patrol boats of Dabur class intercepted and seized an Egyptian infiltration craft with intelligence agents on it.
Image
Photo of the infiltration craft seized

13 August 1973
Naval skirmish in the Gulf of Suez between one Egyptian patrol boat of “De Castro” type, against the two patrol boats n°861 and n°864 of Israeli Dabur class.
Israeli sources claim to have inflicted unspecified damages to the vessel, while suffering two wounded.
Image
Photo of one of the Egyptian "De Castro" type patrol.






YOM KIPPUR/OCTOBER WAR


6 October 1973
On the very first day of Yom Kippur War, the Egyptian Navy carried a number of operations:
Two Egyptian missile boats launched four missiles against five Israeli landing crafts, but all evaded having the attack been spotted by a couple of F-4 aircrafts that attacked but missed the Egyptian boats.


Egyptian submarine of Project 633 fired three torpedoes on Israeli tanker Samson, but missed and the tanker reached Eilat.
It is the only fully confirmed attempt from an Egyptian submarine to attack an enemy target: Egyptian claimed at the time to have sunk the target, but nowadays the claim is discredited.
It was one of the few submarine attacks after WW2 and the only one accomplished by a Soviet-built submarine.
Image
Photo of submarine n°722 of Soviet Project 633. Nearby there is submarine n°418 of the older Project 613, that was never used as much as the new more powerful class.


Egyptian ships laid mines in the Strait of Jubal during the War. The only damage inflicted to the enemy (during the conflict) admitted by Israel was an unidentified Israeli small tanker.
Egyptian sources however claim the sinking of two different tankers (first one 48000tons, second one smaller with 2000tons).
These claims are so far unreported and the only fully confirmed victory will be the Israel tanker Siris (29000 tons) (at the time empty) sunk after striking two mines on 26 October 1973, one day after the official end of the war.
Image
Photo of minesweeper Dakahliya of Soviet project 254K. This class of seagoing minesweepers was also intended for mine laying and each ship could carry between 8 – 16 mines (depending to type).


6 October 1973
Battle of Latakia
Israeli Navy dispatched the battle group of missile boats composed by the two Sa’ar-1 class units INS Mivtach and INS Miznah, Sa’ar-3 class units INS Ga’ash and INS Hanit and the single Sa’ar-4 INS Reshev. Their purpose was to strike the main Syrian harbor of Latakia and destroy as much as Syrian ships possible.
At first, INS Hanit engaged and sunk with gunfire a lonely motor torpedo boat (project 123K) and after this, they sunk the minesweeper Hitin of project 254 class with four Gabriel missiles (3 hits).
Syrian attempted to react with two183R project and one 205-project missile boats. Six Termit missile launched missed due electronic countermeasures and chaff rockets. While the 183R project had launched all their missiles, the 205-project unit had still a pair: she waited and launched at closer distance but to no avail because these last two missiles were also jammed. Israeli replied with 5 Gabriel missiles launched, sinking the 183R project n°44 (by INS Miznah) and the 205-project missile boat n°21 (by INS Ga’ash), and damaging the second 183R project n°42: she was damaged and tried to escape but was grounded and finished with 76mm gunfire from INS Miznah.
The Israeli naval victory was a decisive success, fruit of intelligent lesson-learned from the loss of INS Eilat: while powerful, Soviet missiles were outclassed by the more modern electronic countermeasures and the Syrian boats had not enough gunnery to fight in artillery battle (as result of this action, Soviet designed the larger and more armed project 1241 missile boats).
Image
Photo the Sa’ar-1 class INS Mivtach preserved: her sister-ship INS Miznah scored 2 of the Israeli victories of the day.
Image
Photo of one Syrian project-205 missile boat.


7 October 1973
Battle of Marsa Talamat
The Israel Dabur-class patrol boats n°864 and n°867 attacked the anchorage of Telma, sinking one Egyptian Bertram-class assault boat with two rubber-boats tied to it (western sources make mistakes in reporting this action: for once the assault boat was not sailing but was anchored).
Both n°864 and n°867 temporarily grounded after coming under fire from Egyptian ground forces, suffering damages with casualties (1 killed and 7 wounded), while Egyptian casualties are unknown.
Image
Photo of sister-ship n°860 of Dabur class
Image
Photo of one Egyptian "Bertam" type vessel, here armed with rockets.



8-9 October 1973
Battle of Baltim
Israeli Navy achieved a similar success against the Egyptian Navy as occurred in Latakia.
Israeli dispatched two Sa’ar-4 missile boats (INS Reshef and INS Keshet), two Sa’ar-3 (INS Soufa and INS Herev), one Sa’ar-2 (INS Eilat) and one missile-less Sa’ar-1 (INS Misgav). They engaged four Egyptian 205-project missile boats. Like the Syrians, Egyptians launched first: 3 missiles followed by other 3, all failed due the Israeli use of chaff and jamming systems.
After the failure, Egyptian units retreated but INS Keshet scored a hit with Gabriel missile that damaged a missile boat, while a second one missed. INS Misgav further damaged her and finished the missile boat.
INS Keshet had to stop due a leak due accidental breaking (no battle damage). INS Eilat fired one missile, while INS Reshef fired too scoring one hit on a second missile boat, before sinking her with gunfire. The second pair of Egyptian units was attacked too: INS Herev and INS Soufa opened fire against one missile boat that grounded. INS Reshef attempted to engage the fourth unit but retreated when too close the enemy coast. Officially, the Egyptian Navy lost only two units of 205-project: n°323 and n°390, meaning the third grounded boat was recovered.
The Israeli victory was a neat repetition of the Battle of Latakia: in both cases the Arab vessels attacked first but were outclassed by the more advanced Israeli vessels.
Image
Recent photo of former INS Reshef and INS Romach, in service for the Chilean Navy as Angamos and Casma.
Image
Photo of Egyptian missile boat of Soviet 205-project


11 October 1973
Second Battle of Latakia
A second raid by Israeli missile boats against the Syrian Navy: 2 Sa’ar-3 missile boats (INS Hetz and INS Herev) and one Sa’ar-2 missile boat (INS Haifa) attacked Latakia.
Two Syrian missile boats attempted to react but they were close foreign merchant and reportedly one Japanese and one Greek merchant hit by Israeli Gabriel missiles.
(Israeli sources claim they could have been hit by the Syrian vessels, but given the powerful explosive charge of Termit, it is unlikely they could have survived the hits).
Casualties reported on the Greek vessel, while the Japanese suffered a fire. Some sources claim the merchant sunk but this appears untrue.
One 183R project missile boat, n°43, hit and grounded by Israeli Gabriel missile. The project-205 missile boat n°22 is wrongly reported as lost in the first battle (only one sunk by Israel) and its loss match with a claim of a project-205 sunk during this second battle. Syrian missiles failed again to hit the enemy. However, this time Israeli failed to achieve the main target: to strike the main Oil tanks of the port. A secondary attack at Banias ignited the local Oil tanks.
Image
Photo of a Syrian 183R project missile boat.


12 October 1973
Two Israeli missile boats attacked Tartus: Israeli report the sinking of two Syrian 183R boats (no losses recorded) and damaging the Soviet merchant Ilya Mechnikov.
The attack on the Soviet vessel mobilized the Soviet Navy units monitoring the conflict in Mediterranean Sea, but no military action was undertaken.



9/10 October 1973
Israeli naval frogmen made a raid in Ardaka harbor during the night, sinking with planted explosives one Egyptian 183R project missile boat.


15 October 1973
Israeli Dabur patrol vessels attacked a group of Egyptian commandos who were on the Israeli coast of Sinai: claiming up to 18 “motorboats” sunk. It is unclear the real number of losses inflicted and the actual designation of vessels (probably simple rubber-boats).


16 October 1973
Port Said Battle
Israeli naval frogmen made the “Operation Lady”, a raid in Port Said using two “Hazir” mini-submarines: planted explosives and claimed to have sunk one missile boat (project-205), one motor torpedo boat (project 206), one coast guard boat, one tank landing craft. Israeli frogmen lost two men and one “Hazir” boat without giving detail of the loss (frogmen MIA with their boat). Egyptian sources believed to have suffered a mixed attack including missile boats, and claimed the sinking of several attacking vessels: it is indeed probable the Hazir boat sunk in the counter-attack, but it is unclear which Egyptian unit could claim it and how the attack happened. No Egyptian craft has been confirmed sunk, but it is possible that some vessels were damaged.
All considered, despite the unproved Israeli claims, this action was the only Arab success in the October War.
Image
Photo of Egyptian submarine chaser n°222 off Soviet project201 class. While widely used by a number of Soviet-alligned nations in Cold War conflicts, such vessels never saw significant action against Israel. However 8 units were in service during the war and could have took part in Port Said defense.
Image
Photo of a project 123K motor torpedo boat: the class has never been delivered from Soviet Union, but six boats were received from Syria. Considering the more modern project 132 was the standard Egyptian motor torpedo boats, it is no surprise these older vessels were converted for a support role (including coast guard service) with rockets while retaining the torpedoes: it is likely they were part of the defense of Port Said.



21/22 October 1973
Israeli naval frogmen made a raid in Ardaka harbor during the night, damaging one Egyptian 183R project missile boat with a rocket.



22 October 1973
Israeli sources claim to have sunk a couple of Egyptian patrol boats in Damietta by Gabriel missiles fired from Sa’ar boat. Officially, the Egyptian navy lost only two 183R project missile boats in the war: while one was surely sunk at Ardaka, the other 183R project missile boat could be a victim claimed during this raid.



23 October 1973
An Egyptian submarine of Project 633 reportedly torpedoed and sunk a Cyprus-flagged merchant, 60nm north of Alexandria.
Identity of the ship is unclear, in addition to which port the ship was sailing to.
There are little to no evidence in modern literature about this alleged attack, that it is curiously reported only by Israeli sources!
If proved, this would make an additional successful submarine torpedo attack achieved after WW2 (alongside the Pakistani, the British and the North Korean respective successful sinking).



24 October 1973
When the Israeli forces advanced into the port of Adiya, two motor torpedo boats of 123K class were forced to surrender. The Israeli patrol boat n°838 of Dabur class took part at the seizure. One torpedo boat was scuttled, while the second one preserved as museum ship in Haifa.
Image
Photo of the motor torpedo boat currently preserved: notice how the artillery was replaced by rockets.
User avatar
Soviet cogitations: 4377
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 07 Oct 2004, 22:04
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Resident Soviet
Post 17 Feb 2018, 23:27
Man, we're so lucky to have you on the forum doing these historical compilations, often containing unique or totally obscure moments from 20th century naval history. These are gems that one would be hard pressed to find anywhere else on the English-language internet. I hope you're backing your work up somehow!
"The thing about capitalism is that it sounds awful on paper and is horrendous in practice. Communism sounds wonderful on paper and when it was put into practice it was done pretty well for what they had to work with." -MiG
Soviet cogitations: 237
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Feb 2010, 11:57
Resident Admiral
Post 19 Feb 2018, 19:15
Greetings! My work has been done entirely as hobby ^^ All started when I found myself surprised to see an absolute abyss concerning the theme (even soviet naval actions in WW2) in english internet pages, sites and forum, so i started interacting with a couple of forums (english-based axishistoryforum and russian-based tsushima.su) out of curiosity. With time it turned a personal hobby and interest. But there are still many things I have no time or means to research (usually I write about specific lacks in the text). But I plan eventually in the next 1-2 year to finish covering up EACH communist/socialist state (or not-state entity) involvement in naval warfare (with emphasis on ship-to-ship action, I tends to avoid the air-to-ship because it would be a too huge work).
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