Egyptian-Libyan War of 1977


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Egyptian-Libyan War of 1977

War: Egyptian-Libyan Border War of 1977

Dates: July 20-24, 1977

Location: Egypt-Libya Border region

Nations Involved:



Libya (with Soviet military support)


Reason for War:

Egypt and Libya had at one point been on fairly good terms, as both enjoyed Soviet support in the ongoing Arab-Israeli Conflict. After the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, (in which Libya and Egypt were allies), Egypt turned toward the West, ejected their Soviet advisors, and became friendlier with the United States. Also, Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat began to make initial peace moves toward Israel. Libya's leader, Colonel Muammar Khaddafi, still strongly allied with the Soviet Union, expressed his displeasure at Egypt's moves toward peace with Israel by expelling 225,000 Egyptian workers from Libya and by organizing a "March on Cairo," in June, 1977, to protest against Egypt. The march was halted by Egyptian border guards.

Analysts also believed that this Libya-Egypt conflict was part of a larger Soviet-sponsored plan to destabilize not only Egypt, but also other pro-Western nations in north-east Africa; Sudan and Somalia. Libya had sponsored a coup attempt against Sudan's leader in 1976, and Marxist-led (and Soviet allied) Ethiopia was engaged in a border conflict with Somalia's President Muhammad Siad Barre, who had, like Sadat, recently ejected the Soviets from his country.

Course of the War:

After the march was halted, Libyan artillery fired at the Egyptian border town of Sallum, and Libyan troops carried out a raid at Sallum. The raid was carried out by Libya's 9th Tank Battalion and supported by the Libyan Air Force with French-built Dassault Mirage 5 aircraft.

Egyptian President Sadat and military commanders ordered three fully army divisions to the Libyan border in reaction to the Libyan attacks. The Egyptian Army beat back the Libyan Army attack, destroying most of their equipment in the ground battle around Sallum. Tanks and mechanized infantry units of the two divisions of the First Egyptian Army, which normally protect the Egyptian capital of Cairo, effectively mauled the three Libyan Army brigades Khaddafi threw into the border battle.

The Egyptian Air Force and the Egyptian Army then went on the offensive, crossing the Libyan border and capturing some key border towns. Three squadrons of Egyptian warplanes bombed Libyan military bases at Al-Adem, Al-Kufra and Umm Alayan, as well as a training camp for Libyan-sponsored African terrorists near Al-Jaghbub, which was attacked by Egyptian commandos delivered to the battlefield via helicopter assault. These terrorists were believed to be training for various Libyan-sponsored insurgencies in Africa, such as the ongoing rebellion in northern Chad.

Libya reportedly suffered 400 dead and wounded combined, lost 60 tanks, 40 armored personnel carriers, and 21 aircraft. The 1,500-strong Soviet military advisory contingent, who operated Libya's radar network, suffered three dead and one wounded in Egyptian air raids. Egypt's losses came to about 100 dead and wounded, while losing up to six military aircraft.

Other Arab states negotiated a cease-fire between the two battling North African neighbors, and convinced Sadat to not launch a full-scale invasion of Libya. Egypt, and the world at large, consider this war to have ended in Egyptian victory.


Outcome of War: Tensions between Egypt and Libya continued, but Egypt had taught Khaddafi a lesson, and no more overt attacks on Egypt occurred. Egypt moved even closer into an alliance with the United States (which continues into the early 21st century), and signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.


Egypt: Libya: Soviet Union:

Dead & Wounded: 100 Dead & Wounded: 400 Dead: 3 Wounded: 1


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