Definitions

offered compensation

Six-Day War

[siks-dey]

The Six-Day War (حرب الأيام الستة, Ḥarb al‑Ayyam as‑Sitta or more commonly حرب 1967, Ḥarb 1967; מלחמת ששת הימים, Milhemet Sheshet Ha‑Yamim), also known as the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the Third Arab-Israeli War, Six Days' War, an‑Naksah (The Setback), or the June War, was fought between Israel and Arab neighbors Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. The nations of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria also contributed troops and arms to the Arab forces.

In May 1967, Egypt's president Nasser expelled the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) from the Sinai Peninsula. The peacekeeping force had been stationed there since 1957, following a British-French-Israeli invasion which was launched during the Suez Crisis. Egypt amassed 1,000 tanks and 100,000 soldiers on the border, closed the Straits of Tiran to all ships flying Israeli flags or carrying strategic materials, and called for unified Arab action against Israel. On June 5, 1967, Israel launched a pre-emptive attack against Egypt's airforce. Jordan, which had signed a mutual defence treaty with Egypt on May 30, then attacked western Jerusalem and Netanya. At the war's end, Israel had gained control of the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. The results of the war affect the geopolitics of the region to this day.

Background

Suez Crisis aftermath

The Suez Crisis of 1956 represented a military defeat but a political victory for Egypt. It was a pivotal event in the lead up to the Six Day War. Heavy diplomatic pressure from both the United States and the Soviet Union forced Israel to withdraw its military from the Sinai Peninsula.

After the 1956 war, Egypt agreed to the stationing of a UN peacekeeping force in the Sinai, the United Nations Emergency Force, to keep that border region demilitarized, and prevent Palestinian fedayeen guerrillas from crossing the border into Israel.

Egypt also agreed to reopen the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, whose closure had been a significant catalyst in precipitating the Suez Crisis. As a result, the border between Egypt and Israel remained quiet for a while.

After the 1956 war the region returned to an uneasy balance without the resolution of any of the issues plaguing the region. At the time, no Arab state had recognized Israel. Syria, aligned with the Soviet bloc, began sponsoring guerrilla raids on Israel in the early 1960s as part of its "people's war of liberation", designed to deflect domestic opposition to the Ba'ath Party.

Water dispute

In 1964, the Israelis began withdrawing water from the Jordan River for its National Water Carrier. The following year, the Arab states began construction of the Headwater Diversion Plan, which, once completed, would divert the waters of the Banias Stream before the water entered Israel and the Sea of Galilee, to flow instead into a dam at Mukhaiba for use by Jordan and Syria, and divert the waters of the Hasbani into the Litani River, in Lebanon. The diversion works would have reduced the installed capacity of Israel's carrier by about 35%, and Israel's overall water supply by about 11%.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) attacked the diversion works in Syria in March, May, and August 1965, perpetuating a prolonged chain of border violence that linked directly to the events leading to war.

Israel and Jordan

On 11 November 1966 an Israeli border patrol hit a mine, killing three soldiers and injuring six others. The Israelis believed the mine had been planted by militants from Es Samu on the West Bank. Early on the morning 13 November, King of Jordan Hussein bin Talal, who had been having secret meetings with Abba Eban and Golda Meir for three years concerning peace and secure borders, received an unsolicited message from his Israeli contacts stating that Israel had no intention of attacking Jordan. However, at 5:30 a.m. in what Hussein described as an action carried out "under the pretext of 'reprisals against the terrorist activities of the (Palestine Liberation Organization) P.L.O.' Israeli forces attacked Es Samu, a village in the Jordanian-occupied West Bank of 4,000 inhabitants, all of them Palestinian refugees whom the Israelis accused of harboring terrorists from Syria".

An Israeli force of around 3,000-4,000 soldiers backed by tanks and aircraft divided into a reserve force, which remained on the Israeli side of the border, and two raiding parties, which crossed into the Jordanian-occupied West Bank. The larger force of eight Centurion tanks followed by 400 paratroopers mounted in 40 open-topped half-tracks and 60 engineers in 10 more half-tracks headed for Samu, while a smaller force of 3 tanks and 100 paratroopers and engineers in 10 half-tracks headed towards two smaller villages, Kirbet El-Markas and Kirbet Jimba. Conflicting reports of this incident have been made. According to Terrence Prittie's Eshkol: The Man and the Nation 50 houses were blown up but the inhabitants had been evacuated hours before. The 48th Infantry Battalion of the Jordanian army, commanded by Major Asad Ghanma, ran into the Israeli forces north-west of Samu and two companies approaching from the north-east were intercepted by the Israelis, while a platoon of Jordanians armed with two 106 mm recoilless guns entered Samu. In the ensuing battles three Jordanian civilians and fifteen soldiers were killed; fifty-four other soldiers and ninety-six civilians were wounded. The commander of the Israeli paratroop battalion, Colonel Yoav Shaham, was killed and ten other Israeli soldiers were wounded. According to the Israeli Government, fifty Jordanians were killed but the true number was never disclosed by the Jordanians in order to keep up morale and confidence in King Hussein's regime.

Two days later, in a memo to U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, his Special Assistant Walt Rostow wrote "retaliation is not the point in this case. This 3000-man raid with tanks and planes was out of all proportion to the provocation and was aimed at the wrong target" and went on to describe the damage done to US and Israeli interests: "They've wrecked a good system of tacit cooperation between Hussein and the Israelis... They've undercut Hussein. We've spent $500 million to shore him up as a stabilizing factor on Israel's longest border and vis-à-vis Syria and Iraq. Israel's attack increases the pressure on him to counterattack not only from the more radical Arab governments and from the Palestinians in Jordan but also from the Army, which is his main source of support and may now press for a chance to recoup its Sunday losses... They've set back progress toward a long term accommodation with the Arabs... They may have persuaded the Syrians that Israel didn't dare attack Soviet-protected Syria but could attack US-backed Jordan with impunity.

Facing a storm of criticism from Jordanians, Palestinians, and his Arab neighbors for failing to protect Samu, Hussein ordered a nation-wide mobilization on 20 November.

Israel and Syria

In addition to sponsoring attacks against Israel (often through Jordanian territory, much to King Hussein's chagrin), Syria also began shelling Israeli civilian communities in north-eastern Galilee from positions on the Golan Heights, as part of the dispute over control of the Demilitarized Zones (DMZs), small parcels of land claimed by both Israel and Syria. Concerning attacks on Israel's territory, Syria maintained that it could not be held responsible for the activities of El-Fateh and El-Asefa, nor for the rise of Palestinian organizations whose stated goal was to liberate their conquered and occupied territory.

Syria charged that Israel was harassing Arab farmers in the Demilitarized Zone and opening fire on Syrian military positions, while Israeli armored tractors were cultivating Arab land in the Demilitarized Zone, backed by Israel armed forces illegally placed there. Syria felt that the situation was the result of an Israeli aim to increase tension so as to justify large-scale aggression and to expand its occupation of the Demilitarized Zone by liquidating the rights of Arab cultivators. Syria stated that in every instance where there was a Syrian firing, it was in return of provocative Israel fire directed against peaceful Arab farmers or Syrian posts. Nine years later, Moshe Dayan, the Israeli defense minister at the time of the war, stated a version of events very similar to this one:

After all, I know how at least 80 percent of the clashes there started. In my opinion, more than 80 percent, but let's talk about 80 percent. It went this way: We would send a tractor to plow some area where it wasn't possible to do anything, in the demilitarized area, and knew in advance that the Syrians would start to shoot. If they didn't shoot, we would tell the tractor to advance farther, until in the end the Syrians would get annoyed and shoot. And then we would use artillery and later the air force also, and that's how it was.

In 1966, Egypt and Syria signed a defence pact whereby each country would support the other if it were attacked. According to Indar Jit Rikhye, Egyptian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Riad told him that the Soviet Union had persuaded Egypt to enter the pact with two ideas in mind: to reduce the chances of a punitive attack on Syria by Israel and to bring the Syrians under Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser's moderating influence.

During a visit to London in February 1967, Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban briefed journalists on Israel's "hopes and anxieties" explaining to those present that although the governments of Lebanon, Jordan and the United Arab Republic (Egypt's official name until 1971) seemed to have decided against active confrontation with Israel it remained to be seen whether Syria could maintain a minimal level of restraint at which hostility was confined to rhetoric.

On April 7, 1967, a minor border incident escalated into a full-scale aerial battle over the Golan Heights, resulting in the loss of six Syrian MiG-21s to Israeli Air Force (IAF) Dassault Mirage III, and the latter's flight over Damascus. Tanks, heavy mortars, and artillery were used in various sections along the 47 mile (76 km) border in what was described as "a dispute over cultivation rights in the demilitarized zone south-east of Lake Tiberias." Earlier in the week, Syria had twice attacked an Israeli tractor working in the area and when it returned on the morning of 7 April the Syrians opened fire again. The Israelis responded by sending in armour-plated tractors to continue ploughing, resulting in further exchanges of fire. Israeli aircraft dive-bombed Syrian positions with 250 and 500 kg bombs. The Syrians responded by shelling Israeli border settlements heavily and Israeli jets retaliated by bombing the village of Sqoufiye destroying around 40 houses. At 15:19 Syrian shells started falling on Kibbutz Gadot; over 300 landed within the kibbutz compound in 40 minutes. The United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) attempted to arrange a ceasefire, but Syria declined to co-operate unless Israeli agricultural work was halted.

Speaking to a Mapai party meeting in Jerusalem on 11 May Prime Minister of Israel Levi Eshkol warned that Israel would not hesitate to use air power on the scale of 7 April in response to continued border terrorism and on the same day Israeli envoy Gideon Rafael presented a letter to the president of the Security Council warning that Israel would "act in self-defense as circumstances warrant". Writing from Tel Aviv on 12 May, James Feron reported that some Israeli leaders had decided to use force against Syria "of considerable strength but of short duration and limited in area" and quoted "one qualified observer" who "said it was highly unlikely that Egypt (then officially called United Arab Republic), Syria's closest ally in the Arab world, would enter the hostilities unless the Israeli attack were extensive". In early May the Israeli cabinet authorized a limited strike against Syria, but Rabin's renewed demand for a large-scale strike to discredit or topple the Ba'ath regime was opposed by Eshkol. Bowen reports:

The toughest threat was reported by the news agency United Press International (UPI) on 12 May: 'A high Israeli source said today that Israel would take limited military action designed to topple the Damascus army regime if Syrian terrorists continue sabotage raids inside Israel. Military observers said such an offensive would fall short of all-out war but would be mounted to deliver a telling blow against the Syrian government.' In the West as well as the Arab world the immediate assumption was that the unnamed source was Rabin and that he was serious. In fact, it was Brigadier-General Aharon Yariv, the head of military intelligence, and the story was overwritten. Yariv mentioned 'an all-out invasion of Syria and conquest of Damascus' but only as the most extreme of a range of possibilities. But the damage had been done. Tension was so high that most people, and not just the Arabs, assumed that something much bigger than usual was being planned against Syria.
Border incidents multiplied and numerous Arab leaders, both political and military, called for an end to Israeli reprisals. Egypt, then already trying to seize a central position in the Arab world under Nasser, accompanied these declarations with plans to re-militarize the Sinai. Syria shared these views, although it didn't prepare for an immediate invasion. The Soviet Union actively backed the military needs of the Arab states. It was later revealed that on 13 May a Soviet intelligence report given by Soviet President Nikolai Podgorny to Egyptian Vice President Anwar Sadat claimed falsely that Israeli troops were massing along the Syrian border. In May 1967, Hafez al-Assad, then Syria's Defense Minister declared: "Our forces are now entirely ready not only to repulse the aggression, but to initiate the act of liberation itself, and to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland. The Syrian Army, with its finger on the trigger, is united... I, as a military man, believe that the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation.

Withdrawal of the United Nations Emergency Force

At 10:00 p.m. on 16 May, the commander of UNEF, General Indar Jit Rikhye, was handed a letter from General Mohammed Fawzy, Chief of Staff of the United Arab Republic, reading: "To your information, I gave my instructions to all U.A.R. armed forces to be ready for action against Israel, the moment it might carry out any aggressive action against any Arab country. Due to these instructions our troops are already concentrated in Sinai on our eastern border. For the sake of complete security of all U.N. troops which install OPs along our borders, I request that you issue your orders to withdraw all these troops immediately." Rikhye said he would report to the Secretary-General for instructions.

The UN Secretary-General U Thant attempted to negotiate with the Egyptian government, but on May 18 the Egyptian Foreign Minister informed nations with troops in UNEF that the UNEF mission in Egypt and the Gaza Strip had been terminated and that they must leave immediately, and Egyptian forces prevented UNEF troops from entering their posts. The Governments of India and Yugoslavia decided to withdraw their troops from UNEF, regardless of the decision of U Thant. While this was taking place, U Thant suggested that UNEF be redeployed to the Israeli side of the border, but Israel refused, arguing that UNEF contingents from countries hostile to Israel would be more likely to impede an Israeli response to Egyptian aggression than to stop that aggression in the first place. The Permanent Representative of Egypt then informed U Thant that the Egyptian government had decided to terminate UNEF's presence in the Sinai and the Gaza Strip, and requested steps that the force withdraw as soon as possible. On May 19 the UNEF commander was given the order to withdraw. Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser then began the re-militarization of the Sinai, and concentrated tanks and troops on the border with Israel.

The Straits of Tiran

On May 22, Egypt announced that the Straits of Tiran would be closed to "all ships flying Israeli flags or carrying strategic materials", with effect from May 23.

Egypt established the breadth of its territorial sea at , pursuant to article 5 of the Ordinance of 18 January 1951 as amended by the Decree of 17 February 1958, in line with the provisions of article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Whereas article 23 of the Convention stipulates that the ships in question shall, when exercising the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea, carry documents and observe special precautionary measures established for such ships by international agreements, the Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt declared that it would require the aforementioned ships to obtain authorization before entering the territorial sea of Egypt, until such international agreements are concluded and Egypt becomes a party to them. The position of the Government of the United Arab Republic was that the Tiran Strait, wide, was its territorial waters in which it had a right to control shipping. It was argued that Egypt whose territorial sea covered the Strait of Tiran was entitled by virtue of this very fact to require foreign ships to obtain its consent before seeking access to the gulf. Nasser stated, "Under no circumstances can we permit the Israeli flag to pass through the Gulf of Aqaba." Most of Israel's commerce used Mediterranean ports, and, according to John Quigley, no Israeli-flag vessel had used the port of Eilat for the two years preceding June 1967. There were ambiguities, however, about how rigorous the blockade would be, particularly whether it would apply to non-Israeli flag vessels. Citing international law Israel considered the closure of the straits to be illegal, and it had stated it would consider such a blockade a casus belli in 1957 when it withdrew from the Sinai and Gaza. Egypt and others considered that the action of Israel was not legitimate self-defence within the meaning of Article 51 of the Charter because no armed attack on its territory had in fact occurred. Egypt stated that the Gulf of Aqaba had always been a national inland waterway subject to the sovereignty of the only three legitimate littoral States — Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt — who had the right to bar enemy vessels. The representative of the United Arab Republic further stated that "Israel's claim to have a port on the Gulf was considered invalid, as Israel was alleged to have occupied several miles of coastline on the Gulfline, including Umm Rashrash, in violation of Security Council resolutions of 1948 and the Egyptian-Israel General Armistice Agreement."

The Arab states disputed Israel's right of passage through the Straits, noting they had not signed the Convention on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone specifically because of article 16(4) which provided Israel with that right. However, it has long been a part of state practice and customary international law that ships of all states have a right of innocent passage through territorial seas. That Egypt had consistently granted passage as a matter of state practice until then suggests that its opinio juris in that regard was consistent with practice. Furthermore, when Egypt occupied the Saudi islands of Sanafir and Tiran in 1950, it provided assurances to the US that the military occupation would not be used to prevent free passage, and that Egypt recognizes that such free passage is "in conformity with the international practice and the recognized principles of international law.". In 1949 the International Court of Justice held in the Corfu Channel Case (United Kingdom v. Albania) that where a strait was overlapped by a territorial sea foreign ships, including warships, had unsuspendable right of innocent passage through such straits used for international navigation between parts of the high seas, but express provision for innocent passage through straits within the territorial sea of a foreign state was not codified until the 1958 Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone.

In the UN General Assembly debates after the war, the Arab League argued that even if international law gave Israel the right of passage, Israel was not entitled to attack Egypt to assert it because the closure was not an "armed attack" as defined by Article 51 of the UN Charter. Pursuant to this point, international law professor John Quigley argues that under the doctrine of proportionality, Israel would only be entitled to use such force as would be necessary to secure its right of passage. This is however, contentious, as international law bodies such as the International Criminal Court as well as the International Law Commission have held the contrary as a matter of general principle. The ICC has sought to include blockading as an act of war in its statutes, as traditionally understood, while the ILC has stated that a blockade may be construed as an "armed attack" as defined in Art. 51 of the UN Charter.Furthermore, after the 1956 campaign in which Israel conquered Sharm el-Sheike and opened the blocked Straits, it was forced to withdraw and return the territory to Egypt. At the time, members of the international community pledged that Israel would never again be denied use of the Straits of Tiran. The French representative to the UN, for example, announced that an attempt to interfere with free shipping in the Straits would be against international law, and American President Dwight Eisenhower went so far as publicly to recognize that reimposing a blockade in the Straits of Tiran would be seen as an aggressive act which would oblige Israel to protect its maritime rights in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter.

Gamal Abdel Nasser said to the Egyptian parliament before the war: "The problem before the Arab countries is not whether the port of Eilat should be blockaded or how to blockade it - but how to totally exterminate the State of Israel for all time".. Nasser publicly denied that Egypt would strike first and spoke of a negotiated peace if the Palestinians were allowed to return to their homeland and of a compromise over the Strait of Tiran.

Israel viewed the closure of the straits with some alarm and the U.S. and UK were asked to open the Straits of Tiran, as they guaranteed they would in 1957. Harold Wilson's proposal of an international maritime force to quell the crisis was adopted by President Johnson, but received little support, with only Britain and the Netherlands offering to contribute ships.

Egypt and Jordan

During May and June the Israeli government had worked hard to keep Jordan out of any war; it was concerned about being attacked on multiple fronts, and did not want to have to deal with the Palestinian population of the West Bank. However, Jordan's King Hussein got caught up in the wave of pan-Arab nationalism preceding the war; and so, on May 30, Jordan signed a mutual defense treaty with Egypt, thereby joining the military alliance already in place between Egypt and Syria. President Nasser, who had called King Hussein an "imperialist lackey" just days earlier, declared: "Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight.

At the end of May 1967, Jordanian forces were given to the command of an Egyptian General Abdul Munim Riad. On the same day, Nasser proclaimed: "The armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are poised on the borders of Israel ... to face the challenge, while standing behind us are the armies of Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan and the whole Arab nation. This act will astound the world. Today they will know that the Arabs are arranged for battle, the critical hour has arrived. We have reached the stage of serious action and not of more declarations. Israel called upon Jordan numerous times to refrain from hostilities. According to Mutawi, Hussein was caught on the horns of a galling dilemma: allow Jordan to be dragged into war and face the brunt of the Israeli response, or remain neutral and risk full-scale insurrection among his own people. Army Commander-in-Chief General Sharif Zaid Ben Shaker warned in a press conference that "If Jordan does not join the war a civil war will erupt in Jordan". However, according to Avi Shlaim, Hussein's actions were prompted by his feelings of Arab nationalism.

On June 3, days before the war, Egypt flew to Amman two battalions of commandos tasked with infiltrating Israel's borders and engaging in attacks and bombings so as to draw IDF into a Jordanian front and ease the pressure on the Egyptians. Soviet-made artillery and Egyptian military supplies and crews were also flown to Jordan.

Israel's own sense of concern regarding Jordan's future role originated in Jordanian control of the West Bank. This put Arab forces just 17 kilometers from Israel's coast, a jump-off point from which a well coordinated tank assault would likely cut Israel in two within half an hour. Hussein had doubled the size of Jordan's army in the last decade and had US training and arms delivered as recently as early 1967, and it was feared that it could be used by other Arab states as staging grounds for operations against Israel; thus, attack from the West Bank was always viewed by the Israeli leadership as a threat to Israel's existence. At the same time several other Arab states not bordering Israel, including Iraq, Sudan, Kuwait and Algeria, began mobilizing their armed forces.

The drift to war

In his speech to Arab trade unionists on May 26, Nasser announced: "If Israel embarks on an aggression against Syria or Egypt, the battle against Israel will be a general one and not confined to one spot on the Syrian or Egyptian borders. The battle will be a general one and our basic objective will be to destroy Israel.

Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban wrote in his autobiography that he found "Nasser's assurance that he did not plan an armed attack" convincing, adding that "Nasser did not want war; he wanted victory without war". Writing from Egypt on 4 June 1967 New York Times journalist James Reston observed: "Cairo does not want war and it is certainly not ready for war. But it has already accepted the possibility, even the likelihood, of war, as if it had lost control of the situation.

Writing in 2002 American National Public Radio journalist Mike Shuster expressed a view that was prevalent in Israel before the war that the country "was surrounded by Arab states dedicated to its eradication. Egypt was ruled by Gamal Abdel Nasser, a firebrand nationalist whose army was the strongest in the Arab Middle East. Syria was governed by the radical Baathist Party, constantly issuing threats to push Israel into the sea. With what Israel saw as provocative acts by Nasser, including the blockade of the Straits and the mobilization of forces in the Sinai, creating military and economic pressure, and the United States temporizing because of its entanglement in the Vietnam War, Israel's political and military elite came to feel that preemption was not merely militarily preferable, but transformative.

Diplomacy and intelligence assessments

The Israeli cabinet met on 23 May and decided to launch an attack if the Straits of Tiran were not re-opened by 25 May. Following an approach from US Undersecretary of State Eugene Rostow to allow time for the negotiation of a nonviolent solution Israel agreed to a delay of ten days to two weeks. UN Secretary General, U Thant, visited Cairo for mediation and recommended moratorium in the Straits of Tiran and a renewed diplomatic effort to solve the crisis. Egypt agreed and Israel rejected these proposals. Nasser's concessions do not necessarily suggest that he was making a concerted effort to avoid war. The decision benefited him both politically and strategically. Agreeing to diplomacy helped garner international political support. Moreover every delay gave Egypt time to complete its own military preparations and coordinate with the other Arabs forces. Also, Israel's rejection does not necessarily demonstrate a desire for war so much as it demonstrates the urgency they felt their situation warranted. Israel felt it could not afford to sustain total mobilization for long.

The U.S. also tried to mediate and Nasser agreed to send his vice-president to Washington to explore a diplomatic settlement. The meeting did not happen because Israel launched its offensive. Some analysts suggest that Nasser took actions aimed at reaping political gains, which he knew carried a high risk of precipitating military hostilities. Nasser's willingness to take such risks was based on his fundamental underestimation of Israel's capacity for independent and effective military action.

Egyptian Field Marshall `Abdel Hakim `Amer had devised a plan to launch an attack on Israel with the aim of cutting off Eilat at dawn on May 27. On 26 May 1967, Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban landed in Washington with the goal of ascertaining from the American administration its position in the event of the outbreak of war. As soon as Eban arrived, he was handed a cable from the Israeli government. The cable said that Israel had learned of an Egyptian and Syrian plan to launch a war of annihilation against Israel within the next 48 hours. Eban met with Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, and finally with President Johnson. The Americans said their intelligence sources could not corroborate the claim; the Egyptian positions in the Sinai remained defensive. Eban left the White House distraught. Historian Michael Oren explains his reaction: "Eban was livid. Unconvinced that Nasser was either determined or even able to attack, he now saw Israelis inflating the Egyptian threat - and flaunting their weakness - in order to extract a pledge that the President, Congress-bound, could never make. 'An act of momentous irresponsibility... eccentric...' were his words for the cable, which, he wrote, 'lacked wisdom, veracity and tactical understanding. Nothing was right about it'. In a lecture given in 2002, Oren said, "Johnson sat around with his advisors and said, ‘What if their intelligence sources are better than ours?’ Johnson decided to fire off a Hotline message to his counterpart in the Kremlin, Alexey Kosygin, in which he said, ‘We've heard from the Israelis, but we can't corroborate it, that your proxies in the Middle East, the Egyptians, plan to launch an attack against Israel in the next 48 hours. If you don't want to start a global crisis, prevent them from doing that.’ At 2:30 a.m. on 27 May, Soviet Ambassador to Egypt Dimitri Pojidaev knocked on Nasser's door and read him a personal letter from Kosygin in which he said, ‘We don't want Egypt to be blamed for starting a war in the Middle East. If you launch that attack, we cannot support you.’ `Amer consulted his sources in the Kremlin, and they corroborated the substance of Kosygin's message. Despondent, Amer told the commander of Egypt's air force, Major General Mahmud Sidqi, that the operation was cancelled. According to then Egyptian Vice-President Hussein al Shafei as soon as Nasser knew what Amer planned he cancelled the operation.

On 30 May Nasser responded to Johnson's request of eleven days earlier and agreed to send his Vice President, Zakkariya Muhieddin, to Washington on 7 June to explore a diplomatic settlement in "precisely the opening the White House had sought". US Secretary of State Dean Rusk was bitterly disappointed that Israel attacked on 5 June as he thought he might have been able to find a diplomatic solution if the meeting had gone ahead. Historian Michael Oren writes that Rusk was "mad as hell" and that Johnson later wrote "I have never concealed my regret that Israel decided to move when it did".

Within Israel's political leadership, it was decided that if the US would not act, and if the UN could not act, then Israel would have to act. On 1 June, Moshe Dayan was made Israeli Defense Minister, and on 3 June the Johnson administration gave an ambiguous statement; Israel continued to prepare for war. Israel's attack against Egypt on June 5 began what would later be dubbed the Six-Day War. According to Martin van Creveld the IDF pressed for war: "...the concept of 'defensible borders' was not even part of the IDFs own vocabulary. Anyone who will look for it in the military literature of the time will do so in vain. Instead, Israel's commanders based their thought on the 1948 war and, especially, their 1956 triumph over the Egyptians in which, from then Chief of Staff Dayan down, they had gained their spurs. When the 1967 crisis broke they felt certain of their ability to win a 'decisive, quick and elegant' victory, as one of their number, General Haim Bar Lev, put it, and pressed the government to start the war as soon as possible".

The combatant armies

On the eve of the war, Egypt massed around 100,000 of its 160,000 troops in the Sinai, including all of its seven divisions (four infantry, two armored and one mechanized), as well as four independent infantry and four independent armored brigades. No less than a third of them were veterans of Egypt's intervention into the Yemen Civil War and another third were reservists. These forces had 950 tanks, 1,100 APCs and more than 1,000 artillery pieces. At the same time some Egyptian troops (15,000 - 20,000) were still fighting in Yemen. Nasser's ambivalence about his goals and objectives was reflected in his orders to the military. The general staff changed the operational plan four times in May 1967, each change requiring the redeployment of troops, with the inevitable toll on both men and vehicles. Towards the end of May, Nasser finally forbade the general staff from proceeding with the Qahir ("Victory") plan, which called for a light infantry screen in the forward fortifications with the bulk of the forces held back to conduct a massive counterattack against the main Israeli advance when identified, and ordered a forward defense of the Sinai. In the meantime, he continued to take actions intended to increase the level of mobilisation of Egypt, Syria and Jordan, in order to bring pressure on Israel.

Syria's army had a total strength of 75,000. Jordan's army had 55,000 troops, including 300 tanks, 250 of which were US M48 Patton, sizable amounts of M113 APCs, a new battalion of mechanised infantry, and a paratrooper battalion trained in the new US built school. They also had 12 battalions of artillery and six batteries of 81 mm and 120 mm mortars.

Documents captured by the Israelis from various Jordanian commands record orders from the end of May for the Hashemite Brigade to capture Ramot Burj Bir Mai'in in a night raid, codenamed "Operation Khaled". The aim was to establish a bridgehead together with positions in Latrun for an armoured capture of Lod and Ramle. The "go" codeword was Sa'ek and end was Nasser. The Jordanians also planned for the capture of Motza and Sha'alvim in the strategic Jerusalem Corridor. Motza was tasked to Infantry Brigade 27 camped near Ma'ale Adummim: "The reserve brigade will commence a nighttime infiltration onto Motza, will destroy it to the foundation, and won't leave a remnant or refugee from among its 800 residents".

100 Iraqi tanks and an infantry division were readied near the Jordanian border. Two squadrons of fighter-aircraft, Hawker Hunters and MiG 21 respectively, were rebased adjacent to the Jordanian border.

The Israeli army had a total strength, including reservists, of 264,000, though this number could not be sustained, as the reservists were vital to civilian life. James Reston, writing in the New York Times on 23 May 1967 noted, "In discipline, training, morale, equipment and general competence his [Nasser's] army and the other Arab forces, without the direct assistance of the Soviet Union, are no match for the Israelis... Even with 50,000 troops and the best of his generals and air force in Yemen, he has not been able to work his way in that small and primitive country, and even his effort to help the Congo rebels was a flop.

On the evening of June 1, Israeli minister of defense Moshe Dayan called Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin and the GOC, Southern Command Brigadier General Yeshayahu Gavish to present plans against Egypt. Rabin had formulated a plan in which Southern Command would fight its way to the Gaza Strip and then hold the territory and its people hostage until Egypt agreed to reopen the Straits of Tiran while Gavish had a more comprehensive plan that called for the destruction of Egyptian forces in the Sinai. Rabin favored Gavish's plan, which was then endorsed by Dayan with the caution that a simultaneous offensive against Syria should be avoided.

On 2 June Jordan called up all reserve officers, and the West Bank commander met with community leaders in Ramallah to request assistance and cooperation for his troops during the war, assuring them that "in 3 days we'll be in Tel-Aviv".

The fighting fronts

Preliminary air attack

Israel's first and most critical move was a pre-emptive surprise attack on the Egyptian Air Force. Egypt had by far the largest and the most modern of all the Arab air forces, consisting of about 450 combat aircraft, all of them Soviet-built and with a heavy quota of top-of-the line MiG-21 capable of attaining Mach 2 speed. Initially, both Egypt and Israel announced that they had been attacked by the other country.

Of particular concern to the Israelis were the 30 Tu-16 “Badger” medium bombers, capable of inflicting heavy damage on Israeli military and civilian centers. On 5 June at 7:45 Israeli time, as civil defense sirens sounded all over Israel, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) launched Operation Focus (Moked). All but twelve of its nearly 200 operational jets left the skies of Israel in a mass attack against Egypt's airfields. The Egyptian defensive infrastructure was extremely poor, and no airfields were yet equipped with armoured bunkers capable of protecting Egypt's warplanes. The Israeli warplanes headed out over the Mediterranean before turning toward Egypt. Meanwhile, the Egyptians hindered their own defense by effectively shutting down their entire air defense system: they were worried that rebel Egyptian forces would shoot down the plane carrying Field Marshal Amer and Lt-Gen. Sidqi Mahmoud, who were en route from al Maza to Bir Tamada in the Sinai to meet the commanders of the troops stationed there. In any event, it did not make a great deal of difference as the Israeli pilots came in below Egyptian radar cover and well below the lowest point at which its SA-2 surface-to-air missile batteries could bring down an aircraft. The Israelis employed a mixed attack strategy; bombing and strafing runs against the planes themselves, and tarmac-shredding penetration bombs dropped on the runways that rendered them unusable, leaving any undamaged planes unable to take off and therefore helpless targets for later Israeli waves. The attack was more successful than expected, catching the Egyptians by surprise and destroying virtually all of the Egyptian Air Force on the ground, with few Israeli casualties. Over 300 Egyptian aircraft were destroyed and 100 Egyptian pilots were killed. Among the Egyptian planes lost were all 30 Tu-16 bombers, as well as 27 out of 40 Il-28 bombers, 12 Su-7 fighter-bombers, over 90 Mig-21's, 20 Mig-19's 25 Mig-17 fighters and around 32 assorted transport planes and helicopters. The Israelis lost 19 planes, mostly operational losses (mechanical failure, accidents, etc). The attack guaranteed Israeli air superiority for the rest of the war.

Before the war, Israeli pilots and ground crews had trained extensively in rapid refitting of aircraft returning from sorties, enabling a single aircraft to sortie up to four times a day (as opposed to the norm in Arab air forces of one or two sorties per day). This enabled the IAF to send several attack waves against Egyptian airfields on the first day of the war, overwhelming the Egyptian Air Force. This also has contributed to the Arab belief that the IAF was helped by foreign air forces (see below). The Arab air forces themselves were aided by pilots from the Pakistan Air Force, as well as some aircraft from Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia to make up for the massive losses suffered on the first day of the war.

Following the success of the initial attack waves against the major Egyptian airfields and subsequent air raids, attacks were carried out that afternoon against Israel by the Jordanian, Syrian, and Iraqi air forces. Subsequent attacks against secondary Egyptian airfields as well as Jordanian, Syrian, and Iraqi fields wiped out most of those nations air forces. By the evening of the first day, the Jordanian air force was wiped out, losing over 20 Hunter fighters, as well as six transport aircraft and two helicopters. The Syrian Air Force lost some 32 Mig 21s, and 23 Mig-15 and Mig 17 fighters, and two Illyushin-28 bombers. A number of Iraqi Air Force aircraft were destroyed at H3 base in western Iraq by an Israeli airstrike which included 12 out of 20 Mig-21's, two Mig-17s, five Hunter F6's, and three Il-28 bombers. A lone Iraqi Tu-16 bomber was shot down later that day by Israeli anti-aircraft fire while attempting to bomb Tel Aviv. On the morning of June 6 1967, a Lebanese Hunter, one of twelve Lebanon owned, was shot down over the Lebanon/Israel border by an Israeli Mirage IIIJC piloted by Uri Even-Nir.

By nightfall, Israel claimed to have destroyed 416 Arab aircraft, while losing 26 of their own in the first two days of the war. Israeli aircraft shot down included six out of 72 of its Mirage IIIC/J fighters, four out of its 24 Super Mystere fighters, eight out of 60 Mystere IVA ground attack aircraft, four out of 40 Ouragan ground attack aircraft, and five out of 25 of its Vautour II medium bombers. The numbers of Arab aircraft claimed destroyed by Israel were at first regarded as "greatly exaggerated" by the western press. However, the fact that the Egyptian, Jordanian, and other Arab air forces made practically no appearance for the remaining days of the conflict proved that the numbers were most likely authentic. Throughout the war, Israeli aircraft continued strafing Arab airfield runways to prevent their return to usability.

Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula

The Egyptian forces consisted of seven divisions: four armored, two infantry, and one mechanized infantry. Overall, Egypt had around 100,000 troops and 900-950 tanks in the Sinai, backed by 1,100 APCs and 1,000 artillery pieces. This arrangement was thought to be based on the Soviet doctrine, where mobile armor units at strategic depth provide a dynamic defense while infantry units engage in defensive battles.

Israeli forces concentrated on the border with Egypt included six armored brigades, one infantry brigade, one mechanized infantry brigade, three paratrooper brigades and 700 tanks giving a total of around 70,000 men, organized in three armored divisions. The Israeli plan was to surprise the Egyptian forces in both timing (the attack exactly coinciding with the IAF strike on Egyptian airfields), location (attacking via northern and central Sinai routes, as opposed to the Egyptian expectations of a repeat of the 1956 war, when the IDF attacked via the central and southern routes) and method (using a combined-force flanking approach, rather than direct tank assaults).

The northernmost Israeli division, consisting of three brigades and commanded by Major General Israel Tal, one of Israel's most prominent armor commanders, advanced slowly through the Gaza Strip and El-Arish, which were not heavily protected.

The central division (Maj. Gen. Avraham Yoffe) and the southern division (Maj. Gen. Ariel Sharon), however, entered the heavily defended Abu-Ageila-Kusseima region, leading to what is known as the Battle of Abu-Ageila. Egyptian forces there included one infantry division (the 2nd), a battalion of tank destroyers and a tank regiment, formed of soviet WW2 armor, which included 90 T-34/85 tanks (with 85mm guns), 22 SU-100 tank destroyers (with 100mm guns), and about 16,000 men, while the Israelis had a man-power of about 14,000, and 150 post WW2 tanks including the AMX-13 with 90mm guns, Centurions, and Super Shermans (both types with 105mm guns).

Sharon initiated an attack, precisely planned, coordinated and carried out. He sent two of his brigades to the north of Um-Katef, the first one to break through the defenses at Abu-Ageila to the south, and the second to block the road to El-Arish and to encircle Abu-Ageila from the east. At the same time, a paratrooper force was heliborne to the rear of the defensive positions and destroyed the artillery, preventing it from engaging Israeli armor and infantry. Combined forces of armor, paratroopers, infantry, artillery and combat engineers then attacked the Egyptian position from the front, flanks and rear, cutting the enemy off. The breakthrough battles, which were in sandy areas and minefields, continued for three and a half days until Abu-Ageila fell.

Many of the Egyptian units remained intact and could have tried to prevent the Israelis from reaching the Suez Canal or engaged in combat in the attempt to reach the canal. However, when the Egyptian Minister of Defense, Field Marshal Abdel Hakim Amer heard about the fall of Abu-Ageila, he panicked and ordered all units in the Sinai to retreat. This order effectively meant the defeat of Egypt.

Due to the Egyptians' retreat, the Israeli High Command decided not to pursue the Egyptian units but rather to bypass and destroy them in the mountainous passes of West Sinai. Therefore, in the following two days (June 6 and 7), all three Israeli divisions (Sharon and Tal were reinforced by an armored brigade each) rushed westwards and reached the passes. Sharon's division first went southward then westward to Mitla Pass. It was joined there by parts of Yoffe's division, while its other units blocked the Gidi Pass. Tal's units stopped at various points to the length of the Suez Canal.

Israel's blocking action was only partially successful. Only the Gidi pass was captured before the Egyptians approached it, but at other places, Egyptian units managed to pass through and cross the canal to safety. Nevertheless, the Israeli victories were impressive. In four days of operations, Israel defeated the largest and most heavily equipped Arab army, leaving numerous points in the Sinai littered with hundreds of burning or abandoned Egyptian vehicles and military equipment.

On June 8, Israel had completed the capture of the Sinai by sending infantry units to Ras-Sudar on the western coast of the peninsula. Sharm El-Sheikh, at its southern tip, had already been taken a day earlier by units of the Israeli Navy.

Several tactical elements made the swift Israeli advance possible: first, the complete air superiority of the Israeli Air Force over its Egyptian counterpart; second, the determined implementation of an innovative battle plan; and third, the lack of coordination among Egyptian troops. These would prove to be decisive elements on Israel's other fronts as well.

West Bank

Jordan was reluctant to enter the war. Some claim that Nasser used the obscurity of the first hours of the conflict to convince Hussein that he was victorious; he claimed as evidence a radar sighting of a squadron of Israeli aircraft returning from bombing raids in Egypt which he claimed to be Egyptian aircraft en route to attacking Israel. One of the Jordanian brigades stationed in the West Bank was sent to the Hebron area in order to link with the Egyptians. Hussein decided to attack.

Prior to the war, Jordanian forces included 11 brigades totaling some 55,000 troops, equipped by some 300 modern Western tanks. Of these, nine brigades (45,000 troops, 270 tanks, 200 artillery pieces) were deployed in the West Bank, including elite armored 40th, and 2 in the Jordan Valley. The Arab Legion was a long-term-service, professional army relatively well-equipped and well-trained. Furthermore, Israeli post-war briefings claimed that the Jordanian staff acted professionally as well, but was always left "half a step" behind by the Israeli moves. The tiny Royal Jordanian Air Force consisted of only 24 UK Hawker Hunter fighters. According to the Israelis, the British-made Hawker Hunter was essentially on par with the French-built Dassault Mirage III - the IAF's best plane.

Against Jordan's forces on the West Bank, Israel deployed about 40,000 troops and 200 tanks (8 brigades). Israeli Central Command forces consisted of five brigades. The first two were permanently stationed near Jerusalem and were called the Jerusalem Brigade and the mechanized Harel Brigade. Mordechai Gur's 55th paratrooper brigade was summoned from the Sinai front. An armored brigade was allocated from the General Staff reserve and advanced toward Ramallah, capturing Latrun in the process. The 10th armored brigade was stationed north of the West Bank Region. The Israeli Northern Command provided a division (3 brigades) led by Maj. Gen. Elad Peled, which was stationed to the north of the West Bank, in the Jezreel Valley.

The IDF's strategic plan was to remain on the defensive along the Jordanian front, to enable focus in the expected campaign against Egypt. However, on the morning of 5 June, Jordan began shelling targets in west Jerusalem, Netanya, and the outskirts of Tel Aviv. The Royal Jordanian Air Force attacked Israeli airfields. Despite this, both air and artillery attacks caused little damage, and Israel sent a message promising not to initiate any action against Jordan if it stayed out of the war. Hussein replied that it was too late, "the die was cast". On the evening of June 5 the Israeli cabinet convened to decide what to do; Yigal Allon and Menahem Begin argued that this was an opportunity to take the Old City of Jerusalem, but Eshkol decided to defer any decision until Moshe Dayan and Yitzhak Rabin could be consulted. Uzi Narkis made a number of proposals for military action, including the capture of Latrun, but the cabinet turned him down. The Israeli military only commenced action after Jordanian forces made thrusts in the area of Jerusalem, occupying Government House (used as the headquarters for the UN observers), which was seen as a threat to the security of Jerusalem.

On June 6, Israeli units were scrambled to attack Jordanian forces in the West Bank. In the afternoon of that same day, Israeli Air Force (IAF) strikes destroyed the Royal Jordanian Air Force. By the evening of that day, the Jerusalem infantry brigade moved south of Jerusalem, while the mechanized Harel and Gur's paratroopers encircled it from the north. The reserve paratroop brigade completed the Jerusalem encirclement in the bloody Battle of the Ammunition Hill. Fearing damage to holy places and having to fight in built-up areas, Dayan ordered his troops not to go into the city itself.

On 7 June heavy fighting ensued. The infantry brigade attacked the fortress at Latrun capturing it at daybreak, and advanced through Beit Horon towards Ramallah. The Harel brigade continued its push to the mountainous area of north-west Jerusalem, linking the Mount Scopus campus of Hebrew University with the city of Jerusalem. By the evening, the brigade arrived in Ramallah. The IAF detected and destroyed the 60th Jordanian Brigade en-route from Jericho to reinforce Jerusalem.

In the north, one battalion from Peled's division was sent to check Jordanian defenses in the Jordan Valley. A brigade belonging to Peled's division captured the western part of the West Bank, another captured Jenin and the third (equipped with light French AMX-13s) engaged Jordanian M48 Patton main battle tanks to the east.

Dayan had ordered his troops not to enter Jerusalem; however, upon hearing that the UN was about to declare a ceasefire, he changed his mind, and without cabinet clearance, decided to take the city. Gur's paratroopers entered the Old City of Jerusalem via the Lion's Gate, and captured the Western Wall and the Temple Mount. The Jerusalem brigade then reinforced them, and continued to the south, capturing Judea, Gush Etzion and Hebron. The Harel brigade proceeded eastward, descending to the Jordan River. In the West Bank, one of Peled's brigades seized Nablus; then it joined one of Central Command's armored brigades to fight the Jordanian forces which held the advantage of superior equipment and were equal in numbers to the Israelis.

Again, the air superiority of the IAF proved paramount as it immobilized the enemy, leading to its defeat. One of Peled's brigades joined with its Central Command counterparts coming from Ramallah, and the remaining two blocked the Jordan river crossings together with the Central Command's 10th (the latter crossed the Jordan river into the East Bank to provide cover for Israeli combat engineers while they blew the Abdullah and Hussein bridges, but was quickly pulled back because of American pressure).

No specific decision had been made to capture any other territories controlled by Jordan. After the Old City was captured, Dayan told his troops to dig in to hold it. When an armored brigade commander entered the West Bank on his own initiative, and stated that he could see Jericho, Dayan ordered him back. It was only after intelligence reports indicated that Hussein had withdrawn his forces across the Jordan river that Dayan ordered his troops to capture the West Bank. According to Narkis:

First, the Israeli government had no intention of capturing the West Bank. On the contrary, it was opposed to it. Second, there was not any provocation on the part of the IDF. Third, the rein was only loosened when a real threat to Jerusalem's security emerged. This is truly how things happened on June 5, although it is difficult to believe. The end result was something that no one had planned.

Golan Heights

False Egyptian reports of crushing victory against the Israeli army, and forecasts that Egyptian artillery would soon be in Tel-Aviv influenced Syria's willingness to enter the war. Syrian leadership, however, adopted a more cautious approach, and instead began shelling northern Israel. When the Israeli Air Force had completed its mission in Egypt, and turned around to destroy the surprised Syrian Air Force, Syria understood that the news it had heard from Egypt of the near-total destruction of the Israeli military could not have been true. During the evening of June 5, Israeli air strikes destroyed two thirds of the Syrian Air Force, and forced the remaining third to retreat to distant bases, without playing any further role in the ensuing warfare. A minor Syrian force tried to capture the water plant at Tel Dan (the subject of a fierce escalation two years earlier). Several Syrian tanks are reported to have sunk in the Jordan river. In any case, the Syrian command abandoned hopes of a ground attack, and began a massive shelling of Israeli towns in the Hula Valley instead.

On June 7 and June 8, a debate had been going on in the Israeli leadership whether the Golan Heights should be assailed as well. Military advice was that the attack would be extremely costly, as it would be an uphill battle against a strongly fortified enemy. The western side of the Golan Heights consists of a rock escarpment that rises 500 metres (1700 ft) from the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River to a more gently sloping plateau. Moshe Dayan believed such an operation would yield losses of 30,000, and opposed it bitterly. Levi Eshkol, on the other hand, was more open to the possibility of an operation in the Golan Heights, as was the head of the Northern Command, David Elazar, whose unbridled enthusiasm for and confidence in the operation may have eroded Dayan's reluctance. Eventually, as the situation on the Southern and Central fronts cleared up, Moshe Dayan became more enthusiastic about the idea, and he authorized the operation.

The Syrian army consisted of about 75,000 men grouped in 9 brigades, supported by an adequate amount of artillery and armor. Israeli forces used in combat consisted of two brigades (one armored led by Albert Mandler and the Golani Brigade) in the northern part of the front, and another two (infantry and one of Peled's brigades summoned from Jenin) in the center. The Golan Heights' unique terrain (mountainous slopes crossed by parallel streams every several kilometres running east to west), and the general lack of roads in the area channeled both forces along east-west axes of movement and restricted the ability of units to support those on either flank. Thus the Syrians could move north-south on the plateau itself, and the Israelis could move north-south at the base of the Golan escarpment. An advantage Israel possessed was the excellent intelligence collected by Mossad operative Eli Cohen (who was captured and executed in Syria in 1965) regarding the Syrian battle positions.

The IAF, which had been attacking Syrian artillery for four days prior to the attack, was ordered to attack Syrian positions with all its force. While the well-protected artillery was mostly undamaged, the ground forces staying on the Golan plateau (6 of the 9 brigades) became unable to organize a defense. By the evening of 9 June, the four Israeli brigades had broken through to the plateau, where they could be reinforced and replaced.

On the next day, June 10, the central and northern groups joined in a pincer movement on the plateau, but that fell mainly on empty territory as the Syrian forces fled. Several units joined by Elad Peled climbed to the Golan from the south, only to find the positions mostly empty as well. During the day, the Israeli units stopped after obtaining manoeuvre room between their positions and a line of volcanic hills to the west. To the east the ground terrain is an open gently sloping plain. This position later became the cease-fire line known as the "Purple Line".

Time magazine reported: "In an effort to pressure the United Nations into enforcing a ceasefire, Damascus Radio undercut its own army by broadcasting the fall of the city of El Quneitra three hours before it actually capitulated. That premature report of the surrender of their headquarters destroyed the morale of the Syrian troops left in the Golan area.

War in the air

During the Six-Day War, the IAF demonstrated the importance of air superiority during the course of a modern conflict, especially in a desert theatre. Following the IAF's preliminary air attack, in which the IAF achieved near total tactical surprise (only four unarmed Egyptian training flights were in the air when the strike began ), it was able to thwart and harass what remained of the Arab air forces and to grant itself air superiority over all fronts; it then complemented the strategic effect of its initial strike by carrying out tactical support operations.

In contrast, the Arab air forces never managed to mount an effective attack. Attacks of Jordanian fighters and Egyptian Tu-16 bombers into the Israeli rear during the first two days of the war were not successful and led to the destruction of the aircraft (Egyptian bombers were shot down while Jordan's fighters were destroyed during the attack on the airfield).

Numerous disillusioned Arab pilots defected with their MiGs to Israel prior to the outbreak of the conflict. Israel capitalized on this by test flying the MiGs to the maximum, thus giving Israeli pilots great advantage over their opponents. Notable Arab defections included:

  • On January 19, 1964, Egyptian pilot Mahmud Abbas Hilmi defected from el-Arish Air Base to Hatzor Airbase in Israel in his Yakovlev Yak-11 trainer.
  • In 1965, a Syrian pilot defected with a MiG-17F to Israel.
  • In 1966, Iraqi Captain Munir Redfa flew his MiG-21F-13 to Israel. After Captain Redfa's defection, 3 MiG-21F-13 and at least 6 MiG-17F Algerian pilots were captured by Israel after landing their aircraft at Israeli el-Arish Air Base by mistake. One of the captured Algerian pilots asked for and was granted political asylum in the west, while the rest were repatriated.
  • At least two Iraqi pilots defected to Jordan with their MiG-21F-13 jets. Jordan granted them political asylum but returned the aircraft to Iraq.

On June 6, the second day of the war, King Hussein and Nasser declared that American and British aircraft took part in the Israeli attacks. (See Allegations of U.S. and British combat support below).

War at sea

War at sea was extremely limited. Movements of both Israeli and Egyptian vessels are known to have been used to intimidate the other side, but neither side directly engaged the other at sea. The only moves that yielded any result were the use of six Israeli frogmen in Alexandria harbor (they were captured, having sunk a minesweeper), and the Israeli light boat crews that captured the abandoned Sharm el-Sheikh on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula on June 7.

An Egyptian mine sweeper was sunk in Hurgahda harbour. The sunken vessel is known as El Mina, which translates as "harbour".

On June 8, USS Liberty, a United States Navy electronic intelligence vessel sailing off Arish (just outside Egypt's territorial waters), was attacked by Israeli air and sea forces, nearly sinking the ship and causing heavy casualties. Israel claimed the attack was a case of mistaken identity, apologized for the mistake, and paid restitution to the victims or their families. The truth of the Israeli claim is still debated but America accepted the incident as an accident (see USS Liberty incident).

Conclusion of conflict and post-war situation

By June 10, Israel had completed its final offensive in the Golan Heights and a ceasefire was signed the day after. Israel had seized the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank of the Jordan River (including East Jerusalem), and the Golan Heights. Overall, Israel's territory grew by a factor of 3, including about one million Arabs placed under Israel's direct control in the newly captured territories. Israel's strategic depth grew to at least 300 kilometers in the south, 60 kilometers in the east and 20 kilometers of extremely rugged terrain in the north, a security asset that would prove useful in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War six years later.

The political importance of the 1967 War was immense; Israel demonstrated that it was not only able, but also willing to initiate strategic strikes that could change the regional balance. Egypt and Syria learned tactical lessons and would launch an attack in 1973 in an attempt to reclaim their lost territory.

Speaking three weeks after the war ended, as he accepted an honorary degree from Hebrew University, Yitzhak Rabin gave his reasoning behind the success of Israel,

Our airmen, who struck the enemies' planes so accurately that no one in the world understands how it was done and people seek technological explanations or secret weapons; our armored troops who beat the enemy even when their equipment was inferior to his; our soldiers in all other branches...who overcame our enemies everywhere, despite the latter's superior numbers and fortifications-all these revealed not only coolness and courage in the battle but...an understanding that only their personal stand against the greatest dangers would achieve victory for their country and for their families, and that if victory was not theirs the alternative was annihilation.

According to Chaim Herzog,

On June 19, 1967, the National Unity Government [of Israel] voted unanimously to return the Sinai to Egypt and the Golan Heights to Syria in return for peace agreements. The Golans would have to be demilitarized and special arrangement would be negotiated for the Straits of Tiran. The government also resolved to open negotiations with King Hussein of Jordan regarding the Eastern border.

The Israeli decision was to be conveyed to the Arab nations by the United States. The US was informed of the decision, but not that it was to transmit it. There is no evidence of receipt from Egypt or Syria, and some historians claim that they may have never received the offer.

Later, the Khartoum Arab Summit resolved that there would be "no peace, no recognition and no negotiation with Israel." However, as Avraham Sela notes, the Khartoum conference effectively marked a shift in the perception of the conflict by the Arab states away from one centered on the question of Israel's legitimacy toward one focusing on territories and boundaries and this was underpinned on November 22 when Egypt and Jordan accepted United Nations Security Council Resolution 242.

The June 19 Israeli cabinet decision did not include the Gaza Strip, and left open the possibility of Israel permanently acquiring parts of the West Bank. On June 25-27, Israel incorporated East Jerusalem together with areas of the West Bank to the north and south into Jerusalem's new municipal boundaries.

Yet another aspect of the war touches on the population of the captured territories: of about one million Palestinians in the West Bank, 300,000 (according to the United States Department of State) fled to Jordan, where they contributed to the growing unrest. The other 600,000 remained. In the Golan Heights, an estimated 80,000 Syrians fled. Only the inhabitants of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights were allowed to receive full Israeli citizenship, as Israel annexed these territories in the early 1980s. See also Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both Jordan and Egypt eventually withdrew their claims to West Bank and Gaza (the Sinai was returned on the basis of Camp David Accords of 1978 and the question of the Golan Heights is still being negotiated with Syria). After Israeli conquest of these newly acquired 'territories' a large settlement effort was launched to secure Israel's permanent foothold. There are now hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers in these territories, though the Israeli settlements in Gaza were evacuated and destroyed in August 2005 as a part of Israel's unilateral disengagement plan.

The Israeli casualties of the war, far from Israel's anticipated heavy estimates, were quite low, with 338 soldiers lost on the Egyptian front, 550 dead and 2,400 wounded on the Jordanian front, and 141 on the Syrian front. (Before the war, Israeli general Moshe Dayan had estimated that the IDF would take massive losses. He estimated 30,000 Israeli casualties in the Golan Heights alone). Egypt lost 80% of its military equipment, 10,000 soldiers and 1,500 officers killed, 5,000 soldiers and 500 officers captured, and 20,000 wounded. Jordan suffered 700 killed and around 2,500 wounded. Syria lost 2,500 dead and 5,000 wounded, half the tanks and almost all the artillery positioned in the Golan Heights were destroyed. The official count of Iraqi casualties was 10 killed and about thirty wounded.

The 1967 War also laid the foundation for future discord in the region - as on November 22 1967, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 242, the "land for peace" formula, which called for Israeli withdrawal "from territories occupied" in 1967 in return for "the termination of all claims or states of belligerency."

The framers of Resolution 242 recognized that some territorial adjustments were likely and deliberately did not include words all or the in the official English language version of the text when referring to "territories occupied" during the war, although it is present in other, notably French, Spanish and Russian versions. It recognized the right of "every state in the area" - thus Israel in particular - "to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force." Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt in 1978, after the Camp David Accords, and disengaged from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005, though its army frequently re-enters Gaza for military operations and still retains control of border crossings, seaports and airports.

The aftermath of the war is also of religious significance. Under Jordanian rule, Jews and many Christians were forbidden from entering the Old City of Jerusalem, which included the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site. Jewish sites were not maintained, and their cemeteries had been desecrated. After the annexation to Israel, each religious group was granted administration over their holy sites. Despite the Temple Mount's importance in Jewish tradition, the al-Aqsa Mosque is under sole administration of a Muslim Waqf, and Jews are barred from conducting services there.

Alleged IDF killings of Egyptian prisoners of war

In a 16 August, 1995 interview for Israel Radio, Aryeh Yitzhaki of Bar Ilan University, who had worked previously in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) history department, accused a reconnaissance unit, known as Shaked (Almond), of which then housing minister in the Labour government Binyamin Ben-Eliezer had been acting commander, of killing hundreds of Egyptians who had abandoned their weapons and fled into the desert during the 1967 war. Yitzhaki claimed that after the war, he conducted a study proving that in six or seven separate incidents, approximately 1,000 unarmed Egyptian prisoners of war were killed by IDF units. He told Israel Radio that he "submitted the study to then chief of general staff Yitzhak Rabin, but he, as well as the upper echelons of the army, knew and swept it under the rug." It emerged subsequently that Yitzhaki was a member of Rafael Eitan's Tsomet Party. Meir Pa'il, who had employed him as an assistant during research in the IDF archive, speculated that Yitzhaki was seeking to divert public attention away from revelations by retired general Arye Biro concerning his and Eitan’s involvement in the killing of 49 PoWs in the 1956 war. Yitzhaki said "It annoys me that everyone is making an issue about that one case, when everyone knows there were so many events like it". The allegations received widespread attention in Israel and throughout the world and later resurfaced in a book called Body of Secrets (pp. 201-202) by James Bamford.

Although Yitzkhaki’s claim that up to 1,000 prisoners had been killed was not substantiated, in the ensuing national debate in Israel more soldiers claimed that they had witnessed the execution of unarmed prisoners. Gabby Bron, a journalist on the tabloid, Yedioth Ahronoth, said he had witnessed the execution of five Egyptian prisoners. Michael Bar-Zohar confessed that he had personally witnessed the murder of three Egyptian POWs by a cook and Meir Pa'il said that he knew of many instances in which soldiers had killed PoWs or Arab civilians. In the Associated Press article in which Yitzhaki’s claims spread around the world it was noted that "Rabin, who was chief of staff when some of the 1967 killings allegedly were committed, walked away today when a reporter shouted a related question. His office later issued a statement denouncing the killings and calling them isolated incidents". However, leading Israeli military historian Uri Milstein was reported in the same article as saying that there were many incidents in the 1967 war in which Egyptian soldiers were killed by Israeli troops after they had raised their hands in surrender. "It was not an official policy, but there was an atmosphere that it was okay to do it," Milstein said. "Some commanders decided to do it; others refused. But everyone knew about it."

According to a New York Times report of 21 September, 1995 the Egyptian government announced that it had discovered two shallow mass graves in the Sinai at El Arish containing the remains of 30-60 Egyptian prisoners shot by Israeli soldiers during the 1967 war. Israel responded by sending Eli Dayan a Deputy Foreign Minister, to Egypt discuss the matter. During his visit Dayan offered compensation to the families of victims, but explained that Israel was unable to pursue those responsible owing to its 20-year statute of limitations. The Israeli Ambassador to Cairo, David Sultan, asked to be relieved of his post after the Egyptian daily Al Shaab said he was personally responsible for the killing of 100 Egyptian prisoners, although both the Israeli Embassy and Foreign Ministry denied the charge and said that it was not even clear that Sultan had served in the military.

Declassified IDF documents show that on 11 June, 1967 the operations branch of the general staff felt it necessary to issue new orders concerning the treatment of prisoners. The order read: "Since existing orders are contradictory, here are binding instructions. a) Soldiers and civilians who give themselves up are not to be hurt in any way. b) Soldiers and civilians who carry a weapon and do not surrender will be killed... Soldiers who are caught disobeying this order by killing prisoners will be punished severely. Make sure this order is brought to the attention of all IDF soldiers".

According to Israeli sources 4338 Egyptian soldiers were taken captive by IDF. 11 Israeli soldiers were taken captive by Egyptian forces. PoW exchanges were completed on 23 January, 1968.

Capt. Milovan Zorc and Miobor Stosic, a military liaison official, who were members of the Yugoslav Reconnaissance Battalion that formed part of the 3,400-strong UNEF deployed as a buffer between Egypt and Israel and witnessed the war, have cast doubt on claims that Israel executed Egyptian prisoners of war in the area where they were stationed. They said that if an Israeli unit had killed some 250 POWs near the Egyptian town of el-Arish they would likely have come to know about it.

Allegations of U.S. and British combat support

Some Arabs believe that the United States and Britain provided more support for the Israelis than the American and British governments admit. Arab state-media first reported American and British combat support for Israel on the second day of the war, after Israel's overwhelming victory in the air. Radio Cairo and the government newspaper Al-Ahram made a number of claims, among them: that U.S. and British carrier-based aircraft flew sorties against the Egyptians; that U.S. aircraft based in Libya attacked Egypt; and that American spy satellites provided imagery to Israel. Similar reports were aired by Radio Damascus and Radio Amman. Egyptian media even claimed that King Hussein had personally seen radar observations showing British aircraft taking off from aircraft carriers.

Outside of the Arab world, reports of American and British military intervention were not taken seriously. Britain, the U.S. and Israel strenuously denied the allegations and the Soviet Union quickly informed Cairo that their intelligence indicated that the American military was not participating in the conflict. On 8 June, Egyptian credibility was further damaged when Israel released an audio recording to the press, which they claimed was a radio-telephone conversation intercepted two days earlier between Nasser and King Hussein of Jordan.

In the immediate aftermath of the war, as the extent of the Arab military defeat became apparent, Arab leaders differed on whether to continue to assert that the American military had assisted the Israeli victory. On 9 June 1967, Nasser stated in his resignation speech (his resignation was not accepted):

King Hussein, however, later denied the allegations of American military support. On 30 June, he announced in New York that he was "perfectly satisfied" that "no American planes took part, or any British planes either". In September, The New York Times reported that Nasser had privately assured Arab leaders gathered in Sudan to discuss the Khartoum Resolution, that his earlier claims were false.

Nonetheless, these allegations, that the Arabs were fighting the Americans and British rather than Israel alone, took hold in the Arab world. As reported by the British Representative in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a country at odds with Egypt as a result of the Yemen war:

President Abdel Nasser's allegation ... is firmly believed by almost the whole Arab population here who listen to the radio or read the press ... Our broadcast denials are little heard and just not believed. The denials we have issued to the broadcasting service and press have not been published. Even highly educated persons basically friendly to us seem convinced that the allegations are true. Senior foreign ministry officials who received my formal written and oral denials profess to believe them but nevertheless appear skeptical. I consider that this allegation has seriously damaged our reputation in the Arab world more than anything else and has caused a wave of suspicion or feeling against us which will persist in some underlying form for the foreseeable future ... Further denials or attempts at local publicity by us will not dispel this belief and may now only exacerbate local feeling since the Arabs are understandably sensitive to their defeat with a sense of humiliation and resent self-justification by us who in their eyes helped their enemy to bring this about.

Well after the end of the war, the Egyptian government and its newspapers continued to make claims of collusion between Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States. These included a series of weekly articles in Al-Ahram, simultaneously broadcast on Radio Cairo by Mohamed Heikal. Heikal attempted to uncover the "secrets" of the war. He presented a blend of facts, documents, and interpretations. Heikal's conclusion was clear-cut: there was a secret U.S.-Israeli collusion against Syria and Egypt.

According to Israeli historian Elie Podeh: "All post-1967 [Egyptian] history textbooks repeated the claim that Israel launched the war with the support of Britain and the United States. The narrative also established a direct link between the 1967 war and former imperialist attempts to control the Arab world, thus portraying Israel as an imperialist stooge. The repetition of this fabricated story, with only minor variations, in all history school textbooks means that all Egyptian schoolchildren have been exposed to, and indoctrinated with, the collusion story." The following example comes from the textbook ‘Abdallah Ahmad Hamid al-Qusi, Al-Wisam fi at-Ta'rikh (Cairo: Al-Mu'asasa al-‘Arabiya al-Haditha, 1999), p. 284.

The United States' role: Israel was not (fighting) on its own in the (1967) war. Hundreds of volunteers, pilots, and military officers with American scientific spying equipment of the most advanced type photographed the Egyptian posts for it (Israel), jammed the Egyptian defense equipment, and transmitted to it the orders of the Egyptian command.

In Six Days of War, historian Michael Oren argues that the Arab leadership spread false claims about American involvement in order to secure Soviet support for the Arab side. After the war, as the extent of the Israeli victory became apparent to the Arab public, these claims helped deflect blame for the defeat away from Nasser and other Arab leaders. In reaction to these claims, Arab oil-producing countries announced either an oil embargo on the United States and Britain or suspended oil exports altogether. Six Arab countries broke off diplomatic relations with the United States and Lebanon withdrew its Ambassador.

A British guidance telegram to Middle East posts concluded: "The Arabs' reluctance to disbelieve all versions of the big lie springs in part from a need to believe that the Israelis could not have defeated them so thoroughly without outside assistance.

U.S. and British non-combat support

In a 1993 interview for the Johnson Presidential Library oral history archives U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara revealed that a carrier battle group, the U.S. 6th Fleet, already on a training exercise near Gibraltar was re-positioned towards the eastern Mediterranean to defend Israel. The administration "thought the situation was so tense in Israel that perhaps the Syrians, fearing Israel would attack them, or the Russians supporting the Syrians might wish to redress the balance of power and might attack Israel". The Soviets learned of this deployment, which they regarded as offensive in nature, and in a hotline message from Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin threatened the United States with war.

In a 1983 interview with the Boston Globe McNamara claimed that "We damn near had war." He said Kosygin was angry that "we had turned around a carrier in the Mediterranean." McNamara did not explain how the crisis was resolved.

In his book Six Days veteran BBC journalist Jeremy Bowen claims that on 4 June 1967 the Israeli ship Miryam left Felixstowe with cases of machine guns, 105 mm tank shells, and armored vehicles in "the latest of many consignments of arms that had been sent secretly to Israel from British and American reserves since the crisis started" and that "Israeli transport planes had been running a 'shuttle service' in and out of RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire". Bowen claims that Harold Wilson had written to Eshkol saying that he was glad to help as long as the utmost secrecy was maintained.

Displaced populations

Arab

In his book Righteous Victims, Israeli "New Historian" Benny Morris writes:

In three villages southwest of Jerusalem and at Qalqilya, houses were destroyed "not in battle, but as punishment ... and in order to chase away the inhabitants ... ---contrary to government...policy," Dayan wrote in his memoirs. In Qalqilya, about a third of the homes were razed and about twelve thousand inhabitants were evicted, though many then camped out in the environs.111 The evictees in both areas were allowed to stay and later were given cement and tools by the Israeli authorities to rebuild at least some of their dwellings.

But many thousands of other Palestinians now took to the roads. Perhaps as many as seventy thousand, mostly from the Jericho area, fled during the fighting; tens of thousands more left over the following months. Altogether, about one-quarter of the population of the West Bank, about 200-250,000 people, went into exile. ... They simply walked to the Jordan River crossings and made their way on foot to the East Bank. It is unclear how many were intimidated or forced out by the Israeli troops and how many left voluntarily, in panic and fear. There is some evidence of IDF soldiers going around with loudspeakers ordering West Bankers to leave their homes and cross the Jordan. Some left because they had relatives or sources of livelihood on the East Bank and feared being permanently cut off.

Thousands of Arabs were taken by bus from East Jerusalem to the Allenby bridge, though there is no evidence of coercion. The free Israeli-organized transportation, which began on June 11, 1967, went on for about a month. At the bridge they had to sign a document stating that they were leaving of their own free will. Perhaps as many as seventy thousand people emigrated from the Gaza Strip to Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world.

On July 2 the Israeli government announced that it would allow the return of those 1967 refugees who desired to do so, but no later than August 10, later extended to September 13. The Jordanian authorities probably pressured many of the refugees, who constituted an enormous burden, to sign up to return. In practice only 14,000 of the 120,000 who applied were actually allowed by Israel back into the West Bank by the beginning of September. After that, only a trickle of "special cases" were allowed back, perhaps 3,000 in all.(328-9)

In addition, between 80,000 and 110,000 Syrians fled the Golan Heights, of which about 20,000 from the city of Quneitra.

Jewish

Immediately after Israel's victory, Jews living in the Arab world faced persecution and expulsion. According to historian Michael B. Oren,

mobs attacked Jewish neighborhoods in Egypt, Yemen, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Morocco, burning synagogues and assaulting residents. A pogrom in Tripoli, Libya, left 18 Jews dead and 25 injured; the survivors were herded into detention centers. Of Egypt's 4,000 Jews, 800 were arrested, including the chief rabbis of both Cairo and Alexandria, and their property sequestered by the government. The ancient communities of Damascus and Baghdad were placed under house arrest, their leaders imprisoned and fined. A total of 7,000 Jews were expelled, many with merely a satchel.

See also

Key people involved

Footnotes

References

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