Arab-Israel War (1948)
ARAB-ISRAEL WAR (1948)
: The first conflict between Arab states and the new State of Israel, the Arab-Israel War began as a civil conflict between Palestinian Jews and Arabs following the announcement of the United Nations (UN) plan of November 1947 to partition the country into a Jewish state, an Arab state, and an international enclave in greater Jerusalem. Palestinian Arabs were incensed by the plan, which they considered a violation of their right to self-determination. Palestinian Arab demonstrations against the partition plan and Jewish celebrations in support of it soon erupted into violence, and within a few days armed groups were battling across the country. Arabs attacked Jewish settlements and institutional targets such as the headquarters of the Jewish Agency. Jewish attacks against Palestinians, including the raid on Dayr Yasin, caused a mass flight and the military expulsion of Arab Palestinians from areas seized by Jewish forces. By the end of the British Mandate in May 1948, when British forces left Palestine, Jewish forces had already seized most of the territory allotted to them by the UN partition plan, as well as additional areas.
Israel declared independence on 15 May 1948, and the struggle became an international conflict involving the new Jewish state and the armies of Egypt, Transjordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, with some involvement by Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Despite the appointment of Amir Abdullah of Transjordan as commander-in-chief, the Arab forces lacked a coordinated military plan and were for the most part poorly trained. By June 1948 both sides accepted a twenty-eight-day truce ordered by the United Nations Security Council, which went into effect on 10 June.
Fighting resumed on 8 July, with Israeli forces taking Arab areas such as Nazareth in Galilee. A second truce of 19 July was broken when Israel tried to break the Egyptian blockade of the Negev. Israel captured Beersheba in October, and by the end of the year Egypt's forces were being isolated and subdued. On 5 January 1949, Egypt agreed to the UN Security Council's request for armistice negotiations, which began on 13 January at Rhodes. The General Armistice was signed on 24 February 1949; an armistice with Lebanon was signed on 23 March, with Jordan on 3 April, and with Syria on 20 July. Iraq did not participate in armistice talks. The agreements established frontiers that remained in effect until the Arab-Israel War of 1967. Israeli territory increased from the 5,400 square miles proposed in the UN partition plan to 8,000 square miles.
Over 4,500 Israeli soldiers and 2,000 civilians were killed in the fighting. Among the Arab regular armies, 2,000 soldiers died. Some estimates place Palestinian deaths as high as 13,000. A large number of Palestinians fled the country; the United Nations estimated the number of Palestinian refugees at over 700,000, over half the Arab population of Mandatory Palestine. Called the nakba, or "disaster," by the Palestinians, the loss of the war and the establishment of the State of Israel set in motion a long-term, costly conflict that has yet defied resolution as of 2004.