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Arab-Israel War (1967) (5 June–10 June 1967)

ARAB-ISRAEL WAR (1967) (5 June–10 June 1967)

Third major Israeli-Arab war, after the War of 1948 (Israel's "War of Independence"; the nakba, or "disaster," to Palestinians) and the Suez-Sinai War of 1956. On 25 January 1967, the Israeli-Syrian mixed armistice commission convened, after an eight-year hiatus, and published a communiqué according to which the two parties had reached an agreement meant to prevent any hostile or aggressive action. On 7 April, in reprisal for Syrian artillery barrages on kibbutzim in the north of Galilee, Israeli planes conducted a raid on the Golan, in the course of which six Syrian MiGs were downed. On 13 May, Soviet intelligence informed Cairo and Damascus that the Israelis were massing troops on the Syrian frontier. In the context of the Egyptian-Syrian defense pact, Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser decided to mobilize his army. The following day, several Egyptian units left Cairo for the Sinai.

On 15 May, the anniversary date of the founding of Israel, the general staff of the Israel Defense Force (IDF) put on an impressive military parade. The day after, Syrian and Egyptian forces were put on high alert. On 19 May, at the request of the Egyptian government, the United Nations (UN) withdrew its troops, on duty since the end of the Suez-Sinai War of 1956, from Sinai and the Gaza Strip. On 20 May, Israel mobilized a part of its reserves. The next day, Egypt banned Israeli shipping in the Straits of Tiran, leading to a protest on the part of the United States, which declared the blockade of the Gulf of Aqaba illegal. With tension between Egypt and Israel at its apogee, on 25 May, Egyptian, Syrian, and Jordanian army divisions approached their respective frontiers with Israel. On 30 May, before the cameras of Egyptian television, King Hussein of Jordan signed a mutual defense pact with Egypt, according to which the Jordanian army would pass under Egyptian command in case of war. On 2 June, faced with Arab military preparations openly aimed at the Jewish state, Israeli prime minister Levi Eshkol ceded the portfolio of defense to Moshe Dayan. The next day, France and the United States decreed an embargo on arms shipments to the Middle East. On 4 June, Iraq joined the Syrian-Jordanian-Egyptian military alliance.

On the morning of 5 June 1967, Yitzhak Rabin, army chief-of-staff of the IDF, flanked by Generals Ezer Weizman and Haim Bar-Lev, unleashed a simultaneous attack against Egypt and Jordan. In a few hours, Israeli aircraft annihilated practically all of the Egyptian air force, surprised on the ground, and 416 Egyptian, Syrian, and Jordanian planes were destroyed. Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Yemen, in solidarity with the Arab countries, declared war on Israel. Egypt, Syria, Algeria, Yemen, Iraq, and Sudan broke off diplomatic relations with the United States, then with Great Britain. On 6 June, the U.S. ship Liberty was attacked by the Israelis, who claimed they had mistaken it for an Egyptian craft. Believing this to be Soviet aggression, U.S. president Lyndon Johnson ordered the U.S. fleet on high alert, while the U.S. Sixth Fleet approached the combat zone. On the same day, the UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire. The next day, concluding its takeover of the West Bank, which had been under Jordanian control since 1948, Israeli troops, under the command of General Uzi Narkiss, penetrated into East Jerusalem. On the Egyptian front, Israeli troops were closing in on the Suez Canal. On 8 June, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution, again insisting on an immediate cease-fire. The Soviet Union and countries in its orbit, with the exception of Rumania, broke off diplomatic relations with Israel. Israel then attacked and captured the Golan region, and on 10 June, Syria accepted a cease-fire. Movements of the U.S. Sixth Fleet, misinterpreted by the Soviet general staff, led to a state of high tension between Washington and Moscow, but this scare ended after only a few hours.

The Israeli army had defeated the Egyptian, Jordanian, and Syrian armies in six days, Israel more than tripling its territorial area by the occupation of the West Bank (which included East Jerusalem), a part of the Golan Heights, the Sinai Desert, and the Gaza Strip. Israeli military leaders judged now that they had acquired the strategic "depth" necessary to assure the security of Israel, while the ultra-orthodox movements perceived the victory of the IDF as the messianic expression of political Judaism. On 12 June, in the army's orders of the day, the chief-of-staff, Yitzhak Rabin, saluted the "unification and liberation of Jerusalem," and celebrated the victory of the "sons of light" over those who "wanted to cover the country with darkness." On 14 June, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 237, recommending Israel respect international conventions concerning the treatment of prisoners of war and the protection of civilians in time of war. On 19 June, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson proposed a peace plan for the Middle East. Four days later, after his meeting with Johnson, Soviet prime minister Alexis Kosygin published a communiqué backing a peace plan in the Middle East, specifying that the "rapid withdrawal of Israeli troops is the key to the reestablishment of peace." On 27 June, the Israeli Knesset voted to annex the Arab part of Jerusalem. On 29 August, the leaders of Arab states, meeting in Khartoum, reaffirmed their will to continue the war against Israel with statements such as "no to peace, no to negotiations, no to recognition of Israel." The oil-producing states decided to aid Egypt financially. On 22 November, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 242, requiring Israel to evacuate the occupied territories, in exchange for a cessation of the state of belligerence.

SEE ALSO Egypt; Golan Heights; Hussein ibn Talal; Jordan; Nasser, Gamal Abdel; Resolution 237; Resolution 242; Suez Crisis; Syria.

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