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Arab – Israeli Six Day War

“War is what happens when language fails.” – Margaret Atwood. This quote has great significance as the Arab – Israeli six day war. 1967 has opened our eyes and brought to light the need for peace and a redefinition of borders around us. It also calls for global peace measures that need to be taken by the International Community. This war took place from June 5–10, 1967, constituted the third of the Arab-Israeli wars. Israel’s decisive victory included the capture of the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, West Bank, Old City of Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights; the status of these territories subsequently became a major point of contention in the Arab-Israeli conflict. The well preparedness of the Israeli army and their war readiness is something that needs to be appreciated.

Prior to the start of the war, attacks conducted against Israel by fledgling Palestinian guerrilla groups based in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan had increased, leading to costly Israeli reprisals. In November 1966 an Israeli strike on the village of Al-Samu? in the Jordanian West Bank left 18 dead and 54 wounded, and, during an air battle with Syria in April 1967, the Israeli Air Force shot down six Syrian MiG fighter jets. In addition, Soviet intelligence reports indicated that Israel was planning a campaign against Syria, and, although inaccurate, the information further heightened tensions between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser had previously come under sharp criticism for his failure to aid Syria and Jordan against Israel; he had also been accused of hiding behind the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) stationed at Egypt’s border with Israel in the Sinai. Now, however, he moved to unambiguously demonstrate support for Syria: on May 14, 1967, Nasser mobilized Egyptian forces in the Sinai; on May 18 he formally requested the removal of the UNEF stationed there; and on May 22 he closed the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli shipping, thus instituting an effective blockade of the port city of Elat in southern Israel. On May 30, King ?ussein of Jordan arrived in Cairo to sign a mutual defense pact with Egypt, placing Jordanian forces under Egyptian command; shortly thereafter, Iraq too joined the alliance.

In response to the apparent mobilization of its Arab neighbors, early on the morning of June 5, Israel staged a sudden preemptive air assault that destroyed more than 90 percent Egypt’s air force on the tarmac which was a very interesting and unexpected move and put the Israelis at a better edge because of their well-established air base. A similar air assault incapacitated the Syrian air force. Without cover from the air, the Egyptian army was left vulnerable to attack indicating that victory would be a piece of cake. Within three days the Israelis had achieved an overwhelming victory on the ground, capturing the Gaza Strip and all of the Sinai Peninsula up to the east bank of the Suez Canal.

An eastern front was also opened on June 5 when Jordanian forces began shelling West Jerusalem—disregarding Israel’s warning to King ?ussein to keep Jordan out of the fight—only to face a crushing Israeli counterattack. On June 7 Israeli forces drove Jordanian forces out of East Jerusalem and most of the West Bank. Photos and films of Israeli troops taking control of the old city of Jerusalem have proved to be some of the war’s iconic images.

The UN Security Council called for a cease-fire on June 7 that was immediately accepted by Israel and Jordan. Egypt accepted the following day. Syria held out, however, and continued to shell villages in northern Israel. On June 9 Israel launched an assault on the fortified Golan Heights, capturing it from Syrian forces after a day of heavy fighting. Syria accepted the cease-fire on June 10.

The Arab countries’ losses in the conflict were disastrous. Egypt’s casualties numbered more than 11,000, with 6,000 for Jordan and 1,000 for Syria, compared with only 700 for Israel. The Arab armies also suffered crippling losses of weaponry and equipment. The lopsidedness of the defeat demoralized both the Arab public and the political elite. Nasser announced his resignation on June 9 but quickly yielded to mass demonstrations calling for him to remain in office. In Israel, which had proved beyond question that it was the region’s preeminent military power, there was euphoria.

The Six-Day War also marked the start of a new phase in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, since the conflict created hundreds of thousands of refugees and brought more than one million Palestinians in the occupied territories under Israeli rule. This also requires us to

Ponder upon various measures that required to be taken; if Palestine would gain more credibility and legitimacy by becoming a member State of the United Nations. This would also help in better negotiations with Israel. The next issue concerning security is the Israeli occupation of Palestine which is interpreted positively by the Israelis as an act of prevention of terrorism and strengthening national security. The very same issue is interpreted negatively by the Palestinians as a use of force and intimidation ruining their individual sovereign identity leading few groups of Palestine to terrorism within Israel. There needs to be a mechanism that can effectively relieve the stress between these two States and at the same time ensure security of the people. The final issue rests on the violation of humanitarian grounds where Israel has been accused of human rights violation by the Palestinians.

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