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What happened in the Six-Day War?

Six-Day War
Question: "What happened in the Six-Day War?"

The Six-Day War, also called the June War or the Third Arab-Israeli War, was an international conflict occurring in June of 1967. This series of battles pitted Israel against several Arabic nations, including Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon. The Islamic nations received varied support from more than a half-dozen other nations in their fight against Israel. While Israel initiated full-scale military action, most analysts agree the Israelis were acting in legitimate self-defense. Israel technically began the war with a surprise air strike against Egypt on June 5, 1967, and was counter-attacked by nations such as Syria and Jordan. By June 10, Israel had taken extensive territory from their enemies, and a cease-fire was signed.

Leading up to the Six-Day War, neighboring Arabic nations openly called for the destruction of Israel. These were not misunderstood remarks; two years before the Six-Day War, Egypt’s then-President Nassar vowed to pursue the complete obliteration of Israel, saying, “We shall not enter Palestine with its soil covered in sand, we shall enter it with its soil saturated in blood.” Many of the Islamic states also enabled guerilla-style raids on Jewish territories. Tension over these issues, as well as border disputes, led to several skirmishes between Israeli forces and those of neighboring countries.

Eventually, Egypt declared its intent to block all Israeli ships from using the Straits of Tiran, one of Israel’s primary sea lanes. Israel had previously warned Egypt that such a measure would be considered an act of war. Egypt declared the Straits closed to Israeli ships, anyway. Other Arabic nations quickly allied with Egypt, stating their intent to fight against Israel. Egypt then expelled UN peacekeepers from the nearby Sinai Peninsula, allowing Egypt to enact their blockade.

Israel responded several days later with an air strike that caught Egypt completely off guard. Using rapid-rearming techniques and extraordinary discipline, Israeli aircraft wiped out virtually the entire Egyptian air force. This gave Israel a decided advantage in the rest of the conflict. Israel then moved ground troops into the Sinai Peninsula but found themselves counter-attacked on other fronts. Syria and Jordan directed artillery fire at cities such as Tel Aviv and military action in Jerusalem.

Israel pursued combat on these three separate fronts until an eventual cease-fire was signed on the war’s sixth day. The entire conflict was a rout, from start to finish, in favor of the Israelis. Israel’s territory nearly tripled as a result of the war. Casualties on the Israeli side were less than 10 percent of those suffered by their combined opponents. The victory was so overwhelming that many Arabic nations initially claimed Israel had been aided by forces from the United States or some other ally; they were not. Israel’s success in the Six-Day War is commonly credited to exceptional military preparation and tactics.

At the same time, many commentators note the comparative ease with which a single, extremely young nation, fighting on three fronts, decimated the combined forces of several established states. For these and many other reasons, some see the Six-Day War as an example of God’s protection of His chosen people (see Genesis 12:3). The exact reasons why the war occurred, and whether or not it was justified, are matters of intense debate. Most historians agree that Israel acted in response to aggressive acts by Arabic nations, especially Egypt, and that the war itself was a lopsided victory for Israel.

Recommended Resource: Understanding the Arab-Israeli Conflict: What the Headlines Haven't Told You, Revised and Updated, by Michael Rydelnik

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