Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and Minister Menahem Begin with soldiers in the Sinai, 14.6.1967
Israeli armored troops in central Sinai, 7.6.1967
Lexicon of Terms
Six Day War
The Six Day War was a war between Israel and her neighboring countries - Egypt,
Syria and Jordan - which was conducted from June 5th until June 10th 1967. The
tensions between Israel and the Arab countries intensified from the mid 1960's due to
multiple terrorist attacks and infiltrations of Palestinian terrorists from Syria, Jordan,
the Gaza Strip, and the Sinai Peninsula into Israeli territory. These actions were
motivated by the support of the Arab countries. The tensions were increased by Syrian
shelling of Israeli settlements in the Hulah Valley, as well as Israeli and Syrian
planning of projects for the diversion of water sources.
On April 6th 1967, an aerial incident between Israel and Syria took place, in which 6
Syrian MiGs were intercepted. Syria filed a complaint to its ally Egypt for not
fulfilling its military agreement signed in November 1966 and coming to Syria's
assistance. Egypt notified that it will not tolerate an Israeli action against Syria and its
army's state of alert was raised. Vast amounts of tanks and infantry units were
stationed along the Egyptian-Israeli border. Their Soviet allies encouraged these
actions, while statements made by Israeli leaders in May were interpreted by the
Russians and Arabs as threats made towards Syria. Egypt demanded that the United
Nations' Emergency Force abandon its stations across the border, from the Straits of
Tiran, and from all Egyptian territories. The United Nations met their demands.
Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser blockaded the Straits of Tiran on May 21st
and 22nd to all shipping from and to Eilat; the area was open to Israeli ships under UN
supervision since 1957, and Israel repeatedly stated that such a blockade will be
considered as casus belli (justification for acts of war). The United States and several
other countries declared that the Straits of Tiran are an international passage and they
must remain clear for a safe passage of all ships. No actual steps were taken on these
remarks, and Egypt proclaimed that any attempt to break their blockade on the Straits
would be considered an act of war.
Nasser, in an intentional provocation, asked Israel to open in war, declared that Egypt
is strong enough to be victorious, and threatened to destroy Israel. Other Arab leaders
made similar aggressive speeches as well and military pacts were signed between
Egypt and Jordan (on May 30th) and between Egypt and Iraq (on June 4th). The supply
of Soviet weaponry to Arab states was also increased.
In the early morning of June 5th 1967, the war broke out. Israel made a preemptive
strike on the Egyptian Air Force: The Air Force attacked all military airports in Egypt
and the Sinai Peninsula, destroying hundreds of aircrafts and neutralizing the
Egyptian Air Force. The same day, Jordanian forces began bombing and attacking
from the air from across the borders agreed in the Ceasefire Agreements (of 1949).
Israel warned King Hussein to refrain from fighting but he relented and the Jordanian
military conquered the UN Headquarters (formerly the residence of the British High
Commissioner). The Israeli Air Force also acted against the Jordanian Air Force.
Throughout these hours, Syria continued to shell Israeli settlements; Syrian airports
were attacked and most of the Syrian aircrafts were destroyed. On the first day of
fighting, Israel obtained absolute aerial control; however, this information remained
almost completely unknown to the public at the time.
Simultaneously, IDF forces progressed within the Sinai Peninsula towards Rafah and
el-Arish in the north, Abu Ageila and Bir Gafgafa in the center, and el-Qusseima in
the south. After running into difficulties in the Abu Ageila region, the area was
conquered by a combined force of the Paratroopers Brigade and the infantry corps,
armored forces and a combat engineering force, assisted by the Air Force. Bitter
fighting took place on the outskirts of Gaza on the night between June 5th and 6th. The
Israeli Armored Forces stormed forward, accompanied by aerial support. The
Egyptian withdrawal turned on the eve of June 6th to an actual defeat: Sharm el-
Sheikh, from which the Egyptian army operated the blockade on the Straits of Tiran,
was conquered from the sea.
In addition to the attacks on the Jordanian Air Forces, Israel sent military
reinforcement to Jerusalem, retrieving on June 5th the control over the UN
Headquarters and succeeding to connect with Mount Scopus at the north of the city,
which was an Israeli enclave within Jordan since 1949. Specific orders were given in
order to minimize the physical damage that might be caused to the holy places in the
Old City. Ultimately, after 36 hours of combat, Israel succeeded to take control over
the roads leading to the Old City and East Jerusalem. The conquest of the Old City
was completed on June 7th, and IDF forces were able to reach the Western Wall and
raise the Israeli flag on its premises. Heavy fighting took place in Jenin, Northern
Samaria and Qalqilyah and its surroundings, from which long-range artillery was fired
at Tel Aviv.
By the end of the third day of fighting, Israeli forces completed the conquest of the
Sinai Peninsula up to the Suez Canal and most of the West Bank. At this time,
following several days of bargaining, the UN's Security Council called for a ceasefire,
to which Israel was the first to agree. On June 8th, Lebanon had officially joined the
war, but did not take an active part other than sending in a couple of planes. Syria
continued its shelling on Israeli settlements and made a failed attempt to conquer
Kibbutz Dan. Following the Syrian dismissal of a ceasefire, the IDF concentrated
forces to storm Syrian posts en-route the Golan Heights. A wide strip of the Golan
Heights, including Mount Hermona and the city of Quneitra, was conquered after 20
hours of fierce fighting near Kibbutz Dan. A ceasefire on the Syrian border was
established on June 10th.
The war ended with an evident Israeli victory. Over 4,000 Arab aircrafts were
destroyed, 60 intercepted while airborne; over 500 tanks were destroyed or looted;
some 70% of the heavy machinery used by Egypt, Syria and Jordan – at a total worth
of over one billion dollars, were put out of use. More than 15,000 Egyptians were
killed during the war and 5,600 were taken as prisoners. Jordan, according to King
Hussein, had 6,000 casualties (other sources give various smaller numbers). Syria
suffered some 1,000 losses. Israel had more than 700 casualties and 2,500 injured.
Israel was tripled in its size after the war and gained sovereignty over an Arab
population of approximately one million citizens (in addition to 300,000 Israeli Arabs
living in Israel at the time). The public was in great spirits and had a sense of power,
caused by the swift victory and the capturing of the Old City. This was in great
contrast to the anxiety and confusion felt during the weeks prior to the war.
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