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Six Day War

In 1967, tensions between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, and Syria escalated to a war in the Middle East. Ever since it had become a country in 1948, Israel’s Palestinian neighbors were hostile because Israel was located in the area that they had previously established as their homeland. Palestinian troops were seen attacking Israeli civilians as well as their farmland and then escaping back to their borders. Israel responded with counter-attacks such as the Syrian fighter planes shot down in April 1967 in retaliation to them shelling Israeli villages. Supplying these Middle Eastern countries with weapons, the United States allied with Israel while the Soviet Union sided with the Arab Nations. This long term rival over land control would soon turn revenge into war.

Egyptian President, Gamel Abdel Nassar, was still angry about Egyptian defeat in the Suez-Sinai War in 1956. His feelings caused him to gather his allies and plan an invasion on Israel. He ordered the removal of all United Nations troops from areas surrounding Israel, the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, and West Bank, and replaced them with Palestinian troops. On June 5, 1967, before Nassar had a chance to command his troops to attack, Israel attacked Egypt. Israel had foreseen an attack and wanted the war on Arab soil, instead of their own. On the first day of war, over 90% of Egyptian aircraft were destroyed and Egyptian units in the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula were defeated. After Israel warned King Hussein of Jordan not to get involved, he was convinced by Nassar that they would be successful together. He sent in troops to attack Israeli forces in Jerusalem, but was defeated by the next morning. By the same morning, Israel had also taken control of the “wailing wall”, which is the holiest Jewish landmark, for the first time in 2000 years. Within just three days, Israel had complete control of the skies and was easily able to support their troops fighting on land. It was clear that Israel was a dominating force, and it was able to defeat all of its rivals by the sixth day when it signed cease-fire agreements with Syria and Jordan.

The outcome of the Six-Day war was an unexpected one. The Arab nations, who had planned an attack with full confidence that they would win the war, were surprised by Israel’s quick, successful tactics. Leaders went back to their counties embarrassed that they were defeated by a country before viewed as inferior. It was also a war lost by the Soviet Union to the United States. It made it apparent to the Soviets that U.S. weapons could defeat them. Egypt and Israel continued their fighting for over a decade in events such as the War of Attrition and the Arab-Israeli War in 1973. They did not make any formal end to their feuding until they signed the Camp David Accords in 1979.

Researched by: Becca Baassiri
Volunteer for the Cold War Museum


1. Mitchell G. Bard, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Middle East Conflict. 3rd Edition. NY: Alpha Books, 2005. 2. “Six Day War.” Zionism & Israel Encyclopedic Dictionary. 4 Jun 2008 .

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