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Why did the Six Day War happen?

The course of History in Palestine would be determined by a series of events beginning with the Balfour Declaration in 1914, the Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1916 followed by the British Mandate of Palestine which had the effect of facilitating the establishment of a Jewish Homeland in Palestine after World War 2.

This process initiated by these accords accelerated after the NAZI Holocaust, and it was inevitable that conflict between settled Palestinians and incoming Jewish Settlers would erupt.

As a result, a number of Wars were fought between the new State of Israel and surrounding Arab States who in solidarity took up the cause of Palestinians, determined to resettle Palestinians in their former lands prior to the creation of the State of Israel after World War 2.

The most dramatic and significant of these Arab-Israeli conflicts was the Six Day War or Third Arab-Israeli-War.

In May 1967, Egypt acting in a defence coalition with Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia took the momentous decision to block Israeli ships from entering the Straits of Tiran. In response, Israel declared War on the 1st of June.

The Arab Coalition held the advantage of a superiority in numbers over Israel in all respects from Troops, Tanks and Aircraft. 

Israel was not be deterred however, and in probably one of the greatest feats in Military History, under Operation Focus, Israel’s strategy was a surprise attack against its gravest threat being the Egyptian Airforce which had been supplied with lethal Soviet Mig Fighter Aircraft.

Israel launched its surprise attack on 5 June when 200 Israeli planes attacked 14 Egyptian airfields and caught them completely off guard destroying 338 Egyptian Aircraft, and killing 100 pilots.

Jordan and Syria retaliated but once again the Israeli Airforce responded with an attack on their Airfields destroying 28 Jordanian, 53 Syrian and 10 Iraqi planes.

Israel’s victory was decisive, and it gained complete air superiority for the remainder of the War.

After that, the ground war raged on three fronts: the Sinai, Jordanian and Syrian fronts until a decisive moment when Isreali forces siezed the Golan Heights from Syria, entering the Old City of Jerusalem capturing Judea, Hebron and Bethlehem on the same day. 

By 11 June all military actions stopped and up to 980 Israelis, 15 000 Egyptians, 700 Jordanians and 2 500 Syrians had been killed in the War.

Against all odds, Israel emerged the  victor in this War, placing it firmly in control of additional territory in the Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula and West Bank with about 1 million more Arabs now under its control.

All things considered, Israel’s victory during the Six Day War remains one of the best examples of Military strategy in recent History. Israel’s strategic dominance and intelligence enabled it to overcome a potentially fatal disadvantage in numbers.  

Nevertheless, the Six-Day War would not be the last Arab-Israeli War, and only 6 years later another war would erupt with Arab States determined to reverse the losses from the 6 Day War.