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The Six Day War broke out on June 5, 1967, following three weeks of tension which began on May 15, 1967 when it was known that Egypt had concentrated large-scale forces in the Sinai peninsula. Egypt's force buildup in the Sinai was accompanied by other serious steps: the United Nations Emergency Force stationed on the border between Egypt and Israel and Sharm el-Sheikh in 1957 and which had provided an actual separation between the countries was evacuated on May 19 upon the demands of the Egyptian president at the time, Gamal Abdel-Nasser; the Egyptian navy blocked the Straits of Tiran, located at the end of the Gulf of Eilat, on the night of May 22 - 23, 1967, preventing the passage of any Israeli vessels; and on May 30, 1967, Jordan joined the Egyptian-Syrian military alliance of 1966 and placed its army on both sides of the Jordan river under Egyptian command. Iraq followed suit. It agreed to send reinforcement and issued a warning order to two brigades: Contingents arrived from other Arab countries including Algeria and Kuwait. Israel was confronted by an Arab force of some 465, 000 troops, over 2, 880 tanks and 810 aircraft. In this way, a direct threat on the whole length of Israeli territory was created.
The Egyptian Army was deployed in the Sinai, the straits were closed signaling the failure of Israeli deterrence, and Jordan joined the military alliance closing the circle of the states threatening Israels borders. As the situation deteriorated, Israel increased its reserve forces call-up which had already been underway and established a National Unity government which included representatives of the opposition parties at that time. Moshe Dayan was appointed Minister of Defense. Though the Government of Israel viewed the closing of the straits as a belligerent act and a warning bell, the government tried to solve the crisis through political channels. The government of Israel approached the Great Powers who had guaranteed the freedom of Israeli navigation. Britain and France renewed on their commitment and the President of the United States proposed a plan for breaking the blockade by an international armada.
Israel agreed to wait and give the plan a change and Prime Minister Eshkol announced his Governments intentions in a radio broadcast on 28 May. Israels decision to wait was taken despite the fact that it was well aware that the main threat had now become the Egyptian deployment in the Sinai and not the closing of the straits. When it became clear later that the political demarches had failed, the Government, on May 4 gave approval to the Israel Defense Forces to undertake military offensive to eliminate the threat to Israels existence. This dramatic development was the height of continued deterioration in the relations between Israel and her neighbors. The state of war that had existed since 1948 was already intensified between 1964 - 67 with the increase in the number of dangerous incidents on the Syrian border following Israels activation of the National Water Carrier from the Sea of Galilee to the Negev in 1964. This tension came against the backdrop of Syrian attacks on Israeli farmers cultivating land in the demilitarized zone and on Israeli fishing boats and other craft in the Sea of Galilee.
The Arabs opposed the National Water Carrier project and tried to destroy it by diverting the subsidiaries of the Jordan river located in the territories. In addition, at the start of 1965 Palestinian terrorist organizations, under the patronage of both Syria and Egypt, began to operate against Israeli settlements. Their attacks led to Israeli military reprisals against their bases located in neighboring countries. The Arabs were strengthened in their stand by the consistent support of the USSR, through both the supply of weapons and military advisers and through political support in the framework of the cold war between the East and West. It was the Soviets who spread the false report in 1967 that Israel had concentrated large forces on the border with Syria in preparation to attack, after the Syrians had already "heated up" the border area.
This fraudulent report was the declared reason for the concentration of Egyptian forces in Sinai, in confirmation with the military alliance between Egypt and Syria. This concentration of forces gradually led the Arabs to believe that an opportunity had been created to realize their 19 -year aspiration to destroy Israel. In the light of this development, Israel had no choice but to preempt. The Six-Day War started with a far-reaching air attack, code named More, to shatter the Arab air forces while their aircraft were still on the ground.
The attack was planned even before General Mordechai (Moti) Hod, had been appointed Air Force Commander. The main element of the plan was to carry out a massive, simultaneous attack of Israeli first-line aircraft against all Egyptian air force bases - the main Arab air force. This required exact and detailed planning of departure times and approaches of each of the attacking forces, in order to ensure the element of surprise on every target. On the morning of June 5, the aircraft of the IAF took off from their bases and attacked Egyptian air force bases in Sinai and Egypt.
During the first wave, eleven fields were hit (among them some that had also been attacked in the first wave). In a short, efficient and decisive blow, approximately 300 Egyptian aircraft, including bombers, combat planes and helicopters, were destroyed in less than 2 hours. The main air threat against Israel was eliminated and the Israel Defense Forces achieved air supremacy when Jordanian, Syrian and Iraqi aircraft attacked targets in Israel. Once it was clear that King Hussein, the Jordanian leader, had chosen to undertake a military campaign on the Jerusalem front, the Israel Air Force turned to the Jordanian airfields in Amman and Mark and destroyed a large part of the Jordanian Air Force.
When the confrontation was further extended on the same day over Syria and Iraq, Israeli aircraft continued their combat against these countries and also destroyed their aircraft. Airfields attacked in Syria included Damascus, Damir and Seeker. In Iraq, the H- 3 airfield in the vicinity of the Jordanian border was attacked. Before the end of the first day of fighting, the air forces of the participating Arab states had been destroyed, thereby determining the fate of the entire war. Israeli armored forces could then fight the battle under clear skies, and air force pilots were free to provide support to IDF ground forces in all the sectors, the breakthrough and transportation axes without leaving the rear of the State of Israel in danger of air attack. Israel Air Force losses in the fateful day of the battle were a total of 20 aircraft.
Twelve pilots were killed, five were wounded and four captured. The main effort of Israeli armor was directed toward the Egyptian forces deployed in fortifications in the eastern parts of the Sinai and in the Gaza Strip, which consisted of 7 divisions with a total of about 100, 000 soldiers, approximately 1, 000 tanks and hundreds of artillery pieces. The Israel Defense Forces went against this disposition with a force of three divisions composed of armored, infantry and paratrooper brigades, as well as an independent mechanized brigade and an independent infantry brigade reinforced with paratroopers and armor. The fighting lasted four days, in a single, continuous momentum.
Aware of the fact that the war could well last only a few days and that it was imperative to achieve a rapid victory, the IDF concentrated all of its armored strength in order to break through the Egyptian disposition. This was a fast attack forward, without securing the flanks and transportation axes. Very quickly, the Egyptian dispositions were broken through despite their initial resolute resistance. The battle on the Egyptian front was conducted by the commander of the Southern Command, General Yishayahu Arish.
Under his command, breakthroughs were achieved along three main axes. The northern axis, and the Rafah-El Arish axis were allocated to General Israel Tal's division. After difficult breakthrough battles in the Khan-Yunis and Rafah areas on the first day of the war, the combat units continued onward past Sheikh-Zuwayd and from there in the direction of El-Arish, although the enemy quickly regrouped in the fortified El- Jiradi positions, the road to El-Arish was only opened up that day after bitter combat. All the Egyptian forces which faced the division were either destroyed, dispersed or taken prisoner.
The task of the division under the command of General Ariel Sharon was to conquer the large Egyptian fortified disposition in the Umm-Kateif Abu Awegeila-Quseima area. The force displayed excellent maneuverability against the dug-in and well-organized army, which had the advantage of much larger numbers. Combined forces of armor, paratroopers, infantry, artillery and engineers attacked the Egyptian disposition from the front flanks and rear, cutting the enemy off. The breakthrough battles which were in sandy areas and minefields, continued for 3 and-a-half days. The division under the command of General Avraham Yoffe penetrated between the sectors covered by these two divisions, through Wadi Haroudin, a sand dune area considered impassable to mechanized units. Its aim was to reach the rear of the Egyptian forces.
On the first night of the war, the force captured the Bir- Lahfan junction, cut-off of the Egyptian army forces between the two other combat sectors and prevented the approach of reinforcements from the heart of Sinai. On the second day of the war, 6 June, 1967, General Tal's division made its way through northern Sinai, proceeding towards the Suez Canal in two axes (El-Arish Qantara axis and El-Arish Bir-Lahfan-Ismailiya axis) while engaging Egyptian forces in heavy combat. The Egyptian disposition at Bir-Lahfan was defeated, and a coordinated attack with General Yoffe's division blocked the western retreat lines of the Egyptian army in this sector. General Yoffe's division, composed of reserve soldiers, captured the Jebel-Line camps and destroyed the Egyptian reinforcements sent to the Umm-Kateif Abu Awegerila camp, where General Sharon's division completed the cleaning-up operation and continued south in the direction of Quseima. On the same day, complete control of the Gaza Strip was achieved, and on the afternoon of the following day Khan Yunis was captured. On the third day of the war, 7 June, 1967, General Tal's division continued its advance towards the Suez Canal along the El-Arish-Qantara and El-Arish-Bir- Lahfan-Ismailiya axes, while conducting heavy armored battle against Egyptian forces.
The important Bir-Gafgafa junction was captured and attempts by the Egyptian army to cross over the Canal in this sector were repressed. General Yoffe's division advanced on Bir-Hassneh and Bir El-T hamada and blocked the rear Egyptian armored columns retreating west from the Sinai towards the Milf Pass. The mountains passes became a large killing ground for Egyptian vehicles, with the air force providing air support. A long line of obstacles blocked the retreat path to cross the Canal for Egyptian personnel and vehicles gathering at the approaches. General Sharon's division captured Quseima and continued its advance south-west in the direction of Naked. The independent tank brigade under the command of Colonel Albert defeated the Kuntila outpost north of Eilat and continued to confront the Egyptian force posted in the sector and threatening to cut-off the town.
Another force gained control of the Ras E-Name Egyptian border post near Eilat. On the same day, Sharm El-Sheikh was captured without a fight. The Egyptians retreated following an air attack, and the Israel Navy landed personnel. In addition, paratroopers were landed in Sharm El-Sheikh and E-Tur and they started their advance northwards along the coast of the Gulf of Suez.
By capturing the area, the Straits of Tiran were opened for the passage of Israeli and other vessels to and from Eilat. On the fourth day of the war, 8 June, 1967, the Egyptian forces were defeated. General Tal's division conquered Qantara on the banks of the Suez Canal and continued south along the canal in order to join up with the main force of the division which continued from Bir-Gafgafa to the Suez Canal in the Ismailiya sector. South of them, General Yoffe's division also continued towards the canal...
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