June 1967 Six Day War

Israel History - June 1967 the Six Day war between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria

The Israel File

Israel and the Six Day Way

The Six Day War

By Andre Oboler, for Zionism On The Web

The page provides a summary of facts about the Six Day War. Many are compiled from "Myths and Facts 1980 - A Concise Record of the Arab-Israeli Conflict", edited by Alan M. Tigay and published by the Near East Report (Tigay, 1980).

Additional resources at the Six Day War anniversary website.

Start of the War

The Six Day War began with a preemtive attack by Israel on the 5th of June 1967. While the blockade by Egypt of the Gulf of Aqaba (announced on May 22nd 1967) provided the immediate trigger, "the blockage was only one part of a buildup against Israel that had gone on for more than a year" (Tigay, 1980).

Cold war tensions also played a part, the Soviets encouraged and exploited a destabalisation in the region and provided military and economic aid to Syria in order to endanger Jordan and Iraq while increasing the threat to Israel. Egypt was also a Soviet suplicant, "the Kremlin continued to bolster Nasser with military, diplomatic and economic aid, as Nasser sought to consolidate his power and soviet influence in Yemen, Aden and south Arabia" (Tigay, 1980).

Terrorist attacks against Israel had also been growing. Many forget that attacks on Israel's civilians are not new, it is only the Western appriciation and understanding that is new since the September 11th attack on the United States and the July 7th attack on the UK. Tigay notes that "Arab terrorist attacks grew more frequent", and specifically that there were 35 attacks in 1965, 41 attacks in 1966, and in just the first fourth months of 1967 there were had already been 37 terrorist attacks.

In addition to the terrorist attacks, the Syrians army shelled Israeli villages from the Golan Heighs. When Israel complained to the United Nations Security Council the Soviets used their veto to prevent any action being taken to stop the Syrian agression. Syria began to demand "instant, open, and all out war against Israel" (Tigay, 1980). In early April Syria attacked Israeli argicultural equipment on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The attack involved not only machine guns, but also tanks and heavy mortars. Israel scrambled and shot down six MiGs. The Syrians were not impressed and complained about Egypts lack of military assistance during their attack. It is Egypts response with threats of war, mobilisation of toops and the closing of the Strait of Tiran that led to Israel's pre-emptive strike.

The Strait of Tiran

US President Lyndon Johnson declared on June 19th 1967,

If a single act of folly was more responsible for this explosion than any other it was the arbitrary and dangerous announced decision that the Straight of Tiran would be closed. The right of innocent maritime passage must be preserved for all nations.

The Strait of Tiran was confirmed as an international water way by Egypt back in 1950. A note sent to the American Embassy in Cairo noted that "it goes without saying that this passage will remain free as in the past in conformity with international practice and with recognized principles of international law". The closer of the Strait was the causus belli, literally the cause for war, which lead Israel to it's pre-emptive attack. It should be explained that Israel has a well known list of "acts of agression" it would consider as a declaration of war to which it would respond with force. This list included any blockade of the Straits of Tiran, the water way that leads into Eilat, Israel's only port to the Red Sea and the place most of the oil imported into Israel was recieved. In light of this, and as President Johnson explained, Israel's pre-emptive strike is considered only a response and not the first strike in the six day war.

Declarations of war

In addition to the closer of the strait, other actions leading up to the six day war showed that war was imminent.

On May 15th Egypt moved her forces into the Saini desert. On May 17th Cairo radio announced that "All Egypt is now preparing to pludge into total war which will put an end to Israel.

The Straits of Tiran and the Sinai border between Egypt and Israel were protected by a neutral UN mission. The UN has taken over after Israel withdrew from that position in 1957 in favour of international peace keeping. Egyptian President Nasser demanded that the UN Secretary General close the UN operations and vacate the area. The UN complied, allowing a situation of agression to develop. Cairo radio announced "As of today, there no longer exists and international emergency force to protect Israel. We shall exercise patience no more. We shall nto complain any more to the UN about Israel. The sole method we shall aply against Israel is a total war which will result in the extermination of Zionist existence." This was a call not only for war, but for genocide.

On May 22nd Nasser told the Egyptian army:

"The Israeli flag shall not go through the Gulf of Aqaba. Our sovereignty over the enterence to the Gulf cannot be disputed. If Israel wishes to threaten war, we shall tell her 'You are welcome.'"

On the second of June Israel was told that there would be no internation force to protect it. Left to defend itself from a coallition that now include Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq, the Israeli Cabinet decided on June 4th to proceed with a preemptive strike. Israel attached on June 5th 1967 by destroying Egypts airforce as it sat on the tarmac.

Additional Sources