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The Six Day War: Preemption That Saved a Nation

In the lead-up to the Six-Day War in June 1967, tensions between Israel and Egypt escalated significantly. Israel had declared that any closure of the Straits of Tiran by Egypt would be a cause for war. In response to Egypt's blockade of the straits and the mobilization of its forces along the Israeli border.


Israel learned that an air attack by Egypt was imminent. The IDF launched a preemptive strike[1] on June 5, 1967, that targeted Egyptian airfields and achieved air supremacy by destroying much of Egypt's air force.  This caught Egyptian forces by surprise and left 90% of their fighter aircraft destroyed on the ground. The strike was intended to gain air superiority. It was a crucial advantage in their ability to exploit their own military strengths and capitalize on the weaknesses of the Arab forces.[2]


The IDF employed various ground tactical techniques to outmaneuver and outflank the Arab forces. These included armored thrusts, encirclements, and the integration of infantry, tanks, and artillery in combined arms warfare. These strategies maximized the effectiveness of Israel's military operations.


The 1967 War was brief but intense.  The following explains how the events unfolded on each day:[3]


June 5 

  • Early in the morning, Israeli air attacks against Egypt begin. 

  • Later, Israel air strikes in Jordan and targets Syria’s air force bases. 

  • Syria, Jordan, and Iraq began Haifa air strikes.

  • Jordan launches air strikes on Netanya and other Israeli targets.

  • Iraq and Jordan attempt airstrikes against Tel Aviv. In the afternoon, Jordan begins artillery fire against Tel Aviv.


June 6 

  • Syrian forces fortify their border with Israel and begin artillery fire.

  • Israel siezes Gaza, Ras el Naqeb and Jebel Libni from Egypt.

  • Israeli forces capture Ramallah, Northeast Jerusalem, Ammunition Hill, and Talpiot. 

  • Under pressure, Jordanian forces are ordered to retreat from the West Bank. 


June 7

  • The U.N. Security Council offers a cease-fire initiative, but Egypt's President Gamal Abdel Nasser rejects it. Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eskol offers Jordan's King Hussein to begin a cease-fire and peace talks, but Hussein never responds. 

  • Israel claims Bir al-Hasna and Al Qazima in Egypt. 

  • Jordanian-controlled Old City of Jerusalem, Nablus, and Jericho fell to the Israelis. 

  • Jordan orders its forces to retreat. 

  • On the border of Golan, fighting between Syria and Israel continues. 


June 8

  • Egypt accepts a cease-fire. 

  • Hebron falls to the Israeli army. 

  • Fighting continues on the border of Golan. 


June 9 

  • Syria orders an attack on Golan Heights. 


June 10

  • Israel takes Kuneitra and Mas'ada.

  • Syria agrees on a Cease-fire with Israel.

  • The war ends with Israel claiming the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula to the Suez Canal.


The territorial gains made by Israel during the war provided strategic depth and enhanced its security. The Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights acted as buffers, pushing potential aggressors beyond artillery range and reducing the threat to Israel's existence.


StratBot provided the following Analysis: The Israeli strategy during the 1967 Six Day War involved a preemptive strike, gaining air superiority, conducting swift ground offensives, employing tactical maneuvers, and exploiting perceived weaknesses in the Arab forces. The War highlights the significance of intelligence gathering, flexibility, and the ability to quickly adjust tactics to effectively respond to changing circumstances on the battlefield.


This strategy resulted in a decisive victory for Israel and reshaped the balance of power in the region. Most importantly for Israel, preemption allowed the IDF to successfully defend its homeland.


 




[1] NPR. Timeline: The Six Day War. June 7, 2007. https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10694216

[3] Soldiers and the Essential Tools They Use on the Battlefield. https://nanadc.com/soldiers-and-tools-they-use-on-battlefield/

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Great case study to use in class for MDO - the ground forces actually incapacitated air defenses allowing for air assets to then incur major losses on Egyptian ground forces deeper in the battlespace. Thanks.

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