1967 - 40 Years of Occupation
Facing each other on the frontline
Two generals - Israeli and Jordanian - recall their very different experiences during the war.
Last Modified: 12 Jun 2007 06:39 GMT
Kamara, then an Israeli tank commander, still remembers entering the city of Jerusalem

Al Jazeera's David Chater speaks to two veteran generals of the war, one Israeli and one Jordanian, about their experiences on the battlefields and how it still resonates in their lives today.
The Israeli victory was virtually sealed in the first three hours of the 1967 War, when a pre-emptive strike caught the Egyptian airforce on the ground.

With superiority in the air, the Israeli Army divisions rapidly extinguished the military threat in the Sinai.

The fight against the Jordanian Arab Legion in Jerusalem and the West Bank was equally short and bloody. But on this front, many historians now say it was a Pyrrhic victory for Israel.

Abu Rashid lost 13 of his men in
one battle with the Israelis

After 40 years of occupation and settlement the flames of combat have never been extinguished.

On the day the fighting started around Jerusalem, Jordanian Mansour Abu Rashid was a young platoon commander.

"I was proud to defend the Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem - proud of being a soldier in the Arab Army, of carrying the message of the great Arab revolution," he says.

'Up in flames'

Facing him across the frontline was Aharon Kamara - commanding a unit of tanks:

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"We were stationed outside the city, but Jerusalem was being attacked, I knew they needed me," he said.

"I gave the order for the tanks to enter the city. We rolled, in - you see those holes, those are from Arab bullets, they were firing at us from there."

"Here there were three jeeps with cannons, they fired at us but luckily they missed, as we did not see them til after they fired," he adds.

"Then we fired a round and all three went up in flames."

Close-quarter fighting

The young Jordanian lieutenant is now a retired major general. On a visit to the old battleground, he had trouble finding the position he held so long ago.

Abu Rashid now says he fights only for
Arab and Palestinian rights
Jewish settlements have sprung up on the surrounding hillsides - and the notorious separation barrier now cuts across the old contours of the battlefield.

But then he recognised the mangled remains of the pillbox which had housed a heavy machine-gun.

"The Israelis used airstrikes as they advanced with their armour," he recalls.

"It was fierce close-quarter fighting when their troops assaulted our trenches."

"I lost 13 men and was captured but then managed to escape with the rest of my platoon."

'Fighting for peace'

The Jordanians were left with the humiliation of defeat - the Israelis with the euphoria of victory.

"Then there was no hatred between the two people [Israelis and Palestinians] and now... the hatred is blazing"

Aharon Kamara, Israeli veteran of 1967 war

But it was a victory soon soured as the Palestinans united to begin their long fight against the occupation.

"Then there was no hatred between the two people [Israelis and Palestinians] and now there is a profound hatred between these people," Kamara says.

"Then you could go to Nablus and Jenin and they would even hug you. Now, the hatred is blazing."

On the other side, the young lieutenant who fought for the Arab cause is now fighting for peace.

"As a fighter I had been fighting in the absence of a peace agreement," says Abu Rashid.

"Currently I am fighting for the benefit of peace between Arab and Israelis but a just peace which gives Arabs their rights and the Palestinians their rights."

The wall of separation that has risen inside Jerusalem is a concrete reminder that the city remains divided, a monument to four decades of political failure on all sides.

Hopes for peace - like old soldiers, it seems - never die, they simply fade away.

Al Jazeera
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