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The War in June 1967

The June 1967 Arab-Israeli war lasted only six days but its consequences are still felt across the Middle East today.

On June 5, 1967, just three weeks after it marked the 19th anniversary of its founding, the state of Israel went to war with the armies of neighbouring Egypt, Syria and Jordan. What would come to be known to Israelis as the Six-Day War and to Arabs as the June War, saw the defeat of three of the mightiest armies in the region, in a total victory for Israel.

The Six-Day War, which was considered an enormous military achievement in military history, wasn't even a real war. It was just a chase with live fire against an escaping enemy.

by Uri Milstein, Israeli military historian

The outcome of the war altered the map of the Middle East for the forseeable future – a result with consequences that blocked the path to peace between Israel and Palestine until this day. It re-drew the landscape of the conflict, expanded Israel’s territorial claims and confirmed its military dominance in the region. 

The war, also known as the Naksa, the setback, came just two decades after the events of 1948 when the state of Israel was established and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled.

It was in ’48 that five Arab armies had previously tried to put an end to the impending threat of an Israeli state, with the addition of the Lebanese and Iraq armies. 

United Nations (UN) interventions relieved pressure on the Israeli army and created an opportunity for negotiations: first between Egypt and a young general, Gamal Abdul-Nasser, establishing an armistice agreement, and then with Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

In 1956, however, an empowered Abdul-Nasser sought to reclaim power in the region by signing huge arms deals with Czechoslovakia that would then back the nationalisation of the Suez Canal.

With Britain and France, owners of the international Canal company, looking for a pretext to act against Nasser’s canal grab, war with Israel is suggested as the perfect conclusion.

Israeli forces crossed Egypt’s borders and into the Sinai in a matter of months but were forced to withdraw after universal condemnation. What this did achieve for Israel was a period of unplanned peace as UN troops were stationed along the Egypt-Israel borders for a decade. 

Egypt requested the UN withdraw its peace-keeping troops from Sinai on May 16, 1967. Less than a month later, Israel launched “Operation Focus” – an aerial strike that eventually led to the humiliating defeat of its neighbouring Arab armies.

The War In June looks back to the events around 1948, as well as the Suez Crisis in 1956, to understand the roots of the 1967 war. It explores the actual six days of battle in detail and then looks at the profound long-term consequences of this war. Those six days of fighting resonate around the Middle East today, on the 50th anniversary of this battle.

Editor’s note: This documentary uses footage from the Israeli Army Archive at the following timecodes: 20:22:04; 20:43:22; and 20:57:02.