Land of Canaan. Part II Six Day War

Not even one week. This is how long it took Israel to almost paralyse three armies and tripled its size. Up to now the country has been involved in four wars, thirteen military conflicts or violent events with its neighbours and is in the constant state of emergency due to Palestinian insurgency in the occupied territories. But one of those four wars played especially significant role in shaping the region the way we can see it today. It has changed the borders, forced thousands of people to seek refuge in the neighbouring countries, from one hand strengthened the country inside out but from the other made it more ignitable place to live in. As well as partly caused civil war in Lebanon. All of it started 50 years ago on 5th of June 1967. 

 

After the war of independence had finished and all the fights had finally ceased by July 1949 some of the Arab countries hostile to the Jewish state became more preoccupied with their own problems and local disputes over the power rather than focusing on erasing Israel from the world’s map. Nevertheless the issue came back in the mid 60’. In 1964 on the initiative of the Arab League Palestinian Liberation Organization was created to support their effort in fighting the occupant. Moreover in 1967 Egyptians persuaded the UN to withdraw from the Sinai and shortly after began a blockade of Sharm al-Sheikh and therefore made impossible Israeli export from Gulf of Aqaba to the Red Sea. New war started on 5th of June.

 

On the very first day only Israel almost destroyed Egyptian air force before the planes even took off, did the same to Syria, Jordan and Iraq gaining therefore air supremacy, its ground forces entered Sinai to fight Egyptian army. West Jerusalem alongside the other cities were shelled by Jordanian forces. Heavy fights in the West Bank continued on the second day of the conflict, during which on the 7th of June Israel captured Old City of Jerusalem. Following day Jewish army reached Suez Canal and took over Sinai Peninsula from Egypt on the south front and the West Bank on the east . On the two last days Golan Heights were captured and after ceasefire declaration war was over.

 

 Who has started the conflict is a matter of dispute between two sides, with Jewish accusing Egypt of attacking them so they were forced to fight back and the Egyptians claiming that strong Arab military presence in Sinai made Israel launch massive air strike which completely destroyed Egyptian air force. It seems that whoever says the truth no longer matters, given all the Arab actions and their unabated hostility war was hanging by a thread anyway.

 

 As for the consequences, nations of the Middle East still have to deal with them in everyday life. Israel gained territory and what they wanted the most, control over the city of Jerusalem. Even though international community didn’t accept it and in Resolution 242 UN asked Israel to come back to the pre-1967 borders, it didn’t happen. Spectacular victory helped the Jews to strengthen their position in the region and in the long term even made some of their neighbours to accept their presence. But it also made as much as 300 thousands Palestinians to leave their homeland and live as refugees elsewhere in the Middle East or Europe and 80 thousands Syrians to give up on everything they had and move from Golan Heights. In Lebanon big number of newcomers contributed to sectarian tensions and as a result to civil war. Also Israel had to pay the price for its great victory and getting control over the land they wanted. Palestinians who did not leave occupied territories still fight for independence, organise intifadas and attacks on Jewish people, what cost hundreds of lives on both sides, majority of them on their own. Growing hostility and lack of trust makes it impossible to reach any agreement, so the two nations live in constant fear and uncertainty about their future. 

 

Meir Shalev, one of the Israeli soldiers fighting in Six Day War after capturing West Bank said “We took a bite we will suffocate on”

50 years later his words sound like a prophecy. 

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