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Israel’s Six-Day war explained

This combination of pictures created on May 11, 2017 shows a file photo (L) released by the Israeli Government Press office (GPO) and taken on June 7, 1967 of then Israeli paratroopers Tzion Karasenti (L), Yitzhak Yifat (C) and Chaim Oshri (R) standing next to the Western Wall, in Jerusalem's Old City.

This combination of pictures created on May 11, 2017 shows a file photo (L) released by the Israeli Government Press office (GPO) and taken on June 7, 1967 of then Israeli paratroopers Tzion Karasenti (L), Yitzhak Yifat (C) and Chaim Oshri (R) standing next to the Western Wall, in Jerusalem's Old City.   | Photo Credit: AFP

What is the Six-Day war and why is it significant?

The Six-Day war began on June 5, 1967 exactly fifty years ago, resulting in a massive reorganisation of territories in the middle-east. Here is a look at the events leading up to and of the Six-Day war, and why it is considered significant in the history of both Israel and Palestine.

What is the Six-Day war?

The Six-Day war was the third in the long line of Arab-Israeli wars that started in 1948, around the time of the creation of the Israeli state. Beginning on June 5, 1967, the war spanned only six days during which Israel almost decimated Egypt’s air force and captured new territory.

Israel fought against a combined force of Egypt, Jordan, Syria. The war ended on June 10, 1967.

The background

The war has its roots in the Israel-Palestine conflict, back when both territories were under the British rule. Both Arabs and Jews, dissatisfied by British rule in the British Mandate of Palestine, revolted in the late 30s and 40s. These revolts eventually led to the 1948 Palestine War, in which Arabs and Jews fought against each other while the region was still under British rule.

Once Israel was carved out of the territory, Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq tried to invade the area. This was the first of the four Arab-Israeli wars that would take place in the region.

What were the circumstances leading up to the war?

After the first Arab-Israeli War, Israel had not only occupied the territories that were assigned to it by the UN mandate, but it had also occupied most of the territories that would have gone to Palestine. The Gaza strip went to Egypt and Transjordan, as Jordan was known under British occupation, took control of West Bank.

Since that event, there were a number of clashes between the countries and incursions that led to loss of lives. Egypt, in particular, had a grudge against Israel after the latter’s invasion of Egypt’s Sinai peninsula in the Suez crisis of 1956 - essentially the second Arab-Israeli war.

But beyond all this, the immediate spark that led to a war was the closure of the Straits of Tiran - a narrow strip of sea between the Sinai Peninsula and Saudi Arabia that is Israel’s lone point of access to the Red Sea and beyond. Israel had already said the straits’ closure would amount to an ‘act of war’.

Egypt, after receiving false intel about Israel threatening to invade Syria, re-militarised the Sinai peninsula, expelled the UN Emergency Force from Sinai and West Bank, and closed the Straits of Tiran.

The six days

As a response to Egypt’s military deployment along the border at the Sinai region, Israel launched a pre-emptive strike on Egypt’s air force on June 5. The strike took out almost all of the country’s air force and enabled Israel to invade the Sinai peninsula.

Simultaneously, Israel also took out air bases belonging to Jordan and Syria, crippling the Arab front. By the end of the war, Israel had annexed the Sinai peninsula from Egypt, West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan and Golan Heights from Syria.

Why is it significant?

Fifty years on, the war continues have major geopolitical repercussions for the area, mainly striking a blow to the proposed ‘two-state solution’ for the Israel-Palestine conflict. With West Bank under Israel control, negotiations for a Palestinian state went for a toss. The war not only expanded Israel’s borders, but also sent a resounding message about the country as a military power to be reckoned with to the rest of the world.

On the other hand, the war caused widespread displacements with over a million refugees from West Bank, Gaza and Golan Heights being forced to flee. Till date, one of the biggest points of contention between Israel and Palestine is the return of the families of those who fled, a demand that Israel refuses to consider and Palestine refuses to withdraw.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2020 3:31:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/israels-six-day-war-explained/article18960298.ece

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