50 years ago today, Israeli civilian and military leaders, aware of rapidly advancing war preparations by the surrounding Arab nations of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon launched a decisive, pre-emptive strike. The attack and subsequent battles ended the immediate Arab threat. In the process, The victory led to the retaking of Israeli territory – Judea and Samaria (referred to as the West Bank by many) and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and seizing Arab territory – the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria – to serve as buffer zones with those nations. Israeli morale and international prestige were greatly increased by the outcome of the war and the area under Israeli control tripled.
As noted on Jewish Virtual Library, a project of The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE), ‘on June 5, 1967, Israel was isolated, but its military commanders had conceived a brilliant war strategy. The entire Israeli Air Force, with the exception of just 12 fighters assigned to defend Israeli air space, took off at 7:14 a.m. in Operation Moked (aka Operation Focus) with the intent of bombing Egyptian airfields while the Egyptian pilots were eating breakfast.
By 11:05 a.m. 180 Egyptian fighter planes were destroyed. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan was not planning to attack Syria until the Syrians attacked Tiberias and Megiddo. Israeli fighters subsequently attacked the Syrian and Jordanian air forces, as well as one airfield in Iraq. By the end of the first day, most of the Egyptian and half the Syrian air forces had been destroyed on the ground…
On June 7, Dayan ordered the encirclement of the Old City and instructed the army to enter. Israeli paratroopers stormed the city and secured it. At 10:08 a.m., according to the army diary, a message was received, saying, “The Temple Mount is in our hands and our forces are by the [Western] Wall.” Dayan arrived with Rabin to formally mark the Jews’ return to their historic capital and their holiest site. At the Western Wall, the IDF’s chaplain, Rabbi Shlomo Goren, blew a shofar to celebrate the event.
It took only three days for Israeli forces to defeat the Jordanian legion.
While most IDF units were fighting the Egyptians and Jordanians, a small, heroic group of soldiers were left to defend the northern border against the Syrians. It was not until the Jordanians and Egyptians were subdued that reinforcements could be sent to the Golan Heights, where Syrian gunners commanding the strategic high ground made it exceedingly difficult and costly for Israeli forces to penetrate. Finally, on June 9, after two days of heavy air bombardment, Israeli forces succeeded in breaking through the Syrian lines.
The victory came at a very high cost. In storming the Golan Heights, Israel suffered 115 dead-roughly the number of Americans killed during Operation Desert Storm. Altogether, Israel lost twice as many men — 777 dead and 2,586 wounded-in proportion to her total population as the U.S. lost in eight years of fighting in Vietnam. Also, despite the incredible success of the air campaign, the Israeli Air Force lost 46 of its 200 fighters. The death toll on the Arab side was 15,000 Egyptians, 2,500 Syrians, and 800 Jordanians.
By the end of the war, Israel had conquered enough territory to more than triple the size of the area it controlled, from 8,000 to 26,000 square miles. The victory enabled Israel to unify Jerusalem. Israeli forces had also captured the Sinai, Golan Heights, Gaza Strip and West Bank.’
Israel’s 1967 victory was miraculous. On June 4, 1967 Israeli leadership believed that their nation faced extinction and took decisive steps to prevent it. Less than a week later, Israelis had regained control over the Judaism’s holiest sites after 2,000 years of exile and oppression.
50 years ago, the war helped establish Israel as a nation to be reckoned with in the Middle East. Victory did not end the threat once and for all, as even today, Israel’s Arab neighbors continue to bear hostile intent, and terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah continue to plot attacks, threatening violence daily toward a true friend of America and our greatest ally in the region.