III. Events of the 1967-War
War on the Egyptian Front
At about 7:50 am, Israel launched an air strike on the Arab forces. This air attack was intended to destroy the Egyptian Air Force, consisting of about 419 combat aircraft, 41 while they were still on ground. Within three hours, most of the Egyptian planes in fourteen airports and air bases were destroyed. These air strikes ensured that the Israelis had air superiority for the rest of the war on all fronts [see map].
After the Israeli attack, the Egyptian Representative in the UN reported to the Security Council that Israel has started a war on Egypt, and that Egypt had the right to defend itself according to Article 51 of the United Nations' Charter.42
After the UN's State Members took time to discuss the situation, many ceasefire plans were proposed; however, UNSC Resolution number 233 was issued on June 6, 1967, ordering a ceasefire amongst all combating armies.
According to the PBS documentary 'Six Days in June', after the Israeli assault began the Soviets activated the hot line with the White House. They informed the Americans that the Israeli forces were advancing into Egyptian Territories. They also stated that it was up to Israeli's ally and supporter, the United States, to stop the ongoing aggression. The US promised that it would work with the Soviets in the United Nation on a plan to stop the war.
The Israeli forces entering the Gaza Strip on their way to the Sinai Peninsula engaged in fierce battles with the Palestinian 'Twentieth Battalion' in Khan Younis, who were defending against the Israeli attack, and trying to stop their advancement. However, these battles resulted in the death of the majority of the Palestinian Battalion, 43and by June 6, 1967, Israel completed occupying the Gaza Strip and headed towards Sinai.
The UNEF sent messages to the military authorities of both the United Arab Republic (Egypt) and Israel to secure a general ceasefire by both sides around camps and other concentrations of UNEF troops. However, Israel shelled the UNEF headquarters south of Khan Younis, which made their communications extremely difficult, for the UNEF radio antennae and telephone wires were cut.44
"UNEF headquarters came under direct Israel artillery fire during the night of 5/6 June. Efforts were made by the Commander to contact the Israel authorities with a view to stopping this fire. However, after two and a half hours of intensive shelling which caused heavy damage to the headquarters buildings and damaged nearly half of its vehicles, the Commander of UNEF was forced to abandon his headquarters when a direct hit completely knocked out his radio communications. During this artillery fire three Indian soldiers were killed and three Indian soldiers wounded. I am protesting to the Israeli Government the shelling of UNEF headquarters and the tragic loss of life caused by it."45
The Israeli forces also attacked other UNEF camps in the Gaza Strip, the Swedish Battalion main camp and Rafah Camp. In Rafah Camp one Brazilian soldier and two local civilians were reported as lightly wounded.46
The Israeli Air Force planes provided close air support for ground troops in Sinai as well as in the Gaza Strip as they were advancing into the Egyptian territories.
The Egyptian command ordered the withdrawal of their forces to the Suez Canal. According to the PBS documentary 'Six Days in June', the order was not detailed or organized, and worst, it was intercepted by the Israelis who decided to set a trap for them. 100,000 Egyptian soldiers and hundreds of tanks were encircled, captured or destroyed by the Israeli army.
War on the Jordanian Front
King Hussein received a message from Israel not to take part in the ongoing war and Israel would do the same. However, the King could do a little, because he was tied to the pact he signed with Egypt; in addition, his army was under the command of an Egyptian General.
The first day of the attack, President Nasser called King Hussein, and reportedly told him that Egypt had been victorious in the morning's fighting, which was an illusion the Arab public believed for several days. Nashat El Majali, a Jordanian Intelligence Officer in 1967, stated in the PBS documentary 'Six Days in June' that the morals of the Jordanians were high the first day of war. The Israelis had jammed all their military communications; therefore, the radio was their only source of information.
The media coverage of the 1967 war had a great impact on the course of the war. Both, the Egyptian and the Israeli, armies had plans of disinformation. The first day of war Dayan ordered complete discretion. The only information that was delivered to the Israeli public was that war had indeed started, and that fighting had broken out between the Israeli and the Egyptian armies. On the other hand, the Egyptian radio had a different plan on disinformation. The Arab public all over the Middle East was listening to Radio Cairo, which was giving away wrong information about the battle field. The Arab public as well as the Jordanian and the Syrian armies were intrigued by the allusions of victorious battles announced on the radio.
According to the PBS documentary 'Six Days in June',Nasser urged King Hussein to seize as much territory as possible before a ceasefire went into effect. Nasser told him that their jets were already attacking Israel; therefore, the Jordanian army began shelling the west side of Jerusalem. At 12:45 pm, Israel launched an air strike on the Jordanian, Syrian, and Iraqi Air Forces, completely destroying the Jordanian Air Force, more than half of the Syrian aircrafts and ten Iraqi aircrafts..48
Later that morning, the Jordanian troops clashed with the Israeli forces, but with nearly total control of the skies after the morning incident, Israeli jets and bombers were free to support the tanks and troops on the ground. Because of this, reinforcements were prevented from reaching Jerusalem and within 24 hours the Israelis had taken much of the city from the Jordanians [see map].
In the PBS documentary 'Six Days in June ', Ghazi Rubaiya, a Jordanian Commander in the 1967 war says that the spirits of his soldiers were at its lowest. The reason being the Israeli forces were encircling his battalion from all sides. He had two options no more, to either retreat or die, for the Israeli forces were coming onto his battalion from all sides. During that battle, and after five hours of fierce fighting, 105 Arabs in the Jordanian Army died compared to 35 Israelis dead.
Like the assault on the UNEF compounds in Gaza Strip, the Israeli forces attacked the UN Headquarters Compound South of Jerusalem. The Jordanian army was given the order to seize it and secure it from an Israeli incursion, but the Israelis managed to take it over. A report for the Chief Staff of United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) stated that heavy fire broke out in Jerusalem, that all communications were cut shortly thereafter, and that the UN Headquarters was seriously damaged. The Israeli troops forced their way into the place after attacking the Jordanian troops and driving them out. The Chief of Staff of UNTSO and his staff were ordered out of the UN Headquarters by the Israeli troops and escorted into Israel,49as to disable them from observation.
"General Bull has advised United Nations Headquarters that the existing resources of UNTSO do not make it possible for him to investigate allegations about the treatment of civilian population in the area of the recent hostilities, in view of UNTSO's commitments in observing and securing the implementation of the cease fire."50 In addition, the same day, the United Nations radio station in Amman, Jordan, reported that it was under air attack.51
By noon, the Israeli forces completed the encirclement of Jerusalem in the battles of Ammunition Hill and Sheikh Jarrah, and by night fall they captured the northern part of East Jerusalem. The evening of the same day, Israel captured Qalqilia, Jenin, and Ramallah in the West Bank [see map].
Jordan announced its acceptance of the UN ceasefire on June 7, 1967,52and the Jordanian army received orders to retreat from the West Bank. However, half an hour later the Israeli Air Forces began pounding Jordanian ground force in the Jerusalem-Jericho area and in the Bethlehem and Hebron Mountains. In the morning, Israeli forces captured East Jerusalem, and on the same night, they captured Nablus, Bethlehem, and Jericho.
The Jordanian forces had retreated to the East Bank, and the UN Security Council called for a ceasefire between Israel and Jordan, but the Israeli forces still continued their advance to fully occupy the West Bank.
Israel captured Hebron on the fifth day of war, and on the next day, June 9, 1967, the Israeli army forces blew up the King Abdullah and King Husain Bridges over the Jordan River.
War on the Syrian Front
The situation on the Syrian front was relatively quiet before June 9, 1967. Syria tried to capture the water plant, but their tanks were attacked. The Syrian Air Force carried out raids on the city of Haifa and Majedo airport, and no more than an hour later Israel attacked the Syrian Air Force near Damascus and destroyed almost two thirds of their jets, while the remaining third had to retreat to distant bases in the north.53
With the Sinai under Israeli control and the Jordanian army defeated, Israel began its excessive assault on Syrian positions in the Golan Heights on June 9, 1967. Although the same day Syria announced ceasefire,54 Israeli air raids continued.
On the morning of June 10, 1967, the Israelis continued their attack in the Golan Heights. Damascus was bombed and the Golan Heights, including the disputed 'Sheb'a Farms', were completely occupied on June 12, 1967 [see map]. A truce was signed defining the armistice line between Syria and Israel, which later became known as the 'Purple Line'.
The war on the Syrian front was considered one of the climaxes of the Cold War. The PBS documentary 'Six Days in June' shows that the Soviet Union contacted the White House when Israel began its assault on Syria. Soviet Prime Minister Kosygin reported to the Americans that if they did not act to stop the Israeli aggression on Syria, they would have to respond and would consider a unilateral military action.
Less than ten miles from the Israeli shores, the Soviets began assembling their fleet to back up their threat, and, if necessary, storm the Israeli port of Haifa. As for the Americans, they ordered their Sixth Fleet, which was already in the Mediterranean, to head towards Israel to protect them from any possible Soviet attack.
Assault on the USS Liberty
In the early hours of June 8, 1967, Israeli Air Force jets bombed the American ship USS Liberty in the international waters of the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Gaza. As a result, 34 young American officers were killed and 171 others were wounded.
Israel claimed they mistook the ship for the out-of-service Egyptian horse carrier El Quseir
and that the Americans brought the attack upon themselves by operating in a war zone without displaying a flag. In fact, the ship was in international waters, far from any fighting, and flew a new bright, clean, American flag.55
After the investigation, the attack was found to be deliberate. Israeli pilots circled the ship at low level 13 times and on eight different occasions before attacking.According to eye witnesses, the Israeli pilots reported that the ship was American. Radio operators in Spain, Lebanon, Germany, and aboard the ship heard the pilots reporting to their headquarters that it was indeed an American ship. However, the ship was attacked over a long period of time, which was definitely not a round of misdirected fire.56
However, the investigation did not condemn the incident as a crime of war. AsCaptain Richard F. Kiepfer, a retired Medical Corps in the US Navy and a USS Liberty survivor stated; "Never before in the history of the United States Navy, has a Navy Board of Inquiry ignored the testimony of American military eyewitnesses and taken on faith the word of their attackers.57
It has been suggested that Moshe Dayan ordered the attack on the Liberty with the intent of pinning the blame on the Egyptians, and thus, swinging public and political opinion in the United States solidly behind the Israelis. Of course, for this plan to work the Liberty had to be destroyed and its crew killed.58"(Ret.) Admiral Thomas Moorer, a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a leader in the effort to expose the cover ups of the attack, stated in a press conference on October 22, 2003 that Israel planned to sink the ship and then implicate Egypt, thereby pushing the US to fight on the side of Israel.
Another important factor remains: the Liberty was positioned just off the coast from the town of El Arish which, at the time, had been seized by Israeli forces, using the airport there as a camp for prisoners of war. On the very day the Liberty was attacked, the Israeli forces were in the process of executing as many as 1,000 Palestinian and Egyptian 'Prisoners Of War', a war crime that they surely wanted to conceal from prying eyes 60" James Bamford in his 2000 book 'Body of Secrets' argued that Israel attacked the ship because it was worried that the Liberty would learn of the killing of hundreds of Egyptian POWs by the Israeli army that had taken place nearby." 61
Some other survivors of the USS Liberty gave another account of the incident: "In 1976 James Ennes a survivor of the attack on the Liberty argued in his book 'Assault on the Liberty' that Israel was actually planning a surprise attack on Syria and was worried about the interference of the United States. The bombing of the Liberty was an attempt to disrupt the ability of the US to gather intelligence about the plan. This argument was presented in a History Channel production that aired in 2001 called 'Cover Up: Attack on the USS Liberty'." 62