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1967: Israel launches attack on Egypt

VIDEO : Report from the Gaza Strip

Israeli forces have launched a pre-emptive attack on Egypt and destroyed nearly 400 Egypt-based military aircraft.

Fighting broke out on the Israel-Egypt border but then quickly spread to involve other neighbouring Arab states with ground and air troops becoming embroiled in battle.

Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol said in a statement that the Egyptian Air Force had taken a great beating and Jordanian and Syrian air forces had been largely destroyed.

The attack follows a build-up of Arab military forces along the Israeli border.

The Arab states had been preparing to go to war against Israel with Egypt, Jordan and Syria being aided by Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Algeria.

On 27 May the President of Egypt, Abdel Nasser, declared: "Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight."

Egypt signed a pact with Jordan at the end of May declaring an attack on one was an attack on both. This was seen by Israel as a clear sign of preparation for all-out war.

Fleeing

Israel took decisive action today claiming the element of surprise was the only way it could stand any chance of defending itself against the increasing threat from neighbouring states.

Israeli troops claim to have captured the key town of El Arish in north Sinai and are now advancing towards Abu Gela.

Hundreds of thousands of Arabs are said to be fleeing the crossfire in Jordan's West Bank.

So far the US state department has announced, "Our position is neutral in thought, word and deed." This follows its recent stance declaring Israel would not be alone unless it decided to go it alone.

The path for war was cleared on 16 May when President Nasser ordered the withdrawal of the United Nations Emergency Forces from the Egyptian-Israeli border.

In Context
After a period of relative peace in the Middle East, Palestinian guerrilla groups, supported by Egypt and Syria, started a series of attacks on the Israeli border in 1965.

These were followed by Israeli reprisals and a gradual build-up of Arab military forces around Israel's border.

The Second Arab-Israeli war that began on 5 June 1967 ended on 10 June and became known as the six-day war - it changed the face of the Middle East conflict.

At the end of the war Israel had succeeded in almost doubling the amount of territory it controlled.

Israel seized Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt in the south and the Golan Heights from Syria in the north. It also pushed Jordanian forces out of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Israeli forces evicted Jewish settlers from the Gaza strip in August 2005 and began to demolish some settlements on the West Bank as well.

Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab nations that have made peace with Israel since 1967.


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