The Six-Day Middle East War
Michael Elkins on the scene (mp3)

Since 1960, Israel had been trying to negotiate with its Arab neighbors for recognition. Both sides distrusted each other and the world constantly heard that one side or the other was trying to destroy them. In a statement to the United Arab Republic National Assembly in 1964, Egyptian President Nassar said "The danger of Israel lies in the very existence of Israel as it is in the present and in what she represents."(1)

Meanwhile, in the Golan Heights, which stand over 3000 feet above the Galilee, Syria began a shelling campaign which became more frequent in 1965 and 1966 of Israeli farms and villages. Nassar, for his part became more strident in his comments: "We shall not enter Palestine with its soil covered in sand," he said on March 8, 1965. "We shall enter it with its soil saturated in blood."(2)
Israel for its part did not sit back. In April, 1967 they launched a retaliatory strike against the Syrian attacks. The Israeli Air Force downed six Syrian MiGs. Soon after, the Soviet Union gave information to Syria that Israel was creating a massive military buildup in preparation for an attack. Syria invoked its defense treaty with Egypt. In May, Egypt began massing troops in the Sinai near the Israeli border, while Syria prpared for attacks along the Golan Heights.

Nassar ordered the U.N. Emergency Force to withdraw from the Sinai and the U.N. complied. Nassar announced:

As of today, there no longer exists an international emergency force to protect Israel. We shall exercise patience no more. We shall not complain any more to the UN about Israel. The sole method we shall apply against Israel is total war, which will result in the extermination of Zionist existence.(3)

Meanwhile, in Syria, the defense minister, Hafez Assad announced

Our forces are now entirely ready not only to repulse the aggression, but to initiate the act of liberation itself, and to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland. The Syrian army, with its finger on the trigger, is united....I, as a military man, believe that the time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation.(4)

The final lock was in place when Jordan's King Hussein signed a defense pact with Egypt on May 30th. Prime Minister Levi Eshkol sent a message to King Hussein saying Israel would not attack Jordan unless he initiated hostilities. Then on June 5th, Jordanian radar picked up a cluster of planes flying from Egypt to Israel. Egyptian officials told Hussein that it was their planes he detected. Presuming an attack was imminent, Jordanian troops began shelling West Jerusalem on Hussein's orders. In actuality the planes were Israeli planes returning from Egypt after having destroyed Egyptian planes on the ground.

After just six days of fighting, Israeli troops had broken through on all fronts and were poised to attack Cairo, Damascus and Amman. Because of potential destruction of all three countries, a cease-fire was declared on June 10. Despite heavy losses, Israel had tripled its territory from 8000 square miles to 25,000. Now in its possession were the Golan Heights, the Sinai and all of Jerusalem.
When the fighting began in Jerusalem, BBC reporter Michael Elkins was there. Freelancing for CBS, he was on the telephone to New York filing a report when the fighting began. What you hear is a live action situation in which radio was on the scene. The sounds and images paint a very vivid picture of the danger the people of Jerusalem encountered during those six days in June, 1967.


(1)  Yehoshafat Harkabi, Arab Attitudes To Israel, Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House, 1972. p. 27.
(2)  Howard Sachar, A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979. p. 616.
(3)  Isi Leibler, The Case For Israel, Australia: The Globe Press, 1972. p. 60.
(4)  Ibid.

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