The Six-day War of 1967 / Chapter 5


1. The background to the Six-day War

  • The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). In 1964, Nasser had invited Arab leaders to a conference where they set up the PLO. The aim of the PLO was to unite all Palestinians and win back the land which they had lost in 1948-9. PLO was an umbrella organisation for various Palestinian groups such as Fatah who carrier out raids on Israel. The governments of Lebanon and Jordan tried to restrict PLO activities, however, Syrians were keen to support the PLO. The only one state from which Israel was not attacked was Egypt because of the UN troops on their border
  • Countdown to war 1966-7. In February 1966 a new radical government came to power in Syria. They accused the Egyptian government of not supporting the PLO. Nasser did not like it as he did not want war. He wanted to remain the leader of the Arab world, not to be defeated as Israel had stronger military forces. In November 1966, Nasser signed a defence agreement with Syria, whereby if one state was attacked, the other would come to its defence. 
     A week after the pact was signed, a mine exploded on the Israel-Jordan frontier, killing 3 Israeli soldiers. To respond,  Israelis retaliated with a massive attack on Samu, killing 15 Jordanian soldiers and 3 civilians.
    On 7April 1967, an Israeli tractor was ploughing land in the demilitarised zone which the UN had established. The Syrians opened fire and the Israelis fired back. Syrians started shhelling Israeli settlements, Israeli tanks went into action. Israeli planes were called up, they were intercepted by Syrian figher planes and 6 Syrian planes were shot down. The Israeli planes roared low over Damascus to humiliate Syrians. This was a catalyst for the countdown to the Six-day War
  • The crisis of May 1967. On 12 May, an Israeli general threatened to occupy the Syrian capital and overthrow the Syrian government. The Soviet intervened. On 13 May, the Soviets warned the Egyptian government that Israel was moving its armed forces to Syria. This was not true and Nasser knew it. The Soviets were mistaken or lying.Avi Shlaim says that "What he did was to embark on an exercise in brinkmanship that was to carry him over the brink"
  • Nasser's…


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