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The Six-Day War (Arabic: حرب الأيام الستة, ħarb al‑ayyam as‑sitta ; Hebrew: מלחמת ששת הימים, Milhemet Sheshet Ha‑Yamim), also known as the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the Third Arab-Israeli War, Six Days' War, an‑Naksah (The Setback), or the June War, was fought between Israel and the Arab states of Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria. When Egypt expelled the United Nations Emergency Force from the Sinai Peninsula, increased its military activity near the border, and blockaded the Straits of Tiran to Israeli ships, Israel launched a preemptive attack on Egypt's air force, fearing an imminent invasion by Egypt. At the war's end, Israel had gained control of the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights. The results of the war affect the geopolitics of the region to this day.

On November 22, 1967, UN Security Council passed Resolution 242 calling for Israel's withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders.1 Since then, many use this resolution to describe Israel as occupiers, stating "three million Palestinians live in the area that became Israeli occupied territory, subject to military law. Israeli settlements have been built in the Occupied Territories. The Golan Heights and Jerusalem have been annexed." On the other hand, others see the situation differently. Worldwide support for Israel from the Jewish community increased after 1967, as its survival seemed much more likely. The Sinai was returned to Egypt following the Camp David Accords of 1979, while the rest of the occupied territory (apart from the Golan) became the Palestinian National Authority in 1993. However, lack of progress towards implementing the two-state solution proposed by the Camp David Process, subsequently endorsed both by the Oslo Accords and by the 2003 Road map for Peace2 have seen the eruption of two intifadas and continued violence against Israel followed by Israeli reprisals.

Background

Suez Crisis aftermath

The Suez Crisis represented for Egypt a military defeat, but a political victory. Heavy diplomatic pressure from both the United States and the Soviet Union forced Israel to withdraw its military from the Sinai Peninsula. After the 1956 war, Egypt agreed to the stationing of a UN peacekeeping force in the Sinai, the United Nations Emergency Force, to keep that border region demilitarized, and prevent guerrillas from crossing the border into Israel. As a result the border between Egypt and Israel quieted for a while.

The aftermath of the 1956 war saw the region return to an uneasy balance without any lasting resolution of the region's difficulties. At the time, no Arab state had recognized Israel. Syria, aligned with the Soviet bloc, began sponsoring guerrilla raids on Israel in the early 1960s as part of its "people's war of liberation," designed to deflect domestic opposition to the Ba'ath Party.3

Israel's National Water Carrier

In 1964, Israel began withdrawing water from the Jordan River for its National Water Carrier. The following year, the Arab states began construction of the Headwater Diversion Plan, which, once completed, would divert the waters of the Banias Stream so that the water would not enter Israel, and the Sea of Galilee, but rather flow into a dam at Mukhaiba for Jordan and Syria, and divert the waters of the Hasbani into the Litani, in Lebanon. The diversion works would have reduced the installed capacity of Israel's carrier by about 35 percent. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) attacked the diversion works in Syria in March, May, and August of 1965, perpetuating a prolonged chain of border violence that lead directly to the events precipitating the war.4

Israel and Jordan: The Samu Incident

On November, 12, 1966, an Israeli border patrol hit a mine, killing three soldiers and injuring six others. The Israelis believed the mine had been planted by terrorists from Es Samu on the West Bank. Early on the morning November 13, King Hussein, who had been having secret meetings with Abba Eban and Golda Meir for three years concerning peace and secure borders, received an unsolicited message from his Israeli contacts stating that Israel had no intention of attacking Jordan.5 However, at 5:30 am, in what Hussein described as an action carried out "under the pretext of 'reprisals against the terrorist activities of the P.L.O.,' Israeli forces attacked Es Samu, a village in Jordanian-occupied West Bank of 4,000 inhabitants, all of them Palestinian refugees whom the Israelis accused of harboring terrorists from Syria".6

In "Operation Shredder," Israel's largest military operation since 1956, a force of around 3,000-4,000 soldiers backed by tanks and aircraft divided into a reserve force, which remained on the Israeli side of the border, and two raiding parties, which crossed into the Jordanian-occupied West Bank. The 48th Infantry Battalion of the Jordanian army, commanded by Major Asad Ghanma, ran into the Israeli forces north-west of Samu and two companies approaching from the north-east were intercepted by the Israelis, while a platoon of Jordanians armed with two 106 mm recoilless guns entered Samu. In the ensuing battles three Jordanian civilians and fifteen soldiers were killed; fifty-four other soldiers and ninety-six civilians were wounded. The commander of the Israeli paratroop battalion, Colonel Yoav Shaham, was killed and ten other Israeli soldiers were wounded.7 According to the Israeli Government, fifty Jordanians were killed but the true number was never disclosed by the Jordanians in an effort to keep up morale and confidence in King Hussein's regime.8

Facing a storm of criticism from Jordanians, Palestinians, and his Arab neighbors for failing to protect Samu, Hussein ordered a nation-wide mobilization on November 20.9

On November 25, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 228 unanimously deploring "the loss of life and heavy damage to property resulting from the action of the Government of Israel on 13 November 1966," censuring "Israel for this large-scale military action in violation of the United Nations Charter and of the General Armistice Agreement between Israel and Jordan" and emphasizing "to Israel that actions of military reprisal cannot be tolerated and that, if they are repeated, the Security Council will have to consider further and more effective steps as envisaged in the Charter to ensure against the repetition of such acts."10

In a telegram to the State Department on May 18, 1967, the U.S. ambassador in Amman, Findley Burns, reported that King Hussein had expressed the opinion in a conversation the day before that "Jordan is just as likely a target in the short run and, in his opinion, an inevitable one in the long run… Israel has certain long range military and economic requirements and certain traditional religious and historic aspirations which in his opinion they have not yet satisfied or realized. The only way in which these goals can be achieved, he said, is by an alteration of the status of the Occupied West Bank (never internationally recognized as Jordanian). Thus in the King's view it is quite natural for the Israelis to take advantage of any opportunity and force any situation which would move them closer to this goal. His concern is that current area conditions provide them with just such opportunities-terrorism, infiltration and disunity among the Arabs being the most obvious," and recalling the Samu incident "Hussein said that if Israel launched another Samu-scale attack against Jordan he would have no alternative but to retaliate or face an internal revolt. If Jordan retaliates, asked Hussein, would not this give Israel a pretext to occupy and hold Jordanian or Occupied territory? Or, said Hussein, Israel might instead of a hit-and-run type attack simply occupy and hold territory in the first instance. He said he could not exclude these possibilities from his calculations and urged us not to do so even if we felt them considerably less than likely."11

Israel and Syria

In addition to sponsoring attacks against Israel (often through Jordanian territory), Syria also began shelling Israeli civilian communities in north-eastern Galilee, from positions on the Golan Heights, as part of the dispute over control of the Demilitarized Zones (DMZs), small parcels of land claimed by both Israel and Syria.12

In 1966, Egypt and Syria signed a military alliance, initiated for both sides if either were to go to war. According to Egyptian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Riad, Egypt had been persuaded to enter into the mutual defense pact by the Soviet Union. From the Soviet perspective the pact had two objectives:

  • To reduce the chances of a punitive attack on Syria by Israel
  • To bring the Syrians under what they considered to be Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser's moderate influence.13

During a visit to London in February 1967, Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban briefed journalists on Israel's "hopes and anxieties," explaining to those present that although the governments of Lebanon, Jordan, and the United Arab Republic seemed to have decided against active confrontation with Israel it remained to be seen whether Syria could maintain a minimal level of restraint, at which hostility was confined to rhetoric.

On April 7, 1967, a minor border incident escalated into a full-scale aerial battle over the Golan Heights, resulting in the loss of six Syrian MiG-21s to Israeli Air Force (IAF) Dassault Mirage IIIs, and the latter's flight over Damascus.14 Tanks, heavy mortars, and artillery were used in various sections along the 47 mile (76 km) border in what was described as "a dispute over cultivation rights in the demilitarized zone south-east of Lake Tiberias." Earlier in the week, Syria had twice attacked an Israeli tractor working in the area and when it returned on the morning of April 7, the Syrians opened fire again. The Israelis responded by sending in armor-plated tractors to continue plowing, resulting in further exchanges of fire. Israeli aircraft dive-bombed Syrian positions with 250 and 500 kg bombs. The Syrians responded by shelling Israeli border settlements heavily and Israeli jets retaliated by bombing the village of Sqoufiye, destroying around 40 houses. At 3:19pm Syrian shells started falling on Kibbutz Gadot; over 300 landed within the kibbutz compound in only 40 minutes.15. The United Nations Truce Supervision Organization attempted to arrange a ceasefire, but Syria declined to cooperate unless Israeli agricultural work was halted.16

The Prime Minister of Israel, Levi Eshkol warned that Israel would not hesitate to use air power on the scale of April 7, in response to continued border terrorism and on the same day Israeli envoy Gideon Rafael presented a letter to the president of the Security Council warning that Israel would "act in self-defense as circumstances warrant".17 In early May the Israeli cabinet authorized a limited strike against Syria, but Rabin's renewed demand for a large-scale strike to discredit or topple the Ba'ath regime was opposed by Eshkol.18 Border incidents multiplied and numerous Arab leaders, both political and military, called for an end to Israeli reprisals. Egypt, then already trying to seize a central position in the Arab world under Nasser, accompanied these declarations with plans to re-militarize the Sinai. Syria shared these views, although it did not prepare for an immediate invasion. The Soviet Union actively backed the military needs of the Arab states. It was later revealed that on May 13, a Soviet intelligence report given by Soviet President Nikolai Podgorny to Egyptian Vice President Anwar Sadat claimed falsely that Israeli troops were massing along the Syrian border.19

Withdrawal of the United Nations Emergency Force

At 10:00pm on May 16, the commander of the United Nations Emergency Force, General Indar Jit Rikhye, was handed a letter from General Mohammed Fawzy, Chief of Staff of the United Arab Republic, reading: "To your information, I gave my instructions to all U.A.R. armed forces to be ready for action against Israel, the moment it might carry out any aggressive action against any Arab country. Due to these instructions our troops are already concentrated in Sinai on our eastern border. For the sake of complete security of all U.N. troops which install Observation posts along our borders, I request that you issue your orders to withdraw all these troops immediately." Rikhye said he would report to the Secretary-General for instructions.20

The UN Secretary-General U Thant attempted to negotiate with the Egyptian government, but on May 18, the Egyptian Foreign Minister informed nations with troops in UNEF that the UNEF mission in Egypt and the Gaza Strip had been terminated and that they must leave immediately, and Egyptian forces prevented UNEF troops from entering their posts. The Governments of India and Yugoslavia decided to withdraw their troops from UNEF, regardless of the decision of U Thant. While this was taking place, U Thant suggested that UNEF be redeployed to the Israeli side of the border, but Israel refused, arguing that UNEF contingents from countries hostile to Israel would be more likely to impede an Israeli response to Egyptian aggression than to stop that aggression in the first place.21 The Permanent Representative of Egypt then informed U Thant that the Egyptian government had decided to terminate UNEF's presence in the Sinai and the Gaza Strip, and requested steps that the force withdraw as soon as possible. On May 19, the UNEF commander was given the order to withdraw.22 Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser then began the re-militarization of the Sinai, and concentrated tanks and troops on the border with Israel.

The Straits of Tiran

On May 22, Egypt announced that the Straits of Tiran would be closed to "all ships flying Israel flags or carrying strategic materials," with effect from May 23.23 Also, Nasser stated, "Under no circumstances can we permit the Israeli flag to pass through the Gulf of Aqaba." While most of Israel's commerce used Mediterranean ports, and, according to John Quigley, no Israeli-flag vessel had used the port of Eilat for the two years preceding June 1967, oil carried on non-Israeli flag vessels to Eilat was a very significant import.24 There were ambiguities, however, about how rigorous the blockade would be, particularly whether it would apply to non-Israeli flag vessels. Citing international law, Israel considered the closure of the straits to be illegal, and it had stated in 1957 when it withdrew from the Sinai and Gaza that it would consider such a blockade a casus belli. The Arab states disputed Israel's right of passage through the Straits, noting that they had not signed the Convention on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone, specifically article 16(4), which provided Israel with that right.25 In the UN General Assembly debates immediately after the war, many nations argued that even if international law gave Israel the right of passage, Israel was not entitled to attack Egypt to assert it because the closure was not an "armed attack" as defined by article 51 of the UN Charter. Similarly, international law professor John Quigley argues that under the doctrine of proportionality, Israel would only be entitled to use such force as would be necessary to secure its right of passage.26

Israel viewed the closure of the straits with some alarm and the U.S. and UK were asked to open the Straits of Tiran, as they guaranteed they would in 1957. Harold Wilson's proposal of an international maritime force to quell the crisis was adopted by President Johnson, but received little support, with only Britain and the Netherlands offering to contribute ships.

Egypt and Jordan

Nasser's pan-Arabism had numerous supporters in Jordan (in spite of Hussein, who felt it threatened his authority); and, on May 30, Jordan signed a mutual defense treaty with Egypt, thereby joining the military alliance already in place between Egypt and Syria. President Nasser, who had called King Hussein an "imperialist lackey" just days earlier, declared: "Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight."27

At the end of May 1967, Jordanian forces were given to the command of an Egyptian General Abdul Munim Riad.28 On the same day, Nasser proclaimed: "The armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon are poised on the borders of Israel… to face the challenge, while standing behind us are the armies of Iraq, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and the whole Arab nation. This act will astound the world. Today they will know that the Arabs are arranged for battle, the critical hour has arrived. We have reached the stage of serious action and not of more declarations."29 Israel called upon Jordan numerous times to refrain from hostilities. Hussein, however, was caught on the horns of a galling dilemma: allow Jordan to be dragged into war and face the brunt of the Israeli response, or remain neutral and risk full-scale insurrection among his own people. Army Commander-in-Chief General Sharif Zaid Ben Shaker warned in a press conference that "If Jordan does not join the war a civil war will erupt in Jordan."30

Israel's own sense of concern regarding Jordan's future role originated in Jordanian control of the West Bank. This put Arab forces just 17 kilometres from Israel's coast, a jump-off point from which a well coordinated tank assault would likely cut Israel in two within half an hour. Such a coordinated attack from the West Bank was always viewed by the Israeli leadership as a threat to Israel's existence. Although the size of Jordan's army meant that Jordan was probably incapable of executing such a maneuver, the country was perceived as having a history of being used by other Arab states as staging grounds for operations against Israel; thus, attack from the West Bank was always viewed by the Israeli leadership as a threat to Israel's existence. At the same time several other Arab states not bordering Israel, including Iraq, Sudan, Kuwait, and Algeria, began mobilizing their armed forces.

The drift to war

On May 21, Nasser told General 'Ali 'Amer, Defense Minister Shams al-Din Badran and Vice President Zakkariya Muhieddin that closing the Straits of Tiran would raise the chance of war to 50 percent, then indeed actually ordered blockade. The blockade was a violation the 1958 Geneva Convention, which admittedly Egypt did not sign, guaranteeing the international status of straits. However, the USSR, who had been sponsoring Egypt and the Arab states, had signed the treaty. Nasser said that "We knew that closing the Gulf of Aqaba meant war… the objective will be Israel's destruction," which to him was along the same lines as striking Soviet-hostile America. "Israel today is the United States," Nasser said.

In his speech to Arab trade unionists on May 26, Nasser announced: "If Israel embarks on an aggression against Syria or Egypt, the battle will be a general one… and our basic objective will be to destroy Israel."31

Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban wrote in his autobiography that when he was told by U Thant of Nasser's promise not to attack Israel he found this reassurance convincing as "… Nasser did not want war; he wanted victory without war".32 Israel's political and military elite felt that preemption was not merely militarily preferable, but inevitably transformative.

Diplomacy and intelligence assessments

The Israeli cabinet met on May 23, and decided to launch a preemptive strike if the Straits of Tiran were not re-opened by May 25. Following an approach from U.S. Undersecretary of State Eugene Rostow to allow time for the negotiation of a nonviolent solution, Israel agreed to a delay of ten days to two weeks.33 UN Secretary General, U Thant, visited Cairo for mediation and recommended moratorium in the Straits of Tiran and a renewed diplomatic effort to solve the crisis. Egypt agreed and Israel rejected these proposals. It should be noted that Nasser's concessions do not necessarily suggest that he was making a concerted effort to avoid war any more than Israel's rejection implies that Israel wanted a war. The decision benefited him both politically and strategically. Agreeing to diplomacy helped garner international political support. Moreover every delay gave Egypt time to complete its own military preparations and coordinate with the other Arabs forces.

The U.S. also tried to mediate and Nasser agreed to send his vice-president to Washington to explore a diplomatic settlement. The meeting did not happen because Israel launched its offensive. Some analysts suggest that Nasser took actions aimed at reaping political gains, which he knew carried a high risk of precipitating military hostilities. Nasser's willingness to take such risks was based on his fundamental underestimation of Israel's capacity for independent and effective military action. Abba Eban, the Israeli Foreign Minister, also flew to Washington to ascertain what position the U.S. administration was taking on the developing crises. News reached him in Washington that Egypt was planning a attack, which resulted in communication between the United States and the Soviet Union, since Egypt was regarded as a Soviet proxy. The U.S. told the Soviet Union that a global crises could result if Israel was attacked.

Freshly informed by CIA assessments contradicting a supposed pessimistic Israeli estimate of Arab military capabilities, Johnson, in the presence of Secretary McNamara and other senior officials, hears out Abba Eban on May 26, 1967

ref>Oren, 2002, pp. 102-103. At 2:30 a.m. on May 27, Soviet Ambassador to Egypt Dimitri Pojidaev knocked on Nasser's door and read him a personal letter from Kosygin in which he said, "We don't want Egypt to be blamed for starting a war in the Middle East. If you launch that attack, we cannot support you." The attack was canceled.

CIA Analysis of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. The first page of the draft of the "special estimate" that predicted the outcome of the war

Within Israel's political leadership, it was decided that if the U.S. would not act, and if the UN could not act, then Israel would have to act. On June 1, Moshe Dayan was made Israeli Defense Minister, and on June 3, the Johnson administration gave an ambiguous statement; Israel continued to prepare for war. Israel's attack against Egypt on June 5, began what would later be dubbed the Six-Day War. Martin van Creveld explains the impetus to war: "… the concept of 'defensible borders' was not even part of the IDFs own vocabulary. Anyone who will look for it in the military literature of the time will do so in vain. Instead, Israel's commanders based their thought on the 1948 war and, especially, their 1956 triumph over the Egyptians in which, from then Chief of Staff Dayan down, they had gained their spurs. When the 1967 crisis broke they felt certain of their ability to win a 'decisive, quick and elegant' victory, as one of their number, General Haim Bar Lev, put it, and pressed the government to start the war as soon as possible."34

The combatant armies

On the eve of the war Egypt massed around 100,000 of its 160,000 troops in the Sinai, including all of its seven divisions (four infantry, two armored, and one mechanized), as well as four independent infantry and four independent armored brigades. No less then a third of them were veterans of Egypt intervention into Yemen Civil War and another third were reservists. These forces had 950 tanks, 1,100 APCs, and more then 1,000 artillery pieces. At the same time, some of Egyptian troops (15,000-20,000) were still fighting in Yemen.35 Nasser was always ambivalent about taking this military action.

Jordan's army had a total strength of 55,000,36 but it too was embroiled in the fighting in Yemen. Syria's army had 75,000 troops.37

The Israeli army had a total strength, including reservists, of 264,000, though of course this number could not be sustained, as the reservists were vital to civilian life.38 James Reston, writing in the New York Times on May 23, 1967, noted, "In discipline, training, morale, equipment and general competence his Nasser's army and the other Arab forces, without the direct assistance of the Soviet Union, are no match for the Israelis… Even with 50,000 troops and the best of his generals and air force in Yemen, he has not been able to work his way in that small and primitive country, and even his effort to help the Congo rebels was a flop."39

On June 1, Israeli minister of defense Moshe Dayan called Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin and the General Officer Commanding, Southern Command Brigadier General Yeshayahu Gavish to present plans to be implemented against Egypt. Rabin had formulated a plan in which Southern Command would fight its way to the Gaza Strip and then hold the territory and its people hostage until Egypt agreed to reopen the Straits of Tiran while Gavish had a more comprehensive plan that called for the destruction of Egyptian forces in the Sinai. Rabin favored Gavish's plan, which was then endorsed by Dayan with the caution that a simultaneous offensive against Syria should be avoided.40

Warfare

Preliminary air attack

Israel's first and most important move was a preemptive attack on the Egyptian Air Force. It was by far the largest and the most modern of all the Arab air forces, consisting of about 450 combat aircraft, all of them Soviet-built and relatively new.

Of particular concern to the Israelis were the 30 Tu-16 Badger medium bombers, capable of inflicting heavy damage on Israeli military and civilian centers.41 On June 5, at 7:45 Israeli time, as civil defense sirens sounded all over Israel, the Israeli Air Force launched Operation Focus (Moked). All but twelve of its nearly 200 operational jets42 left the skies of Israel in a mass attack against Egypt's airfields.43 Egyptian defensive infrastructure was extremely poor, and no airfields were yet equipped with armored bunkers capable of protecting Egypt's warplanes in the event of an attack. The Israeli warplanes headed out over the Mediterranean before turning toward Egypt. Meanwhile, the Egyptians hindered their own defense by effectively shutting down their entire air defense system: they were worried that rebel Egyptian forces would shoot down the plane carrying Field Marshal Amer and Lt-Gen. Sidqi Mahmoud, who were en route from al Maza to Bir Tamada in the Sinai to meet the commanders of the troops stationed there. In the end it did not make a great deal of difference, as the Israeli pilots came in below Egyptian radar cover and well below the lowest point at which its SA-2 surface-to-air missile batteries could bring down an aircraft.44 The Israelis employed a mixed attack strategy; bombing and strafing runs against the planes themselves, and tarmac-shredding penetration bombs dropped on the runways that rendered them unusable, leaving any undamaged planes unable to take off and therefore helpless targets for later Israeli waves. The attack was more successful than expected, catching the Egyptians by surprise, the attack destroying virtually all of the Egyptian Air Force on the ground with few Israeli casualties. Over 300 Egyptian aircraft were destroyed and 100 Egyptian pilots were killed.45 The Israelis lost 19 of their planes, and most of these were operational losses (i.e. mechanical failure, accidents, etc). The attack guaranteed Israeli air superiority for the rest of the war.

Before the war, Israeli pilots and ground crews trained extensively in rapid refitting of aircraft returning from sorties, enabling a single aircraft to sortie up to four times a day (as opposed to the norm in Arab air forces of one or two sorties per day). This enabled the IAF to send several attack waves against Egyptian airfields on the first day of the war, overwhelming the Egyptian Air Force. This also has contributed to the Arab belief that the IAF was helped by foreign air forces. The Arab air forces themselves were aided by pilots from the Pakistan Air Force.

Following the success of the initial attack waves against the major Egyptian airfields, subsequent attacks were made later in the day against secondary Egyptian airfields as well as Jordanian, Syrian, and even Iraqi fields. Throughout the war, Israeli aircraft continued strafing airfield runways to prevent their return to usability.

Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula

Conquest of Sinai. June 7-June 8 1967

The Egyptian forces consisted of seven divisions: four armored, two infantry, and one mechanized infantry. Overall, Egypt had around 100,000 troops and 900-950 tanks in the Sinai, backed by 1,100 APCs and 1000 artillery pieces.46 This arrangement was based on the Soviet doctrine, where mobile armor units at strategic depth provide a dynamic defense while infantry units engage in defensive battles.

Israeli forces concentrated on the border with Egypt included six armored brigades, one infantry brigade, one mechanized infantry brigade, three paratrooper brigades and 700 tanks giving a total of around 70,000 men, organized in three armored divisions. The Israeli plan was to surprise the Egyptian forces in both timing (the preemptive attack exactly coinciding with the IAF strike on Egyptian airfields), location (attacking via northern and central Sinai routes, as opposed to the Egyptian expectations of a repeat of the 1956 war, when the IDF attacked via the central and southern routes), and method (using a combined-force flanking approach, rather than direct tank assaults).

The northernmost Israeli division, consisting of three brigades and commanded by Major General Israel Tal, one of Israel's most prominent armor commanders, advanced slowly through the Gaza Strip and El-Arish, which were not heavily protected.

The central division (Maj. Gen. Avraham Yoffe) and the southern division (Maj. Gen. Ariel Sharon), however, entered the heavily defended Abu-Ageila-Kusseima region. Egyptian forces there included one infantry division (the 2nd), a battalion of tank destroyers and a tank regiment.

Sharon initiated an attack, precisely planned, coordinated, and carried out. He sent two of his brigades to the north of Um-Katef, the first one to break through the defenses at Abu-Ageila to the south, and the second to block the road to El-Arish and to encircle Abu-Ageila from the east. At the same time, a paratrooper force was dispatched to the rear of the defensive positions and destroyed the artillery, preventing it from engaging Israeli armor and infantry. Combined forces of armor, paratroopers, infantry, artillery, and combat engineers then atta

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