Arab – Israeli Wars

the United Nations partition of PALESTINE in 1947 and
the establishment of the modern state of ISRAEL in 1948,
there have been four major Arab-Israeli wars (1947-49,
1956, 1967, and 1973) and numerous intermittent battles.

Although Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979,
hostility between Israel and the rest of its Arab neighbors,
complicated by the demands of Palestinian Arabs, continued
into the 1980s. THE FIRST PALESTINE WAR (1947-49)
The first war began as a civil conflict between Palestinian
Jews and Arabs following the United Nations
recommendation of Nov. 29, 1947, to partition Palestine,
then still under British mandate, into an Arab state and a
Jewish state. Fighting quickly spread as Arab guerrillas
attacked Jewish settlements and communication links to
prevent implementation of the UN plan. Jewish forces
prevented seizure of most settlements, but Arab guerrillas,
supported by the Transjordanian Arab Legion under the
command of British officers, besieged Jerusalem. By April,
Haganah, the principal Jewish military group, seized the
offensive, scoring victories against the Arab Liberation Army
in northern Palestine, Jaffa, and Jerusalem. British military
forces withdrew to Haifa; although officially neutral, some
commanders assisted one side or the other. After the British
had departed and the state of Israel had been established on
May 15, 1948, under the premiership of David
BEN-GURION, the Palestine Arab forces and foreign
volunteers were joined by regular armies of Transjordan
(now the kingdom of JORDAN), IRAQ, LEBANON, and
SYRIA, with token support from SAUDI ARABIA. Efforts
by the UN to halt the fighting were unsuccessful until June
11, when a 4-week truce was declared. When the Arab
states refused to renew the truce, ten more days of fighting
erupted. In that time Israel greatly extended the area under
its control and broke the siege of Jerusalem. Fighting on a
smaller scale continued during the second UN truce
beginning in mid-July, and Israel acquired more territory,
especially in Galilee and the Negev. By January 1949, when
the last battles ended, Israel had extended its frontiers by
about 5,000 sq km (1,930 sq mi) beyond the 15,500 sq km
(4,983 sq mi) allocated to the Jewish state in the UN
partition resolution. It had also secured its independence.

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During 1949, armistice agreements were signed under UN
auspices between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and
Lebanon. The armistice frontiers were unofficial boundaries
until 1967. SUEZ-SINAI WAR (1956) Border conflicts
between Israel and the Arabs continued despite provisions in
the 1949 armistice agreements for peace negotiations.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs who had left
Israeli-held territory during the first war concentrated in
refugee camps along Israel’s frontiers and became a major
source of friction when they infiltrated back to their homes or
attacked Israeli border settlements. A major tension point
was the Egyptian-controlled GAZA STRIP, which was used
by Arab guerrillas for raids into southern Israel. Egypt’s
blockade of Israeli shipping in the Suez Canal and Gulf of
Aqaba intensified the hostilities. These escalating tensions
converged with the SUEZ CRISIS caused by the
nationalization of the Suez Canal by Egyptian president
Gamal NASSER. Great Britain and France strenuously
objected to Nasser’s policies, and a joint military campaign
was planned against Egypt with the understanding that Israel
would take the initiative by seizing the Sinai Peninsula. The
war began on Oct. 29, 1956, after an announcement that the
armies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan were to be integrated
under the Egyptian commander in chief. Israel’s Operation
Kadesh, commanded by Moshe DAYAN, lasted less than a
week; its forces reached the eastern bank of the Suez Canal
in about 100 hours, seizing the Gaza Strip and nearly all the
Sinai Peninsula. The Sinai operations were supplemented by
an Anglo-French invasion of Egypt on November 5, giving
the allies control of the northern sector of the Suez Canal.

The war was halted by a UN General Assembly resolution
calling for an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of all
occupying forces from Egyptian territory. The General
Assembly also established a United Nations Emergency
Force (UNEF) to replace the allied troops on the Egyptian
side of the borders in Suez, Sinai, and Gaza. By December
22 the last British and French troops had left Egypt. Israel,
however, delayed withdrawal, insisting that it receive security
guarantees against further Egyptian attack. After several
additional UN resolutions calling for withdrawal and after
pressure from the United States, Israel’s forces left in March
1957. SIX-DAY WAR (1967) Relations between Israel
and Egypt remained fairly stable in the following decade. The
Suez Canal remained closed to Israeli shipping, the Arab
boycott of Israel was maintained, and periodic border
clashes occurred between Israel, Syria, and Jordan.

However, UNEF prevented direct military encounters
between Egypt and Israel. By 1967 the Arab confrontation


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