Zionist forces, in their mission to create a “Jewish state”, expelled some 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland and destroyed their villages in the process. Shortly after Israel declared statehood, units of the neighbouring Arab country armies came in to fight for the Palestinian nation.
The 1948 war ended with Israeli forces controlling approximately 78 percent of historical Palestine. The remaining 22 percent fell under the administration of Egypt and Jordan.
In 1967, Israel absorbed the whole of historical Palestine, as well as additional territory from Egypt and Syria. By the end of the war, Israel had expelled another 300,000 Palestinians from their homes, including 130,000 who were displaced in 1948, and gained territory that was three and a half times its size.
How did the war unfold?
On the early morning of June 5, Israel launched a surprise attack against Egypt’s airbases and destroyed the Egyptian air force while it was still on the ground, a move that unleashed the war.
The Israeli attack on Egypt’s airbases in the Sinai and the Suez reportedly disabled at least 90 percent of the Egyptian air force and dictated the course of the war. Israeli ground forces proceeded to invade the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula on the same day.
Israel also attacked the Syrian airfields on the evening of June 5. The next day, fighting ensued between Jordan and Israel for control of Jordanian-held East Jerusalem.
On the dawn of June 7, military commander Moshe Dayan ordered Israeli troops to take control of Jerusalem’s Old City. Amid UN calls for a ceasefire on the same day, Israeli diplomats in New York and Washington, DC, reportedly attempted to garner US support for delaying a ceasefire in order to grant Israel more time to “finish the job”.
By mid-day of June 7, Israeli forces had seized the Old City from the Jordanian army.
The major West Bank cities of Nablus, Bethlehem, Hebron and Jericho, fell to the Israeli army a day later. Israel also shelled the Abdullah and Hussein bridges over the Jordan River that linked the West Bank to Jordan.
After taking the Old City, Israeli forces demolished the entire 770-year-old Moroccan Quarter neighbourhood, to widen access to what the Jewish people call the Western Wall, (known to Muslims as the al-Buraq Wall.) The site holds religious significance to both Jews and Muslims.
Approximately 100 Palestinian families living in the quarter were ordered to evacuate their homes and the neighbourhood was bombed and completely demolished. The space was used by Israel to build the “Western Wall Plaza”, an area that granted Jews direct access to the Wall.
Throughout the war and under the orders of Yitzhak Rabin – who later became Israel’s prime minister – Israeli forces ethnically cleansed and destroyed several Palestinian villages, expelling some 10,000 Palestinians. Among the most infamous wiped out villages were Imwas, Beit Nuba and Yalu.
Israel’s offensive on the Syrian Golan Heights started on June 9, and by the next day, the Golan had been captured, putting Israel at a shocking distance from the Syrian capital, Damascus.
Egypt and Israel signed a ceasefire on June 9, while Syria and Israel signed on June 11, effectively ending the war with an UN-brokered truce.
The overwhelming majority of the newly displaced Palestinians sought refuge in Jordan. Many crossed into Jordan through the river, and did so on foot with very few belongings.
Impacts of the war
The war was a turning point for the entire region. For the Palestinians and rest of the Arab world, it dealt a blow to their psyche and to their trust in the Arab governments.
In six days, Israel brought more than one million Palestinians under its direct control in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. The 1967 war turned Israel into the country with the largest Palestinian population.
For the Israelis, their government’s seizure of territory in the war led to a sense of euphoria. Thousands of Jews, even secularists, flocked to the Wall and wept as they prayed for what they believed was a miracle from God.
The belief that the outcome of 1967 was a miracle reinforced the idea to religious and messianic Zionists who believed, based on religious convictions, that they had a right to the entirety of the Holy Land.
The war unleashed the settler movement; a young generation of messianic Zionists decided to establish houses in the West Bank and Gaza, territory that is occupied and is not part of the state of Israel.
More importantly, the war opened up the question of the Zionist movement’s colonial nature. Instead of exchanging land for peace, as per UN Resolution 242 that called on Israel to give up the territories in exchange for peace with its neighbours at the end of the 1967 war, Israel began encouraging its citizens to move into the territories it occupied and supporting them as they did so.
Just one year after the 1967 war, there were six Israeli settlements built in the Syrian Golan Heights. By 1973, Israel had established 17 settlements in the West Bank and seven in the Gaza Strip. By 1977, some 11,000 Israelis had been living in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula.
“The occupation of the West Bank and Gaza reminded the world of the colonial aspects of Israel,” Munir Nuseibah, a professor at the Faculty of Law at Al-Quds University, told Al Jazeera. Between June 25-27, Israel illegally annexed East Jerusalem and various parts of the West Bank, declaring them part of the state of Israel, in a move never recognised by the international community.
The writer is an online journalist and producer for Al Jazeera English. She covers the Arab world.
She is based in Jerusalem.