On the 5th June 1967, Israel launched a series of pre-emptive strikes against the Egyptian air force that marked the start of the Six Day War. The causes of the conflict are highly contested, with historians apportioning responsibility for the war in different ways. However, it’s fair to say that tensions in the Middle East had been steadily increasing since the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. When, in May 1967, Egypt expelled United Nations peacekeepers from the Sinai Peninsula, increased the Egyptian military presence, and blocked Israeli access to the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea, Israel began to prepare for war.
The Israeli airstrike at the beginning of the conflict destroyed around 90% of the Egyptian air force. Having also destroyed the Syrian air force, Israel’s air superiority allowed it to achieve staggering victories on the ground that included taking control of the Gaza Strip and the entire Sinai Peninsula up to the eastern bank of the Suez Canal within just three days.
When King Hussein of Jordan joined the war and began shelling Israeli strongholds, an Israeli counterattack soon forced the Jordanian army out of East Jerusalem and most of the West Bank. Similarly, Syrian shelling of northern Israel was met with an Israeli attack that took control of the Golan Heights.
By the time a final ceasefire was signed on the 10th June, the Arabs had suffered approximately 18,000 casualties compared to 700 for Israel. Israel’s territorial gains also put around a million Arabs under Israeli control, which signalled the start of a new phase in Arab-Israeli relations.