WARS THROUGHOUT ISRAEL’S HISTORY.
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During the years before the establishment of the State of Israel, a number of Jewish underground movements operated in light of Arab attacks and British restrictions on Jewish immigration. The three major organizations - the Hagganah, the Etzel and Lehi - would ultimately join ranks and form the IDF.
The War of Independence was Israel's first battle for existence, fighting against Arab armies intent on preventing the establishment of the State of Israel. The war, long and wearisome, lasted approximately a year and a half all throughout Israel’s territory, eventually leading to the establishment of the State.
The war consisted of 39 distinct operations and was fought along the all borders - Lebanon and Syria in the north; Iraq and Trans-Jordan (later Jordan) in the east; Egypt, assisted by contingents from the Sudan, in the south; and other volunteers from Arab countries within the country.
On November 30th, 1947, the day after the United Nation General Assembly voted to partition Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, the Palestinian Arabs took the offensive with the help of volunteers from neighboring countries. The Yishuv (the Jewish community) had little success in limiting the war and suffered severe casualties and property damage.
On April 1st, 1948, the Hagganah took the initiative, gaining control of much of the territory allotted to the Jewish state by the UN, capturing sections of Tiberias, Haifa, Safed and Acre and temporarily opening the road to blockaded Jerusalem and supplying food, water and medicine to the Jewish community in the city in Operation Nachshon.
On May 14th, the day on which the British Mandate expired, David Ben Gurion, the head of the temporary government, declared Israeli independence.
One day later, Arab forces invaded, starting the second stage of the war. As opposed to the first stage, this stage primarily involved state actors. The defense of the newly established country depended on the Israeli Defense Forces, which was established on June 1st. The IDF united the Jewish forces and transformed them from a fragmented, guerilla force into a full-fledged army.
1 (without a cannon)
*Taken from “Not on a Silver Platter” A history of Israel 1900-2000, CARTA
Two ceasefires took place during the war as a result of UN attempts to put an end to the rivalry and the bloodshed. The first ceasefire took place between June 11th and July 8th (1948) and the second between July 18th and October 15th (1948). These ceasefires helped the IDF to rehabilitate its forces and prepare for a new campaign.
This phase of the war was characterized by a number of Israeli initiatives, including OperationYoav which resulted in the conquest of Be’er Sheva, OperationHiram which resulted in the capture of the Upper Galilee, and OperationUvda which resulted in the capture of the Negev.
The neighboring Arab countries all signed Armistice Agreements simultaneously. Between February – July of 1949, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria each signed an armistice agreement with Israel. Iraq preferred to withdraw its troops and hand over its sector to the Arab Legion of Jordan.
Ultimately, Israel not only thwarted the invading Arab forces but also expanded its territory. However, the War of Independence was Israel's deadliest of wars: 6,373 Israelis were killed (1% of the entire population) and approximately 15,000 were wounded.
At the end of the war, the IDF manpower consisted of 100,000 regular army men and women. In addition to 12 brigades, primarily infantry, the IDF had several regiments of artillery and an expanded Navy and Air Force.
The Ink Flag – on March 10th (during Operation Ovda) the Israeli forces reached Umm Rashrash (Eilat west of Aqaba) and conquered it without battle. The Negev Brigade, which took part in the operation, raised a hand-made flag painted with ink and claimed Eilat for Israel
The Sinai Campaign, also known as OperationKadesh, fought to put an end to terrorist incursions into Israel and to remove the Egyptian blockade on Eilat. Another factor was the Czechoslovakia-Egypt arms deal which took place in September 1955. Under the terms of this deal, Czechoslovakia sold to Egypt weaponry that put Israel under existential threat, including: tanks, MiG jet fighters, artillery pieces, transport planes, helicopters, vehicles, rifles and machine guns.The Sinai Campaign marked the final transformation of the IDF into a professional army capable of large-scale operations.
On October 29th, 1956, Israeli units parachuted into the eastern side of the Milta Pass near the Suez Canal. This act provided the grounds for a French and British ultimatum to Israel and Egypt, calling on both sides to cease hostilities and withdraw from the Canal area.
The following day, Britain and France issued the planned ultimatum, but to no effect, as heavy fighting between Egyptian and Israeli units persisted.
In a swift operation, lasting 100 hours, under the leadership of the Chief of the General Staff, LTG Moshe Dayan, the entire Sinai Peninsula fell into Israeli hands, at the cost of approximately 170 killed IDF soldiers. While Israel eventually withdrew from Sinai (In March 1956), the UNEF (United Nations Emergency Force) was established to guard against a recurrence of similar events.
LGT Moshe Dayan
The Six Day War is considered the IDF’s greatest victory. The IDF, established less than 20 years earlier, succeeded in destroying enemy forces on three different battlefronts, and defended Israel from a combined effort by four Arab states (Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq) to destroy Israel. One of the reasons for this decisive victory was the successful operation which initiated the war - OperationMoked.
In less than a week, Israel controlled the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank of the Jordan River (including East Jerusalem) and the Golan Heights. Overall, Israel’s territory tripled.
In May 1967, Egyptian president Nassar, expelled the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) which had been established to ensure border stability following the war in 1956. Afterwards, Egyptian troops and artillery amassed on the Israeli border. In addition, Nassar once again declared a closure of the Straits of Tiran to all ships bearing Israeli flags or carrying strategic materials (the last time the Tiran Straits were closed to Israeli ships was prior to the Sinai Campaign). By taking these aggressive measures, Nassar received massive support from other Arab countries.
Nasser: “If Israel wants a war – Ahalan ve Sahalan”
By then, Egypt had 210,000 troops, Syria had 63,000 troops and Jordan had 55,000 – bringing to a total of 328,000 troops mobilized to fight Israel. The Arab forces had double the amount of tanks as Israel (2,330 against 1,000) as well as many more combat aircraft (682 compared to Israel’s 286).
Egypt, in addition to amassing troops on the Israeli border, imposed a naval blockade on Israel’s southern port and called for unified Arab action against Israel.
Confronted with these aggressive moves, along with the Arab leaders’ promises to demolish the Jewish state, Israel launched OperationMoked, beginning with a pre-emptive air strike on the
Egyptian army and air force in the early morning of June 5th, 1967. Egypt’s air force was immediately eradicated, and a successful Israeli ground offensive diverted the Egyptian forces into Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula within four days.
IDF soldiers at Jerusalem’s Western Wall. Colonel Motta Gur, Commander of the Reserves Paratroopers’ Brigade announced on the army radio, “Temple Mount is in our hands.”
remove the Syrian threat from the Golan Heights.
Tel PaharBattle was the famous battle on the Syrian front, taking place on June 9th. The Golani Brigade conquered the Tel Pahar outpost. 31 IDF soldiers were killed.
By June 10th, Israel had completed its final offensive in the Golan Heights and a ceasefire was declared the following day. 776 IDF soldiers were killed in the war.
The 1967 War carried significant political implications; Israel demonstrated that it was not only able, but also willing, to initiate strategic strikes that could change the regional balance.
Between August 29th and September 1st, 1967, the Arab Summit Conference in Khartoum, Sudan took place. It formulated the Khartoum Resolutions, which stated: “No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no negotiations with Israel”.
Before and After the Six Day War
In the years following the Six Day War, the Arab states attempted to accomplish gains which they had failed to achieve in the last war through isolated attacks. The IDF had to accommodate itself to terrorism and guerrilla warfare, as well as ongoing exchanges of fire. In March 1969, Nassar publicly rejected the ceasefire of June 1967.
This war took the form of an exchange of fire initiated by Egyptian forces along the Suez Canal and Jordan Valley, and fighting with Arab forces along the ceasefire lines in the Golan Heights. The IDF took several measures in response to these offensives. When the Israel Air Force began its bombing attacks against targets in Egypt’s depth, Nasser turned to the Soviet Union in desperation to provide Egypt not only with Russian equipment, but also with Russian air and ground troops. Russia reluctantly agreed.
With the support provided by Soviet forces, Egyptian artillery bombardment was intensified, along with land, sea and air attacks on Israeli positions. Israel responded by continuing to employ the IAF against Egypt.
In August 1970, Egypt and Israel declared a ceasefire.
At the same time the offense against Syria continued. In February 1969, as a response to the mass infiltration of terrorists into Israel, the IAF struck back forcefully at Fatah bases inside Syria. In March 1970, the Syrians began sending commando units to operate within Israeli territory.The IAF responded with an in-depth air strike which led to an escalation in Syrians attacks. In August, the IDF operated against the Syrian Army. A ceasefire came into effect on August, following these attacks.
1,424 Israeli soldiers were killed in action between June 15th, 1967 and August 8th, 1970.
Ever since the Six Day War, Arab states, especially Egypt, yearned for revenge. The war, which took place in October 1973, was an all-out effort by Egypt and Syria, with other Arab contingents joining in to inflict a military defeat on Israel and to win back, by military actions and political pressure, the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights.
As opposed to the enemy, which was determined to open with a strike against Israel and was well prepared, the Israeli side was unaware of the upcoming threat. Old papers from the research department of the IDF Intelligence Unit show the extent of apathy on the Israeli side. Less than 24 hours before the Egyptian attack, the research department wrote in their evaluation of the situation that “The probability that Egypt will renew warfare is low”. The IDF did not lose in the Yom Kippur war, however due to the intelligence failure which led up to the surprise attack, the
challenges the IDF had to face during the war and the large numbers of fatalities, Israel felt defeated.On October 6th, 1973, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, marking Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), Israel was faced with Egyptian and Syrian forces on its borders. A warning notice was given too late for an orderly call-up of the reserves.
Sharon and Bar-Lev
Between October 6th and October 10th, the Egyptians and the Syrians made some initial gains. The former crossed the Suez Canal and established its forces along the entire length of its east bank. The latter overran the Golan Heights and came within sight of the Sea of Galilee. However, fortunes turned on the night between October 15th and October 16th, while IDF forces in the Egyptian front crossed the Suez Canal.
The IDF counter-attacked immediately, and within a few days, it found itself on the west bank of the Suez Canal, at a distance of 100 km from the Egyptian capital, Cairo, and within artillery range of the airfields around the Syrian capital, Damascus.
The IDF force that distinguished itself most during the Yom Kippur War was the Navy. Without a single loss of its own, it had sunk 34 enemy vessels, secured the coasts of the country, and succeeded in restricting the enemy to its bases. This was indeed the Navy’s war.
Even though Israel succeeded to rehabilitate its forces and stabilize the situation, the number of fatalities was high and the morale was low. On October 12th, Israel announced to the U.S Secretary of State that it is willing to sign a ceasefire, however, Egypt refused to sign. From this point, the USSR and the USA were drawn into involvement and both undertook massive airlifts.Towards the end of the war they were even brought to the brink of a nuclear confrontation.
By October 19th, Israeli troops were well established on the west bank of the Suez Canal. By the first scheduled ceasefire on October 22nd, the IDF enlarged its hold on the territory.
Although the Egyptians had agreed to the ceasefire, it did not take effect at the designated time. By the time an effective ceasefire was actually implemented, on October 24th, the IDF had completely encircled the Egyptian 3rd Army.
On the northern front, the IDF regained control of Mt. Hermon by October 22nd, removing the last Syrian forces from the area they had seized at the start of the war.
By the time the war ended, on October 24th, the Israeli Army had brought a turnaround to the war outcome, safeguarding Israeli borders. In the north, the Syrians failed to achieve any territorial gain, while the IDF had crossed the old ceasefire lines into Syrian territory, acquiring new vantage points on the Golan Heights.
The Yom Kippur War caused many fatalities from both sides. There were over 2,200 Israeli casualties, over 5,200 wounded and about 300 POW’s. Arab armies suffered over 15,000 casualties, over 35,000 wounded and over 8500 POW’s.
For twelve years, since their expulsion from Jordan (“Black September”), the Palestinian terrorist organizations concentrated in Lebanon and accumulated strength, becoming, in effect, a state within a state (“Fatah land”). They were aided by the Syrians, the Soviets and the Arab States, whilst exploiting the organic weakness of sect-ridden Lebanon. Sectarian rifts were deepened and the regime became undermined, so that the government in Beirut had to continuously rely on Syria. The power base of the PLO in Lebanon enabled it to also set up a training base for international terror. On March 11th,1978, 35 passengers on an Israeli bus on the coastal highway were murdered. Consequently, and as a result of terror attacks toward Israeli towns and communities in the north, Operation Litani was launched in March 1978. The IDF attacked PLO bases south of the Litani River, yet it did not serve as a permanent solution to the problem of terrorist attacks.
Tension along Israel’s northern border increased in the course of 1981 following the bombardment of Israeli towns with Katyusha rockets by the terror organizations in southern Lebanon. Terrorists continued to carry out attacks against Israeli targets and the threat to the northern towns became unbearable.
On June 3rd, 1982, terrorists shot Shlomo Argov, Israel’s ambassador to Britain, in London. This incident was the last straw. Three days later, on June 6th, 1982, the IDF launched Operation Peace for Galilee. Politically, the decision to invade Lebanon was taken by the Government of Israel only after the terrorists had overstepped all limits. The war’s objectives were: prevent the shelling of the northern towns; prevent terrorist attacks within Israel; expel Syrian terror organizations from Beirut; eliminate the terrorist problem in Lebanon; and establish a lawful government under which Lebanon would become a part of the free world and would live in peace with Israel.
The first phase of the war was a conventional war, which lasted from June 6th to August 23rd, 1982, when the terrorists were expelled from Beirut.
The IDF advanced along the shore, outflanked the Awalli River, entered Beirut, and continued north through the Shouf Mountains along the flank
of the main Syrian forces in the Beka’a Valley, threatening their rear as well as communications between Beirut and Damascus.
The IAF’s greatest achievement in the war was its destruction of the Syrian SAM array in the Beka’a Valley within a matter of hours.
This operation was accompanied by a massive air battle, in which 25 Syrian planes, most of them MiG-23s, were shot down. The Syrian air defense was effectively destroyed.
The enlargement of the mission and the capture of Beirut signaled the transition to a long, drawn-out war. The second phase, which lasted for the next three years, was directed against the terrorists.
Daily ambushes against Israeli forces increased, with a corresponding increase in casualties. 1,216 soldiers were killed between June of 1982 to May of 1985.
The IDF and Enemy Deployment, June 1982.
In August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait and threatened to attack Israel with various types of weapons, including non-conventional weapons, with the declared aim of destroying a significant part of the country. For the first time in Israel’s history, the entire country faced a real threat of destruction with non-conventional weapons. At the same time, a strong international coalition was formed under the leadership of the US to counter the Iraqi attacks.
On the night of January 17th, 1991, coalition air forces attacked Iraq. In response, Iraq fired salvos of ground-to-ground missiles towards the Israeli home front. For over a month, approximately 39 Iraqi versions of the Russian Scud missiles fell, mainly hitting the greater Tel Aviv region and Haifa.
These attacks caused 1 civilian death and over 200 injuries. Damage to general property consisted of 1,302 houses, 6,142 apartments, 23 public buildings, 200 shops and 50 cars.
Although Israel refrained from active participation in the war, for the first time ever, the IDF devoted its operational efforts to defending civilians and coordinating wartime activities with government offices and emergency services. Garrisons were brought to the two main regions – central Israel and Haifa – in order to reinforce search and identification operations.
MIM-104 Patriot missiles
The rescue services of the home front and the local authorities needed assistance in locating where missiles fell, identifying and classifying them. Inter alia, the IDF was given two batteries of MIM-104 Patriot missiles for the protection of civilians.
The IDF was responsible for the procurement and distribution of gas masks to the entire population. It readied the medical aid network, and instructed the population in preparing “safe rooms” for use in case an alarm was sounded. For Israel, this was characterized as the War of the Civilian Home Front.
Israeli civilians using Gas masks in the safe rooms
Since the IDF withdrawal from south Lebanon in May 2000, the Hezbollah, an Islamic terrorist organization, developed its political influence and military structure with the aid of Syria and Iran, and initiated an intensive military buildup including rockets and ATGM. By 2006, Hezbollah had approximately 15,000 men deployed throughout the country (also south of the Litani River) and underground bunkers. On the morning of June 12th, 2006, Hezbollah terrorists, crossed the Israeli border and attacked an Israeli patrol. Of the seven Israeli soldiers in the patrol, two were wounded, three were killed, and two, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, were seized and taken hostage to Lebanon.
Hezbollah named the attack Operation Truthful Promise after leader Hassan Nasrallah’s public addresses over the prior year and a half to abduct Israeli soldiers and swap them for Arab prisoners held by Israel.
In order to force the Hezbollah away from the Israeli border, damage their capabilities and enable the conditions for the release of the abducted IDF soldiers, the Israeli Government decided to initiate a massive air response. The IDF bombed targets in Lebanon, including the Hezbollah headquarters, and Beirut’s International Airport which Hezbollah used to import weapons.
An air and naval blockade was impsoed, as well as a ground infiltrationof southern Lebanon. Hezbollah responded with savage rocket attacks on Israeli cities and towns in the north, killing 44 civilians and disrupting normal life. During the war, the Hezbollah fired almost 4,000 rockets, mostly Katyusha rockets, which had a range of up to 30 km (19 mi). Approximately a quarter of the rockets hit urban areas, primarily civilian targets. Cities under attack included Haifa, Hadera, Nazareth, Tiberias, Nahariya, Safed, Afula, Kiryat Shmona, Beit She’an, Karmiel and dozens of Kibbutzim, Moshavim, and Druze and Arab villages, as well as the northern West Bank.
Over 300,000 citizens fled from northern Israel. Hezbollah also engaged in guerrilla warfare with the IDF, attacking from well-fortified positions. These attacks by well-armed units challenged the IDF, especially the use of Russian-made anti-tank guided missiles which damaged many IDF tanks.
The IDF managed to target terrorist infrastructure in Lebanon, including Nasrallah’s offices on July 14th. On July 28th, Israeli paratroopers killed 26 Hezbollah activists in Bint Jbeil.
During the campaign, the IAF flew over 17,000 combat sorties, the Navy fired 2,500 shells, and the Army fired over 170,000 shells. 121 soldiers were killed in the war.
On August 11th, 2006, the UN Security Council unanimously approved UN Security Council Resolution 1701, ending the hostilities. It called for the disarmament of the Hezbollah, the return of abducted Israeli soldiers, the withdrawal of Israel from Lebanon, the prohibition of weapons’ transfer and the deployment of Lebanese soldiers and an enlarged United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in southern Lebanon. As of October 2006, the Lebanese Army deployed southern Lebanon and Israel withdrew its troops. However, the Hezbollah did not disarm, in violation of the resolution. In fact, Hezbollah only continued to strengthen its military buildup.
Two years later, on July 16th, 2008, the bodies of abducted soldiers Regev and Goldwasser were returned to Israel as part of operation Thy Sons Shall Return.
The lessons of the 2006 Lebanon war were bound to be learnt.
Since the summer of 2006, the training of regular and reserve forces have significantly improved. For example, the number of battalion training sessions during 2007-2008 increased by 10 times since 2003. The commanders’ ability to fulfill their overall responsibilities to cope with various conflicts and complicated scenarios are improving. The balance between operational planning and strategic design is stabilizing and IDF Intelligence is more focused in its operational role, with emphasis on targeting and terrain analysis.
The territorial commands are aware of their obligation to lead the operational planning process in accordance with the GHQ and the forces, and that synergy is a key factor in development, acquisition and training techniques.
Engineering corps exercise
The Israel-Lebanon Negotiations: Beginning in February 1994, over a dozen rounds of bilateral talks were held between Israel and Lebanon in the framework of the Washington talks. But these negotiations were stalled. In April 1998, the Israeli government adopted a decision: “accepting UN Security Council Resolution 425, so that the IDF will leave Lebanon with appropriate security arrangements, and so that the Lebanese government can restore its effective control over Southern Lebanon and assume responsibility for guaranteeing that its territory will not be used as a base for terrorist activity against Israel”. In March 2000, the Israeli government passed a resolution to redeploy IDF forces along the Israeli-Lebanese border by July 2000. In May 2000 Israel completed the unilateral withdrawal of all IDF forces from southern Lebanon, ending an 18–year presence. UNSCR 1701, a resolution which went into effect in August 2006, following the Second Lebanon War, remains in effect today as a ceasefire aiming to promote stability in south Lebanon, while preventing Hezbollah’s armament.
Camp David Accords (September 17, 1978): Following 12 days of secret negotiations at Camp David, Israeli-Egyptian negotiations led to two agreements which were signed at the White House. The first involved the future of the Sinai Peninsula, military arrangements – such as demilitarization and limitations, and the Israeli-Egyptian peace process. The second, was a framework agreement establishing a format for the conduct of negotiations. These negotiations were to focus on the establishment of an autonomous regime in the West Bank and Gaza and would ultimately be interpreted differently by Israel, Egypt and the U.S. President Carter witnessed the accords, which were signed by Egyptian President Saadat and Israeli Prime Minister Begin. Six months later, on March 26th, 1979 the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty was signed in Washington D.C, reaffirming adherence to the Camp David Accords. Israel completed its withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula in 1982.
Agreement on Disengagement of Forces between Israel and Syria (May 31st, 1974): The former U.S Secretary of State, Dr. Henry Kissinger, spent the month of May 1974 traveling between Jerusalem and Damascus, trying to find a way to preserve the ceasefire which was signed following the Yom Kippur War and which put an end to the hostilities between Israel and Syria. On May 31st, Israel agreed to the proposed agreement in Geneva. Israel and Syria agreed that the function of the United Nation Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) would be to use its best efforts to maintain the ceasefire, supervising the agreement with regard to the areas of separation and limitation.
Since then Israel and Syria have met at the negotiation table.
Israel–Jordan Peace Treaty (October 26, 1994): On July 25th,1994, Rabin, Hussein and Clinton signed the Washington Declaration in the U.S. capital. The declaration called for Israel and Jordan to end the official state of enmity and to start negotiations in order to achieve an “end to bloodshed and sorrow” and to attain everlasting peace. The peace treaty between Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was signed by Israeli Prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and Jordanian Prime Minister, Abdul-Salam Majali. The peace treaty included 30 articles and five annexes which addressed boundary demarcations, water issues, police cooperation, environmental issues and mutual border crossings.
The Oslo Accords, or in their official name, The Declaration of Principles of Interim Self-Government Arrangement or Declaration of Principles (DOP), were the first direct agreements between Israel and Palestinian political representatives. The articles were agreed upon in Oslo, Norway, on August 20th 1993, and on September 13th a joint Israeli-Palestinian DOP, based on the agreement worked out in Oslo, was signed by the parties in Washington. The DOP was signed in the presence of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, PM Yitzhak Rabin and US President Bill Clinton. Mahmoud Abbas signed on behalf of the PLO, Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, signed on behalf of the State of Israel, Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, signed on behalf of the US, and Foreign Minister, Andrei Kozyrev, signed on behalf of Russia. The Oslo Accords were a framework for future relations between the two parties, and stipulated the creation of a Palestinian Authority. Moreover, the Accords called for the withdrawal of the IDF from parts of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and affirmed a Palestinian right of self-government within those areas. The Accords determined that until a final status agreement was reached, the West Bank and Gaza Strip would be divided into three security zones:
1. Area A – under complete control of the Palestinian Authority.
2. Area B – under Palestinian civil control and Israeli security control.
3. Area C – under complete Israeli control, not including Palestinian civilians.
The Oslo II Agreement, signed on September 28th,1995, served as the interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, provided the Palestinians with self rule in Bethlehem, Hebron, Jenin, Nablus, Qalqilya, Tulkarem and approximately 450 villages.