The Six-Day War

Soon after its creation, the PLO began to sponsor attacks on Israel from several fronts. Israel retaliated by attacking Palestinian refugee camps on all the fronts from which the PLO attacks were launched, including Israel’s northern border, which served to exacerbate Israel’s already tense relations with Syria. Finally, in April 1967, the Syrian and Israeli airforces fought one another. On May 22, Nasser blockaded the Straits of Tiran, even though Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol had warned him that such an act would be viewed as an act of war. With the atmosphere of war once again developing, Iraq, Syria, and Jordan sent their respective troops to the Israeli borders.

On June 5, Israel launched a successful preemptive strike against Egyptian air fields in Sinai, effectively destroying the entire Egyptian air force while the latter’s planes were still on the ground. Although Eshkol attempted to convince Jordan’s King Hussein to refrain from involving Jordan in the war, the former was unsuccessful. As a result, Jordan lost East Jerusalem to Israel on June 7.

Attack on the USS Liberty

On June 8, the Israeli military attacked the U.S. Intelligence ship USS Liberty. In the attack, which lasted for 75 minutes, thirty-four American personnel on board the Liberty lost their lives; 171 others were wounded. Some say that Israel attacked the Liberty on purpose, while Israel and others maintain that Israeli soldiers mistook the Liberty for the Egyptian horse carrier El Quseir. Proponents of the former view emphasize that the U.S. flag was clearly visible from the ship. They also point out that the El Quseir was significantly smaller than the Liberty, making it difficult to mistake one for the other. Additionally, they say that Israel attacked the Liberty in order to prevent a leakage of information about Israel's plans to attack the Golan Heights. According to Admiral Thomas Moorer, "Israel was preparing to seize the Golan Heights from Syria despite President Johnson's known opposition to such a move.... I believe Moshe Dayan[, the Israeli Minister of Defense,] concluded that he could prevent Washington from becoming aware of what Israel was up to by destroying the primary source of acquiring that information - the USS Liberty." (See The Link, July-August 1997.)

However, Israel and and others point out that the United States was Israel's only ally; thus, it would have been very much against Israel's interest to attack an American vessel. They also emphasize that, although the U.S. flag was clearly visible from the Liberty, as mentioned above, and although it was a bright, sunny day, mistakes such as these are not uncommon in military engagements. (For example, in April 1994, the U.S. Air Force accidentally shot down two U.S. Black Hawk helicpoters in the "No-Fly Zone" in Iraq, despite the fact that both Black Hawks had large U.S. flags painted on each side.) In 2003, tape recordings from an American spy plane that had been in the area during the Liberty attack were released by the American National Security Agency (NSA) at the request of Miami, Florida, Judge Jay Cristol. (See Zacharia, Janine, "US National Security Agency: USS Liberty Attack an Accident," Jerusalem Post, July 10, 2003.) The recordings appear to confirm Israel's version of the events. On the tapes, Israeli helicopter pilots sent in to rescue Liberty survivors are communicating in Hebrew with Israeli ground control:

"For your information, it is apparently burning, it is an Egyptian ship." "Roger." "It is an Egyptian supply ship." "Roger." (Ibid.)

According to the Jerusalem Post, "The Israelis later in the tape sound confused and concerned. The pilots are ordered to check the survivors' nationality. 'If they speak Arabic, Egyptians, you're taking them to Al Arish. If they speak English, non-Egyptians, you're taking them to Lod. Is that clear?' 'Roger.' One of the Israeli helicopter pilots is heard telling ground control that he saw an American flag and is then ordered to return and check again, suggesting they were surprised that the ship could be American vessel." (Ibid.)

The War Comes to An End

The following day, on June 9, a cease-fire was signed. All sides involved in the conflict agreed to its terms, and the Six-Day War was concluded.

ã 2003 All rights reserved.

UN Security Council Resolution 242

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