Invasion of the Golan Heights Takes Place

Israeli forces under the command of Major General David Elazar launch an offensive into the Syrian controlled Golan Heights.

The first days of the War witness Israel launch an aerial offensive aimed at neutralizing the Air forces of Egypt, Jordan and Syria.  Following the initial pre-emptive strike against Egypt on the morning of June 5, Syrian planes conduct air raids over portions of the Galilee and attempt to bomb the Haifa oil refinery.  These attacks are repelled by the Israeli Air Force which successfully destroys more than fifty Syrian planes, two-thirds of the country’s Air Force.

Despite having their Air Force decimated by Israeli strikes, on June 6, Syrian troops stationed on the Golan Heights begin shelling Rosh Pina and other Israeli communities in the north of the country.  Two Syrian divisions advance towards Kibbutz Dan before being repulsed by Israeli air and ground forces.   Israel is able to repel the Syrian forces despite having most of its forces concentrated in Sinai and on the Jordanian front during the first three days of the War.

By the end of the day on June 7, most Egyptian forces are retreating towards the Suez Canal and Israel has captured the Old City of Jerusalem and large portions of the West Bank.  Syrian shelling continues throughout June 7 and June 8. After Nasser refuses a UN cease fire late in the day on June 7, the Security Council convenes for a special session on the afternoon of June 8.  At that session, it is reported that UN observers in Tiberias, “reported on the morning of June 8 that very heavy continuous air and ground fire was taking place in the general area of the
Israel-Syrian central demilitarized zone.”  Addressing the Security Council, Abba Eban, Israel’s Foreign Minister, states, “I refer especially to the Government of Syria, which has not indicated its attitude on the cease-fire resolution. On the Syrian-Israel frontier the fighting has indeed, according to my reports, become intensified in recent hours.”

With a cease fire looming, it appears that the War might come to a conclusion with no further action on the Syrian front.  On June 8, a group of farmers from Israel’s northern communities, long the target of shelling from Syrian forces on the Golan come to Jerusalem to petition Prime Minister Levi Eshkol for action against the Syrians.  A meeting is then held with Eshkol, Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin and Generals David Elazar and Yigal Alon to discuss the options for an attack on Syria.  Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, who opposes opening a third front is excluded from the meeting.  Later that evening Dayan was invited to a ministerial meeting to discuss the plan of action.  Dayan remains adamant that Israel should not attack Syria.  He is fearful of both provoking the Soviet Union and about Israel stretching itself too thin.  He states, “It is true that the Syrians embitter the lives of our settlements on the northern border.  But if the settlers are unable to stand it and the situation needs changing, it is better to move the farm buildings away from the border than to embroil Israel in a state of war with another Arab state.” (Bar-On, Mordechai, Moshe Dayan: Israel’s Controversial Hero, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012, p. 138.)

Early in the morning on June 9, at 3:20 AM, Syria announces its intentions to accept a cease fire.  Recognizing that the announcement provides Israel with a short window in order to invade the Golan, Dayan phones Elazar and orders him to attack.  In doing so, Dayan does not inform either Eshkol or Rabin about his intentions.  Following a three hour Israeli aerial assault on Syrian positions, the IDF launches five attacks on the Golan.  The attacks are very costly and Israel suffers high casualties before finally controlling the heights and accepting a cease fire on June 10 effectively ending the Six Day War.

The photo shows Israeli tanks advancing on the Golan on June 10, 1967.  Photo Source: Government Press Office of Israel, Assaf Kutin.

June 9, 2018