Nasser Calls for All-Out War
Israeli troops pictured during the War of Attrition. Photo: Moshe Milner/GPO Israel

August 23, 1969

Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who has adopted devout Muslim observance since losing the June 1967 war to Israel, responds to the arson attack on Al-Aqsa mosque two days earlier by calling for all-out war against Israel.

Nasser writes to Egyptian Defense Minister Muhammad Fawzi about the need for war and says Egyptian soldiers will fight not only for their country, but also for Islam. Other Muslim states band together to protest the mosque attack. On Sept. 25, 1969, 24 nations form the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Morocco expressly to address the Al-Aqsa arson. The organization also aims to reduce threats to Islamic sites in Israel and around the world.

Nasser’s call for all-out war comes in the middle of the War of Attrition, which has been ongoing since mid-1968 and takes its name from a speech Nasser delivered June 23, 1969, in which he said he could “break the spirit of Israel by attrition.” Consisting mainly of border skirmishes, air battles and artillery exchanges between Egypt and Israel in the Suez Canal zone and raids by Palestinians supported by Jordan into Israel and the West Bank, the War of Attrition kills 721 Israelis, including 594 soldiers. A U.S.-brokered cease-fire ends the War of Attrition on Aug. 7, 1970, and Nasser dies a little more than a month later on Sept. 28.