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How Six Days in 1967 Changed the Middle East Until This Day

A 40th anniversary look at the war in which Israel captured the Palestinian territories and more as it fought for its survival. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Forty years ago this week, Israel, fearing a threat of destruction, defeated three Arab armies in six days of war.

Egypt had gathered a huge force in the Sinai Desert across the border from southern Israel. Israeli planes carried out surprise raids on June fifth and destroyed most of the Egyptian air force at its bases. Israel also moved ground forces to fight the Egyptians.

Jordan launched attacks on Israel that same day. Jordanian artillery and planes attacked Israeli-controlled West Jerusalem and other areas.

The Israeli military responded the next day, June sixth. Heavy fighting pushed Jordanian forces out of Jerusalem. The Israelis captured East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank. The city of Jerusalem had been divided since Israel's war of independence in nineteen forty-eight.

By the time the Six Day War ended with a cease-fire, Israel had almost three times as much territory as before. It won control of the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, the West Bank from Jordan and the Golan Heights in fighting with Syria.

In addition to Egypt, the Israeli air force destroyed aircraft in Syria, Jordan and another Egyptian ally, Iraq.

In the weeks earlier, Egypt had taken steps that included dismissing United Nations peacekeepers from the Sinai border area. Egypt also blocked Israeli ship traffic to and from the Red Sea through the Straits of Tiran. And Egypt's president, Gamal Abdel-Nasser, said the goal of war with Israel would its complete destruction.

Arabs often call the Nineteen Sixty-Seven War "an-Nakash," the Setback. Israel returned the Sinai as part of its nineteen seventy-nine peace treaty with Egypt. Peace with Jordan came later.

Israel and Syria have recently expressed willingness to renew peace talks that ended seven years ago. But Israel is reported waiting to see how much Syria is willing to compromise in return for the Golan Heights. At issue is Syrian ties with Iran and anti-Israeli groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.

Israel has left Gaza but still controls movement into and out of the territory. And it still occupies the West Bank.

The West Bank and Gaza are home to almost four million Palestinians. Unemployment and poverty are high. The United Nations World Food Program says it feeds about six hundred sixty-five thousand people in Gaza and the West Bank.

Israel says its actions are needed to defend against terrorist attacks.

Israel held events last month, in keeping with the Jewish calendar, to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of its reunification of Jerusalem. In the West Bank, people this week marked the anniversary of occupation. But much of the attention went to the current violence in Gaza between armed groups loyal to the Palestinian parties of Fatah and Hamas.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned of being on the edge of civil war. He said the fighting is a danger equal to or greater than Israeli occupation.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Caty Weaver. I’m Steve Ember.