The June 1967 War
In the eleven years leading up to the June 1967 War (also seen as the Arab-Israeli War and the Six-Day War), the military had been intensively trained for combat and outfitted with new Soviet weapons and equipment. Despite these preparations, the war proved to be a debacle for Egypt. Although there had been many indications that an attack was imminent, the Israelis still took Egypt by surprise on June 5, when their aircraft approached from the Mediterranean at low altitudes to avoid detection by radar and attacked the Egyptian air force while it was still on the ground. Within three hours, the Israelis had destroyed 300 Egyptian cokmbat aircraft, including all of Egypt's 30 long-range bombers. Israel focused its ground attack on the heavily fortified Sinai road junction of Abu Uwayqilah as it had done in 1956. After a fierce battle, the Israelis overwhelmed Egyptian forces in fewer than twelve hours. The devastating air attacks and initial Israeli ground successes panicked Egyptian commander in chief Field Marshal Abdul Hakim Amir into withdrawing army units from Sinai to the west bank of the Suez Canal. Staff officers later persuaded Amir to rescind his order, but by that time all the main elements of the four frontline divisions had already begun retreating westward. At several points, rearguard actions delayed Israeli advances, but Israeli forces managed to block bottlenecks in the Giddi Pass and the Mitla Pass and at Bir al Jifjafah and prevented the escape of Egyptian troops and equipment. The Israeli air force bombed and strafed thousands of Egyptian tanks, guns, and vehicles caught in the bottleneck.
After four days of intensive fighting, Israel controlled the entire Sinai Peninsula up to the east bank of the canal. Egypt acknowledged that of approximately 100,000 troops in Sinai, 10,000 soldiers and 1,500 officers were casualties. Observers estimated that about half of the dead had succumbed to thirst or exhaustion in the desert. A further 5,000 soldiers and 500 officers were captured, many of whom were wounded. Israel also destroyed or captured about 700 of Egypt's 930 tanks. Popular support for the military subsided rapidly after the June 1967 War, and morale within the forces plunged to its lowest level since before the military takeover of 1952. Although individually and in some cases as units the Egyptians often performed bravely, the Israeli army again demonstrated the self-reliance of its unit leaders, its better training, and the superior use of its armor.
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