On 14 May 1948 the State of Israel was proclaimed according to the UN partition plan (1947). Less than 24 hours later, the regular armies of Egypt, Trans-Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq invaded the country, forcing Israel to defend the sovereignty it had regained in its ancestral homeland. In what became known as Israel's War of Independence, the newly formed, poorly equipped Israel Defense Forces (IDF) repulsed the invaders in fierce intermittent fighting, which lasted some 15 months and claimed over 6,000 Israeli lives (nearly one percent of the country's Jewish population at the time).
During the first few months of 1949, direct negotiations were conducted under UN auspices between Israel and each of the invading countries (except Iraq which has refused to negotiate with Israel to date), resulting in armistice agreements which reflected the situation at the end of the fighting. Accordingly, the coastal plain, Galilee and the entire Negev were within Israel's sovereignty, Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) came under Jordanian rule, the Gaza Strip came under Egyptian administration, and the city of Jerusalem was divided, with Jordan controlling the eastern part, including the Old City, and Israel the western sector.
1956 Sinai Campaign (Kadesh Operation)
The 1949 armistice agreements had not only failed to pave the way to permanent peace, but were also constantly violated. In contradiction to the UN Security Council resolution of 1 September 1951, Israeli and Israel-bound shipping was prevented from passing through the Suez Canal; the blockade of the Straits of Tiran was tightened; incursions into Israel of terrorist squads from neighboring Arab countries for murder and sabotage occurred with increasing frequency; and the Sinai peninsula was gradually converted into a huge Egyptian military base.
Upon the signing of a tripartate military alliance by Egypt, Syria and Jordan (October 1956), the imminent threat to Israel's existence was intensified. In the course of an eight-day campaign, the IDF captured the Gaza Strip and the entire Sinai peninsula, halting 10 miles (16 km.) east of the Suez Canal.
A United Nations decision to station a UN Emergency Force (UNEF) along the Egypt-Israel border and Egyptian assurances of free navigation in the Gulf of Eilat led Israel to agree to withdraw in stages (November 1956 - March 1957) from the areas taken a few weeks earlier. Consequently, the Straits of Tiran were opened, enabling the development of trade with Asian and East African countries as well as oil imports from the Persian Gulf.
1967 Six-Day War
Hopes for another decade of relative tranquillity were dashed with the escalation of Arab terrorist raids across the Egyptian and Jordanian borders, persistent Syrian artillery bombardment of agricultural settlements in northern Galilee and massive military build-ups by the neighboring Arab states. When Egypt again moved large numbers of troops into the Sinai desert (May 1967), ordered the UN peacekeeping forces (deployed since 1957) out of the area, reimposed the blockade of the Straits of Tiran and entered into a military alliance with Jordan, Israel found itself faced by hostile Arab armies on all fronts. As Egypt had violated the arrangements agreed upon following the 1956 Sinai Campaign, Israel invoked its inherent right of self-defense, launching a preemptive strike (5 June 1967) against Egypt in the south, followed by a counterattack against Jordan in the east and the routing of Syrian forces entrenched on the Golan Heights in the north.
At the end of six days of fighting, previous cease-fire lines were replaced by new ones, with Judea, Samaria, Gaza, the Sinai peninsula and the Golan Heights under Israel's control. As a result, the northern villages were freed from 19 years of recurrent Syrian shelling; the passage of Israeli and Israel-bound shipping through the Straits of Tiran was ensured; and Jerusalem, which had been divided under Israeli and Jordanian rule since 1949, was reunified under Israel's authority.
1973 Yom Kippur War
Three years of relative calm along the borders were shattered on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), the holiest day of the Jewish year, when Egypt and Syria launched a coordinated surprise assault against Israel (6 October 1973), with the Egyptian army crossing the Suez Canal and Syrian troops penetrating the Golan Heights.
During the next three weeks, the Israel Defense Forces turned the tide of battle and repulsed the attackers, crossing the Suez Canal into Egypt and advancing to within 20 miles (32 km.) of the Syrian capital, Damascus. Two years of difficult negotiations between Israel and Egypt and between Israel and Syria resulted in disengagement agreements, according to which Israel withdrew from parts of the territories captured during the war.
1982 Lebanon War - Operation Peace for Galilee
The international boundary line with Lebanon has never been challenged by either side. However, when the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) redeployed itself in southern Lebanon after being expelled from Jordan (1970) and perpetrated repeated terrorist actions against the towns and villages of northern Israel (Galilee), which caused many casualties and much damage, the Israel Defense Forces crossed the border into Lebanon (1982).
"Operation Peace for Galilee" resulted in removing the bulk of the PLO's organizational and military infrastructure from the area. Since then, Israel has maintained a small security zone in southern Lebanon adjacent to its northern border to safeguard its population in Galilee against continued attacks by hostile elements.
1991 Gulf War
In August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait and threatened to attack Israel with various types of weapons, including non-conventional ordnance.
For the first time in Israel's history, the entire country faced a real threat of destruction.
After the end of his war with Iran, Saddam Hussein had a huge, battlewise army sitting idle and his threats to "burn half of Israel" had to be taken seriously. The IDF was concerned at the availability to Saddam Hussein of considerable quantities of Russian-made Scud missiles with a range of 600 kms., against which no effective countermeasure was as yet in Israel's arsenal; particularly if those missiles were to be equipped with chemical warheads, which Saddam was reputed to have perfected with the help of German companies.
At the urging of the US, which was concerned that it might be deserted by its Arab coalition partners, Israel refrained from active participation in the war.
In view of the unprecedented danger to the civilian rear, special attention was paid to its organization: the IDF was responsible for the procurement and distribution of gas masks to the entire population; it readied the medical aid network; and instructed the population in preparing "safe rooms" for use in case the alarm was sounded.
For Israel, this war was characterized as the War of the Civilian Rear, and the Gadna, the Youth Batallions, once more had a useful role to play, which they faithfully carried out.
2006 Second Lebanon War
On July 12, 2006 eight IDF soldiers were killed and two kidnapped on the border with Lebanon, in an attack by the Hizbullah terror organization. Hizbullah simultaneously launched Katyusha rockets against Israeli communities near the border.
From July 12 until August 14, when the cease-fire went into effect, 43 Israeli civilians and 117 IDF soldiers were killed.
Two more soldiers were killed in south Lebanon shortly after the August 14 cease-fire.
After spending over a year fighting for his life in a Haifa hospital, Mohammed (Don) Salum succumbed to his wounds on August 29, 2007.
On 11 August 2006, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved UN Resolution 1701 in an effort to end the hostilities.
The resolution, which was approved by both Lebanese and Israeli governments the following days, called for disarmament of Hezbollah, for withdrawal of Israel from Lebanon, and for the deployment of Lebanese soldiers and an enlarged United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) force in southern Lebanon. The Lebanese army began deploying in southern Lebanon on 17 August 2006. The blockade was lifted on 8 September 2006.
On 1 October 2006, most Israeli troops withdrew from Lebanon, though the last of the troops continued to occupy the border-straddling village of Ghajar.
In the time since the enactment of UNSCR 1701 both the Lebanese government and UNIFIL have stated that they will not disarm Hezbollah.
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