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Monday, June 5, 1967
War begins in Mideast
By United Press International
War broke out in the Middle East today between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The White House said the hostilities were "large scale" and Israel admitted suffering losses.
Israel was battling Egypt, Syria and Jordan on the ground and in the air and King Faisal ordered his Saudi Arabian troops to attack through Jordanian territory. The war quickly engulfed the holy city of Jerusalem.
Major air battles were reported and both Israel and the Arabs claimed heavy enemy losses in the conflict which each side blamed the other for starting. Heavy armored clashes were reported in the Negev Desert.
There appeared no doubt Israel-a nation of 2,500,000 persons and only a sixth the size of Ohio-was battling for its life. Broadcasts by Israel officials underlined the gravity of the situation. Premier Levi Eshkol said, "We shall defend this country behind every hill and wall. Be strong, for our entire country has become a battlefield."
Fighting was reported in Jerusalem itself with the Jordanians attacking with mortar, bazookas and artillery while the Jordanian Air Force bombed targets within Israel.
Radio Amman in Jordan said fighting was underway on both sides of the 329-mile border with Israel and that Jordanian, Syrian and Iraqi air forces "are launching joint air raids against Israeli land targets." It said three Israeli jets were shot down in a bombing raid on Amman.
Aid raid alerts sounded constantly in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Cairo, Alexandria, Damascus and other major cities in the Middle East. Heavy anti-aircraft fire was heard in Cairo as Israel apparently bombed airfields around the Egyptian capital.
Cairo reported 70 Israeli Air Force planes shot down. The other Arab capitals reported smaller numbers.
The Israeli Embassy in Paris said 120 Egyptian planes were destroyed or damaged, but a military spokesman in Jerusalem said the loss reports were premature.
The heaviest fighting was along the 117-mile long Israeli-Egyptian border in the South. But Jordanian troops firing from Mount Seopus opened a mortar barrage on Jerusalem.
One Arab nation after another declared war on Israel -- Kuwait, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, the Sudan and the United Arab Republic. Arab nations called it a "holy war" aimed at destroying Israel.
Crowds in Algiers rioted against American policies and broke windows in the American cultural center. Other anti-American and anti-Israel demonstrations swept a number of other Arab capitals.
One of the hardest hit sections of Jerusalem was Mea-Shearim, the ultra-Orthodox quarter close to the Old City. Roads leading to the Mandelbaum Gate between the divided city were hit. One American wounded was identified as Ted Yates, a television producer for the National Broadcasting Co.
Radio Israel broadcasts indicated the Israelis were scoring some gains in the Sinai Desert, where their forces quickly knifed through to the Suez Canal Zone in the 1956 Suez crisis.
Israel gave all indications it had been taken by surprise by an Egyptian attack in the Gaza area before dawn today. Cairo said Israeli troops attacked first.
The fighting flared with stunning suddenness on the 21st day of a Middle East crisis that developed rapidly when Egypt announced it was blocking the Gulf of Aqaba, Israel's only outlet to the Red Sea and when Egypt forced a UN peace-keeping force to leave the 117-mile long Egyptian-Israeli frontier.
It was a war that could lead to a confrontation in the Middle East between the United Sates and the Soviet Union. Russia in general supports the Arabs and the U.S. in general backs Israel.
An Egyptian Communiqu? accused an American tanker of trying to block the Suez Canal by swinging side ways across the channel. It said a tug pulled it clear and it tried to block the waterway again. It did not name the tanker.
When the American destroyer USS Dyess reached the Port of Suez at the southern end of the canal there were no anti-American demonstrations -- just slogans of "Down with Israel" shouted by 600 Egyptians.
First word of the outbreak of war came at 2:40 a.m. Eastern time. Israel broadcast an announcement that Egyptian forces had attacked along Israel's southern frontier. Cairo quickly replied with an assertion Israel attacked first.
Gen. Ezer Weizman, chief of the Israeli general staff, called on Air Force reservists to report for duty. Some observers took this as an indication Israel may have been caught by surprise.
The heaviest ground fighting appeared to be concentrated along the southern tip of Israel near the Gaza Strip. Huge columns of smoke could be seen boiling up from the area.
Radio Israel said, "Our forces are breaking enemy lines and pushing in with artillery. We hear from all sides reports that our forces are speeding ahead in the direction of the Egyptian forces."
Radio Cairo called on all Arabs to advance across the armistice lines into Israel and to Tel Aviv itself
The wail of air raid sirens in Cairo brought traffic in the city of four million to a halt shortly after 9 a.m. but thousands braved the alert to throng the streets to listen to war communiqu?s.
They cheered wildly and danced in the streets at announcements that many Israeli planes had been shot down and they shouted "Allah Akhbar"-God is great."
Copyright 2007 by United Press International.