"The partition line will be nothing but a line of fire and blood." - Abdul Rahman Azzam Pasha, on hearing of the partition plan.







1948 War

In the six months between the UN vote for partition and the end of the British presence in Palestine on May 14, 1948, the region was a firetrap, requiring only the tiniest spark to explode in full-out war and destruction. Israel’s official ceremony of statehood provided that spark: at midnight on that day, the surrounding Arab nations (Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon) began to wage war on Israel.


However, the troops from the Arab states were not sufficiently prepared for war. After two brief cease-fires and nearly a year of fighting, armistice was negotiated between Israel and each of its opponents. Over the course of the war and the armistice negotiations, Israel captured 50% more territory than had been allotted to it in the UN partition plan. [Map of Armistice] 780,000 Palestinian refugees streamed from Jewish-held areas, having fled or been evicted. Gaza was taken by Egypt, while Jordan took possession of east Jerusalem and the West Bank. [Map of Palestinian Refugee Camps]

The Suez Crisis

During the next seven years, Israel’s relationship with Syria and Egypt continued to be tense. The threats and acts of violence were constant, and Israel began to feel lacking in Western support after a pact was signed between Iraq, Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, and the UK. In 1956, a new Egyptian government closed the Suez Canal to Israeli shipping. In retaliation for this offense as well as recent border raids, Israel invaded Sinai on October 29. Several thousand casualties resulted, mostly on the Egyptian side and mostly civilian. A few months later Israel withdrew when UN peacekeepers arrived and US guaranteed right of passage through the contested straits.

The Six Day War

After the Suez Campaign the border tension between Israel and Egypt reached new heights. The surrounding Arab nations held several Arab Summits whose original goal was only to try to keep the Israelis from diverting a river in Jordan as a water supply, but then decided to try to wipe out the Jewish presence in the Middle East. Naturally this caused significant alarm in Israel, and both sides readied troops. Finally on June 6, 1967, Israel attacked, destroying the Egyptian air force on the ground. Over the next five days, Israeli troops also conquered Sinai and Gaza (from Egypt), the West Bank (from Jordan), and Golan Heights (from Syria). Despite a UN resolution calling for Israel to pull out, the occupied areas remained so. [Refugee Camp Map-1967]