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By Noreen Choudhry

Arab-Israeli wars are a series of military conflicts between Israeli forces and various Arab forces, most notably in 194849, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, 2006, and recently in 2023. During World War I, Allied campaigns in the Sinai and Palestine led to the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire. The League of Nations granted Britain control of the region, creating Mandatory Palestine.

After ousting the Ottomans, the area was under martial law, governed by the British, French, and Arab Occupied Enemy Territory Administration until the Ottoman armistice and the mandate’s promulgation in 1920. The British Mandate, including the Balfour Declaration, was confirmed by the League of Nations in 1922 and took effect in 1923.

Transjordan was part of the Mandate under separate rules, excluding it from the Balfour Declaration. Between 1929 and 1938, 250,000 Jews arrived in Palestine, leading to the 1936-1939 Arab revolt against British rule due to tensions between Arab nationalism, seeking control over former Ottoman territories, and the British commitment to creating a Jewish homeland.

On November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted to partition British-mandated Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, leading to immediate clashes between the two groups. As British troops prepared to leave, conflicts intensified, with both Jewish and Arab forces engaging in hostilities.

The infamous attack on the Arab village of Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948, and subsequent events like the attack on a Jewish convoy headed for Hadassah Hospital heightened tensions. The Israeli Declaration of Independence in 1948 ignited the 1948 ArabIsraeli War, resulting in the expulsion and flight of Palestinians and Jewish emigration from other Middle Eastern regions to Israel.

On May 14, 1948, the state of Israel was established, leading to further violence and civil war, with various Arab Liberation Army regiments intervening in distinct sectors around coastal towns. In 1948, Israel declared independence, sparking intense fighting as Arab forces from Egypt, Transjordan, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon occupied areas in southern and eastern Palestine.

They captured East Jerusalem, while Israel gained control of the main road to Jerusalem and repelled multiple Arab attacks. By early 1949, Israel occupied most of the Negev region, excluding the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Fedayeen insurgency, a cross-border conflict from 1949 to 1956, involved Palestinian militants and Israel.

Emerging from Palestinian refugees, the fedayeen conducted operations in Israel from Syria, Egypt, and Jordan, initially to reclaim lost lands and agricultural resources. This conflict led to significant casualties on both sides.

In the Suez Crisis of 1956, Israel, the United Kingdom, and France invaded Egypt and the Gaza Strip to regain control of the Suez Canal and oust President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who had nationalized the canal. Political pressure from the U.S., the Soviet Union, and the United Nations led to the invaders’ withdrawal, humiliating the UK and France.

The casualties included 172 Israelis killed, 817 wounded, 22 UK soldiers killed, 96 wounded, and 10 French soldiers killed, 33 wounded. Egypt suffered 1,650 killed, 4,900 wounded, and 6,000 taken as hostages. Arab and Israeli forces clashed for the third time on June 510, 1967, in what came to be called the Six-Day War (or June War). In that war, Arab and Israeli forces clashed for the third time.

Tensions had escalated with Syria’s attacks from the Golan Heights and Egypt’s mutual defense pact with Jordan. Israel responded with a sudden air assault, crippling Egypt’s air force and achieving a decisive victory on the ground. They regained control of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and Jerusalem. Arab casualties were significantly higher than Israeli casualties, with an unofficial report citing 280,000 Arab casualties compared to 779 Israeli soldiers.

The conflict following the Six-Day War escalated into a full-scale war in 1973. On October 6, Yom Kippur (the Jewish holy day), Egypt, and Syria surprised Israel by crossing the Suez Canal and entering the Golan Heights.

The Arab forces exhibited greater aggression and combat proficiency compared to previous wars, resulting in heavy Israeli casualties. While Israel managed to reverse early losses, encircle the Egyptian Third Army, and enter Syrian territory, they never regained their initial Suez Canal fortifications, which Egypt had destroyed in its initial successes.

This conflict, lasting through the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, concluded on October 26. Israel, with 54,000 soldiers, 1,500 tanks, 3,000 armored vehicles, 945 artillery pieces, 561 fighter jets, 84 helicopters, and 38 ships, faced off against Egypt’s 300,000 soldiers, 2,400 tanks, 2,400 armored vehicles, 120 artillery units, 690 fighter jets, 161 helicopters, and 104 ships. Israel signed formal ceasefire agreements with Egypt on November 11 and with Syria on May 31, 1974, along with a disengagement agreement between Israel and Egypt on January 18, 1974.

In June 1982, less than six weeks after Israel’s complete withdrawal from the Sinai, rising tensions between Israelis and Palestinians led to the Israeli bombing of Beirut and southern Lebanon, where the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) had strongholds. Israel invaded Lebanon the following day, advancing as far as the outskirts of Beirut by June 14.

Although Beirut was encircled, the Israeli government agreed to cease its advance and negotiate with the PLO. After considerable delay and extensive Israeli shelling of west Beirut, the PLO evacuated the city under the supervision of a multinational force. Subsequently, Israeli troops withdrew from west Beirut, and by June 1985, the Israeli army had entirely left Lebanon.

In this conflict, 76,000 Israeli soldiers faced off against 37,000 Arab forces. The conflict resulted in 670 Israeli casualties and 9,800 Arab casualties. In July 2006, Hezbollah launched an operation against Israel in an attempt to secure the release of Lebanese prisoners.

The war lasted 34 days and led to over one thousand Lebanese casualties and the displacement of about one million people. Operation Al-Aqsa Flood was a series of coordinated attacks by Palestinians from the Gaza Strip into bordering areas of Israel, beginning on October 7, 2023, which was a Sabbath day and coincided with several Jewish holidays. These attacks marked the start of the 2023 Israel Hamas war, nearly fifty years after the Yom Kippur War that began on October 6, 1973.

According to Amnesty International, Israel has been targeting residential areas, refugee camps, mosques, and even hospitals, resulting in the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians. Calls for Israel to be held accountable for war crimes have been made.

The longer the Israeli assault on Gaza persists, the stronger the international condemnation and demands for an end to the conflict and the establishment of an international humanitarian corridor will become.

The author is a post-graduate in Mass Communication and a member of the Rabita Forum International (RFI) team.

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