The Six Day War: Day Six

It’s the last day of the war.

Pressure was building to finish the conflict, from the outside and from the inside. The Soviets were worried that a total collapse of the Syrian army would irreparably damage their influence in the region. The Arab countries were screaming bloody murder about Israeli aggression. The Europeans were disconcerted by the quickness of Israel’s victories. And, the Arabists in the U.S. State Department were moaning about the damage to relations with the oil producing countries of the Persian Gulf.

Israel, on the other hand, had a far more serious concern. Strategic stockpiles of munitions were running out. There was a limit to how long they could maintain the incredible pace of their victories without having to start rationing.

However, the worst of the war was over. Jordan and Egypt had been taken off the board, and the hardest battles on the Golan Heights were over. There were still tough fighting left, but Israeli commanders could see that the end was clearly in sight.

This is a good time to also insert a mention of one of the largest factors contributing to Israel’s success against the Syrians: the Israeli spy, Eli Cohen. Just before he was caught in May of 1965, he had penetrated the upper levels of Syrian society and government. He had even been considered for the position of Assistant Defense Minister. One important success had been his recommendation that Syrian bunkers in the Golan be shaded by Eucalyptus trees – providing excellent targeting information to Israeli pilots.

When you go up to the Golan, you can still see those trees.

But, let’s get back to Operation Hammer, as the operation on the Golan was called.

On June 10th, Syrian resistance was faltering. The static line defense strategy that the Syrians had picked up from the Soviets was crashing down around their ears. Fresh Israeli units were pouring through the breaches in the Syrian defenses that had been opened the evening before.

Israeli forces quickly took the Banias and then turned south to assault Mas’ada. Israeli mechanized units also began positioning to take the last bastion of a Syrian presence on the Golan, Quneitra (also spelled Kuneitra).

Then, the Syrians did something interesting. At 8:45, Damascus radio announced that Quneitra had fallen (when most Israeli units were still 10 kilometers from the town). The Syrian government had hoped to obtain Soviet intervention to pressure Israel to stop advancing further into Syrian territory.

The idea backfired. Syrian soldiers also listen to the radio, and upon hearing that Quneitra had fallen, began to panic and flee their positions. Resistance on the Golan began to collapse. Quneitra fell in the early afternoon, and Mas’ada followed a few hours later. Fighting had ended on the Golan by 6:15 p.m.

The Six Day War was over.