The morning of June 5th, 1967, changed the course of history in the Middle East. The balance of power between Israel and the Arab countries changed dramatically as the Israeli Air Force destroyed the Egyptian Air Force in a matter of 3 hours! What led to this fateful morning, how did Israel pull it off and in what way did it affect the Middle East balance of power?
On May 15th, 1967, the Egyptian army started marching towards the Sinai peninsula. This was a large area of land in which UN bases & soldiers sat. It was a buffer area between Israel & Egypt, into which the Egyptian army was not allowed to enter. On May 18th the Egyptians entered Sinai and by the following day the UN left the area. On May 22nd the Egyptians closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli ships (this action blocked Israeli shipping from /to the port of Eilat) and was an act of war. Israel tried to end the crisis via diplomatic channels, but to no avail. The Egyptians threatened to smash the young State of Israel. As a result of this, on May 19th Israel called up its entire reserve force to the Army. At this point the ‘waiting period’ began. This was a nerve wracking 3 weeks in which the Israeli population & army tensely waited & prepared for what increasingly seemed like an inevitable war. All this led to ‘Operation Moked’ on the dramatic morning of June 5th.
Between 7:10 to 7:30 am almost the entire Israeli Air force took off towards Egypt. This included 200 fighter jets, leaving only 12 fighter jets behind to protect the skies of Israel (a kind of hail marry pass). All of these jets were supposed to be above their targets, 11 Egyptian bases, at the same time, 7:45. They all arrived at their targets undetected. How did they manage to pull this off? There were 3 reasons for this-
*On the same morning between 7-8 am Abdel Hakim Amer, Egyptian Deputy President & War Minister, flew over the Sinai Peninsula along with the Iraqi Prime Minister, in order to visit an army base. He gave a command in which he forbade any anti aircraft shooting without his explicit permission. This led to the anti aircraft gunners holding their fire as the Israeli planes were attacking their bases.
*Every morning 4 Egyptian fighter jets went on patrol 4 times between 4:30-8:30 am in order to detect Israeli fighter planes. On this morning the 7:30 patrol never took off due to the pilots waking up late. During the previous night a large party had been held at their base, organized by general Sidki Mahmoud, commander in chief of the air force (!). Due to the pilots partying into the small hours of the night they had a hard time waking up in the morning. They missed the patrol flight that would have discovered the Israeli planes as they were on their way.
*The Jordanian radar system picked up on the Israeli planes. They immediately alerted the Egyptians who ignored them. The reason- the code had been changed the previous evening & the Jordanians were using the old code!
The Israeli jets flew 60 feet above the ocean & ground level, in radio silence, until they reached their destination. They then swooped up to 9000 feet, and then dove down towards theire target. They then made 3 or 4 runs. First run was to bomb the runways, the second run to bomb the planes that had the ability of bomb Israeli cities, the third run to target the fighter jets, and the fourth run to hit the anti aircraft missiles and other installations on base. During this attack Israel destroyed 200 Egyptian planes, all on the ground. The Israeli planes returned home, refueled, and took off for another round at 9:45. Within the next hour they destroyed another 100 Egyptian planes, almost all on the ground. By 10:45, three hours after the beginning of the attack the Egyptian air force did not exist any more. Israel lost 8 planes & 5 pilots in these attacks.
‘Operation Moked’ gave Israel full air supremacy from the beginning of the war (after quickly destroying the Jordanian, Syrian & Iraqi air forces too). This was key in the conquering of Sinai from the Egyptians, East Jerusalem & the West Bank from the Jordanians & the Golan Heights from the Syrians. In essence, Israel tripled its geographical territory over a 6 day period, June 5th-10th.
The hot political debates that rage until today as a result of this is a conversation for a different time.