Since the 1956 Suez Crisis, a United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) had been stationed in Sinai to safeguard the Israeli-Egyptian border zone agreed at the end of the 1948–49 Arab-Israeli War. By spring 1967, tensions were escalating. In response to repeated guerrilla incursions, Israel had clashed with Jordan, killing 18 in a raid on the West Bank, and Syria, where six of their fighter planes were shot down. In November 1966, Syria and Egypt signed a mutual defence pact. I May 1967, President Nasser, incited by (inaccurate) Soviet reports of Israeli mobilization and stung by Jordan’s taunt that he was ‘hiding behind UNEF skirts’, moved his troops into Sinai, ejecting UNEF. On 22 May, he blockaded the Gulf of Aqaba, isolating the Israeli port of Eilat. Deeming this an act of war, Israel launched devastating preliminary airstrikes: the resulting conflict would be a humiliation for the Arab alliance.
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