A lecture delivered on 6 May 2020 in the EUME BERLINER SEMINAR
The Six-Day War of 1967 is a pivotal event in the modern history of the Middle East, and its ripple effects continue to shape events in the different countries of the region to the present day. Of all the belligerent countries that participated in this war, Egypt was the most deeply affected. The war left 10,000 dead, one tenth of the fighting force, in addition to 15,000 wounded and captured. The entire Sinai Peninsula, 6% of Egypt’s total area, was lost. More than 80% of military materiel was either destroyed or abandoned.
Despite its paramount significance, the 1967 War has not been militarily studied from an Egyptian perspective. This talk will attempt to reconstruct the story of the Egyptian army in Sinai and will follow events from the early hours of June 5, till the collapse of the army in the afternoon of June 7. By providing a detailed narrative of these 60 hours of fighting the talk will attempt to address two main questions: while it may be argued that a military defeat was inevitable, given Israel’s military, strategic and economic advantage, did the defeat have to be so catastrophic, so thorough, so quick? Was there a possibility on June 7 to withdraw to the mountain passes east of the Suez Canal rather than evacuate Sinai altogether? Secondly, Given the dismal performance of the leading generals, how come few of them stood trial following the defeat? Thirdly, how was it possible for President Nasser to rebuild the armed forces in a record time and to launch the War of Attrition in September 1967?