In just three days, Israel successfully neutralized the threat from Egypt in the South and Jordan in the East, with Arab forces in retreat in the West Bank.
But on June 8th, an Israeli plane mistakenly attacked the USS Liberty, an American electronic surveillance ship sailing offshore. Though the attack was called off when the mistake was discovered, 34 American sailors were tragically killed. Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol conveyed his “profound condolences” to the United States.
On that same day, Israeli forces consolidated control of the West Bank. During the 19 years that Jordan controlled the area, Israel’s width at the narrowest point was a barely defensible nine miles, leaving Tel Aviv and all of central Israel vulnerable to Jordanian artillery.
Now that Israel controlled the West Bank, Israeli-controlled territory grew to 44 miles wide and could be more easily defended.
But more than just territory needed for security, the West Bank held great religious and historic importance. Also known by its biblical name, Judea and Samaria, this was the ancient ancestral homeland of the Jewish people, the dwelling place of Jewish patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It had always been central to Jewish identity and Jews had maintained a continuous presence there for 3,000 years.
That it was back in the hands of the Jewish state was a deeply moving event for many people around the world.
Meanwhile, Israeli advances toward the Suez Canal in the south ultimately led Egypt to accept a ceasefire late that night. But Syrian artillery continued to rain down in the north, drawing Israel into battle on the Golan Heights.
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