The Six Day War
Syrian tanks captured by Israeli advance, during the Six-Day War in the Middle East. Getty Images/ Hulton Archive

June 5 marks the 51st anniversary of the Six-Day War, also known as the June War or the 1967 War or the third of the Arab-Israeli Wars, when Israel achieved a miraculous victory against the combined forces of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq despite being outnumbered nearly three-to-one in men, planes and tanks.

Israel was led to victory by it's then Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan. He not only saved Israel from getting obliterated by the Middle East, but also helped double its size by conquering Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, the Golan Heights of Syria, and the West Bank.

While the war reshaped the Middle East and demonstrated the strength of an underdog like Israel, it also gave rise to the problems between Israel and other Arab states which exist to this day.

Before we get into the facts about the gruesome war, here are a few things to know about the situation that led up to Israel’s battle for survival:

1. During the war, there was no state of Palestine. Although bringing such a state into existence was proposed by the United Nations in 1947, it was rejected by the Arab world, as it meant the need to create a Jewish state along with it, Jewish newspaper the Algemeiner reported.

2. Since West Bank and eastern Jerusalem were in Jordanian hands, King Hussein forbade Jews from the holy places in those areas. In addition, he also desecrated many of the places of worship in Jerusalem.

3. Three years before the now infamous conflict of 1967, the Palestinian Liberation Organization was established. Since PLO supported the war efforts, many historians have argued that the organization was established more with the goal of obliterating Israel than creating Palestine.

4. In weeks leading up to the war, the Syrian and Egyptian leaders made no secret of the fact that their joint coalition army was coming to destroy Israel. At the same time, Jordan was warned by Israel to stay away from the conflict. However, King Hussein refused to heed the warnings and ended up losing West Bank and eastern Jerusalem after being defeated by Israel.

Now that you are brushed up on the pre-war scenario, let’s delve into the facts about the June War, as stated by Steven Pressfield, author of The Lion’s Gate: On the Front Lines of the Six Day War:

1. Between 776 and 983 Israeli troops were killed and approximately 4,500 wounded after six days of heavy fighting. Around the same time, between 9,800 and 15,000 Egyptians were killed and wounded and 4,300 captured. On the other hand, around 700 were killed and 2,500 wounded in Jordan, while over a 1,000 deaths were reported in Syria.

1967 Six Day War
An Israeli soldier studies an oil refinery at Port Suez set alight by Israeli shelling during the Six-Day War. Getty Images/ Hulton Archive

2. Israel received no form of support from its allies — U.S., U.K. and France — during the war. In fact, France stopped sending all kinds of weaponry to Israeli when the war started.

3. Although Dayan’s black eye patch became probably the most recognized symbol of the Israeli military in press and TV coverage of the Six-Day War, it was later revealed that he did not get the patch fighting the June War, but had it since World War II, when he had gone up against the forces of Lebanon.

4. Israel lost 46 of the 240 of its aircraft while the Israel Defense Forces reported the destruction of 800 tanks. On the other hand, the Arab forces lost 452 planes and hundreds of tanks to the war.