In 1967, tensions rose in the Middle East. The Arab countries surrounding Israel formed alliances, taking belligerent positions toward the Jewish State. In May 1967, Israel’s northern sector saw a series of attacks. By mid-May, the president of Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser, began massing his troops in the Sinai Peninsula and expelled the UN forces present in that area. He also declared the Straits of Tiran closed to Israeli shipping. Following a defense pact between Jordan and Egypt, the Iraqi army deployed troops in Jordan.
Tiny Israel, surrounded by massive Arab armies, feared for its existence.
It understood that its main chance of survival was to strike the enemy by surprise.
From left to right: Gamal Abdel Nasser, Sadat, Ali Sabri and Hussein el-Shafei
In 1962, Maj. Gen. Ezer Weizman, commander of the Air Force, had already planned an operation that would shut down all the air forces of enemy nations. In order to be effective, the IDF understood it first had to strike the airport runways that would keep planes on the ground.
The mission had to be a complete surprise for it to succeed. The orders of the Air Force Commander were clear: pilots would fly at low altitude and would not under any condition use communication lines — not for take off, not during flight and not even if a pilot had a technical problem and needed to eject. They would make contact only after the first round of strikes.
In 1964, about three years before the war, the IDF planned the 24 hour mission as a defensive measure against Israel’s increasingly hostile enemies. Senior commanders discussed the operation with the highest of secrecy and named it “Moked.”
The Operation Begins
Major General Mordechai “Mottie” Hod, Air Force Commander, and Lt. Gen. Yitzahk Rabin, then IDF Chief of Staff, decided on June 4th to launch Operation Moked. After receiving the clearance from the political echelon in the afternoon, a few air base officers were gathered to receive the instructions from their commanders.
At around 4:00 AM, pilots received their instructions for the attack that would occur at 7:45 AM precisely in 11 different targets throughout Egypt. The enemy was caught completely by surprise. After destroying their airport runways, the IAF planes fired on the Egyptian squadron barricaded on the ground.
The first wave of the attack continued for two hours and 197 egyptian planes were destroyed. In addition, six airports were shut down.
By the end of the first wave, Lt. Gen. Yitzhak Rabin ordered the ground forces to invade the Sinai, initiating what would later be called the Six Day War. A couple of hours later, the IAF attacked Egypt a second time to ensure that all targets were hit, and to destroy radar and electronic infrastructure.
At 11:30 AM, following a Syrian air attack, the commander of the Israel Air Force decided to redirect planes to Syria and destroy Syrian airports. In parallel, King Hussein of Jordan — based on false reports of Egyptian succes — decided to join the war and launched attacks against Israel. Informed by IDF intelligence about the imminence of the attack, the IAF decided to destroy the Jordanian airports and planes.
Later that day, intelligence reports pointed out that Iraq would join the war. Instantly, the IDF decided to launch an attack on the H-3 airport in western Iraq.
The operation was one of the greatest success stories in IDF history.
About 400 enemy planes — Egyptian, Jordanians and Syrians — were destroyed.
In the next 5 days, the IDF took terrain on all fronts, defeating four armies and increasing Israel’s territory, in what some would describe as the greatest victory in Israel’s history.