The War of Independence: Arab Armies Invade
(May 15, 1948)
On May 15, 1948, the day the British Mandate over Palestine ended, the armies of five neighboring Arab states invaded the new State of Israel, which had declared its independence the previous day. The invasion, heralded by an Egyptian air attack on Tel Aviv, was vigorously resisted. From the north, east and south came the armies of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Transjordan, and Egypt.
The invading forces were fully equipped with the standard weapons of a regular army of the time - artillery, tanks, armored cars and personnel carriers, in addition to machine guns, mortars and the usual small arms in great quantities, and full supplies of ammunition, oil, and gasoline. Further, Egypt, Iraq, and Syria had air forces. As sovereign states, they had no difficulty (as had the pre-state Jewish defense force) in securing whatever armaments they needed through normal channels from Britain and other friendly powers.
In contrast, the Jews had no matching artillery, no tanks, and no warplanes in the first days of the war. Some supplies of these weapons arrived in the days that followed, however, and turned the tide. Little more than small arms - in paucity- had been available to the Haganah which on May 28, 1948, was to merge with other Jewish defense groups to form the Israel Defense Forces. Two Jewish defense forces, the Irgun Zeva'i Le'ummi and the Lohamei Herut Israel agreed to cease their independent activities, (except in Jerusalem) and to absorb their members into the newly founded IDF.
Invaded from all directions, Israel had to cope with the outbreak of a thousand fires, and to do so with limited means. Numerous settlement outposts in the Galilee and the Negev were isolated, open on all sides to Arab attack, and had to rely on their own perseverance and meager armories to stave off defeat. The hastily mobilized army had to engage in offensive action to remove the enemy from key positions, block the advance of their columns, and rush to seal gaps in Israel's defenses.
Sources: IDF. Map The Pedagogic Center, The Department for Jewish Zionist Education, The Jewish Agency for Israel, (c) 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, Director: Dr. Motti Friedman, Webmaster: Esther Carciente.