4 They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.
18 That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.(Psalms 83:2-18)
First phase: 15 May – 11 June 1948
Within hours of the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, five of the seven countries of the Arab League at that time, namely Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, backed by Saudi Arabian and Yemenite contingents invaded territory in the former British Mandate of Palestine on the night of 14–15 May 1948. The forces of Syria and Egypt launched attacks outside of the proposed Arab section of the Partition Plan.[Jordan invaded the proposed "Corpus Separatum", which had yet to be instituted, including the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.
The Arab plans called for Syrian and Lebanese forces to invade from north while Jordanian and Iraqi forces were to invade from east. The Syrian, Lebanese, Jordanian and Iraqi forces to link up in Galilee and then turn towards Haifa. In the south, the Egyptians were to advance and take Tel Aviv.Co-operation between the various Arab armies was extremely poor, so the plan was not entirely carried out in the spirit envisioned.The first mission of the Jewish paramilitary organizations and later the IDFwas to hold on against the Arab armies and stop them from destroying major Jewish settlements, until reinforcements and weapons arrived.
5 And they shall be as mighty men, which tread down their enemies in the mire of the streets in the battle: and they shall fight, because the LORD is with them, and the riders on horses shall be confounded.
6 And I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them again to place them; for I have mercy upon them: and they shall be as though I had not cast them off: for I am the LORD their God, and will hear them.
7 And they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, and their heart shall rejoice as through wine: yea, their children shall see it, and be glad; their heart shall rejoice in the LORD.(Zach.10:5-7)
Two Royal Egyptian Air Force (REAF) Spitfires bombed Tel Aviv. One of them was shot down by anti-aircraft fire and its pilot taken prisoner. However, the Egyptians continued their bombing raids over the city, killing about 40 people. Most civilian casualties in Tel Aviv occurred on a May 18 raid against the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station. Efforts were also made to shell the city from the ground. For the first few weeks of the war, Egyptian warplanes were able to bomb Tel Aviv with almost complete impunity, meeting only ground fire. The Egyptians also attacked rural settlements and airfields, though few casualties were caused.
On 22 May, REAF Spitfires attacked Ramat David, an airbase in Israeli territory still occupied by the British Royal Air Force to cover the withdrawal of British forces from Israel. The Egyptians believed that the base had already been taken over by the Israelis, and attacked it three times. Five RAF Spitfires, a transport plane, and a hangar were destroyed, and four airmen were killed. During the third attack, RAF Spitfire FR18s shot down four of the attacking Egyptian Spitfires, and a fifth was shot down by a British Bren gun crew. The British left Ramat David Airbase and turned it over to the Israelis a few days later.
7 The LORD also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against Judah.
8 In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them.
9 And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.(Zach.12:8-9)
Two Egyptian columns with air, armored, and artillery cover attacked from the south, but were met with fierce resistance from numerous settlements defended by armed inhabitants and Israeli troops.Joining the Egyptian Army were a large number of volunteers from the Muslim Brotherhood. One Egyptian column headed towards Tel Aviv to be joined by more Egyptian troops who arrived via sea at Majdal and another column advanced towards Beersheba.
To secure their flanks, the Egyptians laid siege to a number of kibbutzim in the Negev.The Egyptians met fierce resistance from the lightly armed defenders of the besieged kibbutzim. They were stalled in their advance and took heavy losses, while losses sustained by the defenders were comparatively light.
In one instance, Kfar Darom, after withstanding an attack by the Muslim Brotherhood, was attacked by Egyptian tanks who retreated after losing one tank to a PIAT.Another example was the battle at kibbutz Nirim, where about 40 Israelis fought off repeated Egyptian attacks backed by artillery, armor and air power. The most notable of these engagements was the Battle of Yad Mordechai, where an inferior force of 100 Israelis armed with nothing more than rifles, a medium machinegun and a PIAT anti-tank weapon, held up a column of 2,500 Egyptians, well-supported by armor, artillery and air units, for five days.The Egyptians attacked Kibbutz Nitzanim which surrendered after a long firefight. Several Kibbutz members were killed after surrendering, but Egyptian soldiers prevented the local militiaman who had fought beside them from killing more POWs. These battles were delaying actions, designed to give the Haganah time to prepare for the Egyptian attack.
Over the next few days, approximately 1,000 Lebanese, 5,000 Syrian, 5,000 Iraqi, and 10,000 Egyptian troops (initial numbers) invaded the newly established state, while 4,000 Jordanian troops invaded the Corpus separatum region encompassing Jerusalem and its environs, as well as areas designated as part of the Arab state by the UN partition plan. They were aided by corps of volunteers from Saudi Arabia, Libya and Yemen. The Arab nations gradually increased the number of troops by the thousands as the war later progressed. Both sides increased their manpower over the following months, but the Israeli advantage grew steadily as a result of the progressive mobilization of Israeli society and the influx of an average of 10,300 immigrants each month.
Syrian forces advanced into Galilee on 15 May, but were bogged down by resistance from numerous kibbutzim. The Syrians were forced to besiege the kibbutzim rather than advance.Throughout the Galilee, numerous isolated Israeli settlement outposts were exposed to Arab attack on all sides, and had to rely on their own armories for defense. The Lebanese Army took the village of Malkiya, which was recaptured by the Israelis three days later.
An Iraqi division comprising two infantry and one armoured brigade arrived in an area known as the "triangle" between Jenin, Nablus and Tulkarm, where on 25 May 1948 it started an offensive with the aim of taking Netanya, which failed. On 29 May, an Israeli counter-attack against the Iraqis led to three days of heavy fighting over Jenin, which was finally retained by the Iraqis.After these battles, the Iraqi forces became stationary. On 6 June, a Syrian-Lebanese-Arab Liberation Army force retook Malkiya.
On 26 May 1948, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) was officially established, and the Haganah, Palmach, Irgun and Lehi were incorporated into the IDF.
On 29 May, Israeli forces stopped the Egyptian drive towards Tel Aviv in Operation Pleshet. In the first combat mission performed by Israel's fledgeling air force, four Avia S-199s attacked Egyptian armored column of 500 vehicles on its way to Ashdod. The Israeli planes dropped 70 kilogram bombs and strafed the column, although their machine guns jammed quickly. Two of the planes crashed, killing a pilot. The attack caused the Egyptians to scatter, and they had lost the initiative by the time they had regrouped. The attack was followed by small-scale Israeli harassment of the Egyptian lines. Givati Brigade forces then launched a counterattack. Although the counterattack was repulsed, the Egyptian offensive was halted as Egypt changed its strategy from offensive to defensive.
As the war progressed, the IDF managed to field more troops than the Arab forces. By July 1948, the IDF had 63,000 troops; by early spring 1949, they had 115,000. The Arab armies had an estimated 40,000 troops in July 1948, rising to 55,000 in October 1948, and slightly more by the spring of 1949.
All Jewish aviation assets were placed under the control of the Sherut Avir (Air Service, known as the SA) in November 1947 and flying operations began in the following month from a small civil airport on the outskirts of Tel Aviv called Sde Dov, with the first ground support operation (in an RWD-13)taking place on 17 December. TheGalilee Squadron was formed at Yavne'el in March 1948, and the Negev Squadron was formed at Nir-Am in April. By 10 May, when the SA suffered its first combat loss, there were three flying units, an air staff, maintenance facilities and logistics support. At the outbreak of the war on 15 May, the SA became the Israeli Air Force. With its fleet of light planes it was no match for Arab forces during the first few weeks of the war with their T-6s, Spitfires, C-47s and Avro Ansons. In the first few weeks of the war, the Israelis' light airplanes bombed Arab encampments and columns. The raids were usually carried out at night to avoid interception. These raids usually had little effect, except on morale.
2 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
3 Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.
4 And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
5 And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.
7 But it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.
8 And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be.(Zach.14:1-8)
It was also during this time that the balance of air power began to swing in favor of the Israeli Air Force following the purchase of 25 Avia S-199sfrom Czechoslovakia, the first of which arrived in Israel on 20 May. This created the ironic situation of the young Jewish state using derivatives of the Bf-109 designed in Nazi Germany to help counter the British-designed Spitfires flown by Egypt.
On 3 June, Israel scored its first victory in aerial combat when pilot Modi Alon shot down a pair of Egyptian bombers over Tel Aviv. From then on, the Israeli Air Force began engaging the Arabs in air-to-air combat. By the fall of 1948, the IAF had achieved air superiority and had superior firepower and more knowledgeable personnel, many of whom had seen action in World War II. Israeli planes then began intercepting and engaging Arab aircraft on bombing missions, and Arab air raids gradually fell.
Following Israeli air attacks on Egyptian and Iraqi columns, the Egyptians repeatedly bombed Eqron Airfield, where IAF fighters were based. During a 30 May raid, bombs aimed for Eqron hit central Rehovot, killing 7 civilians and wounding 30. In response to this, and probably to the Jordanian victories at Latrun, Israel began bombing targets in Arab cities. On the night of 31 May/1 June, the first Israeli raid on an Arab capital took place when three IAF planes bombed Amman, hitting the King's Palace and an adjacent British airbase, killing around a dozen people and damaging a number of British planes. Israel did not bomb Amman again, as the British had threatened to attack Israeli airfields and planes. Israel also bombedArish, Gaza, Damascus and Cairo. Israeli B-17 bombers coming to Israel from Czechoslovakia bombed Egypt on their way to Israel.According to Alan Dershowitz, Israeli planes focused on bombing military targets in these attacks, though Benny Morris wrote that an 11 June air raid on Damascus was indiscriminate.
At the outset of the war, the Israeli Navy consisted of four former Aliyah Bet ships that had been seized by the British and impounded in Haifaharbor. These ships were refurbished by a newly formed naval repair facility with the assistance of two private shipbuilding and repair companies. In October 1948, a submarine chaser was purchased from the United States. The five warships were manned by former merchant seamen, former crewmembers of Aliyah Bet ships, Israelis who had served in the Royal Navy during World War II, and foreign volunteers. The newly refurbished and crewed warships served on coastal patrol duties and bombarded Egyptian coastal installations in and around the Gaza area all the way to Port Said.