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1948 Arab–Israeli War

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1948 Arab–Israeli War
Part of 1947–1949 Palestine war

Captain Avraham "Bren" Adan raising the Ink Flag at Umm Rashrash (a site now in Eilat), marking the end of the war
Date15 May 1948 – 10 March 1949[b]
(9 months, 3 weeks and 2 days)
Location
Former British Mandate of Palestine, Sinai Peninsula, southern Lebanon
Result
Territorial
changes
Israel keeps the area allotted to it by the Partition Plan and captures ~60% of the area allotted to Arab state; Jordanian rule of West Bank, Egyptian occupation of the Gaza Strip
Belligerents

 Israel


Before 26 May 1948: Paramilitary groups:


After 26 May 1948:
Israel Defense Forces


Foreign volunteers:
Mahal

 Arab League:


Irregulars:
Holy War Army
Arab Liberation Army


Foreign volunteers:
Muslim Brotherhood
 Pakistan
Sudan[5]
Commanders and leaders
David Ben-Gurion
Yisrael Galili
Yaakov Dori
Yigael Yadin
Mickey Marcus 
Yigal Allon
Yitzhak Rabin
David Shaltiel
Moshe Dayan
Shimon Avidan
Moshe Carmel
Yitzhak Sadeh
Azzam Pasha
King Farouk I
Ahmed Ali al-Mwawi
Muhammad Naguib
King Abdallah I
John Bagot Glubb
Habis Majali
Muzahim al-Pachachi
Husni al-Za'im
Haj Amin al-Husseini
Hasan Salama 
Fawzi al-Qawuqji
Strength
Israel: 29,677 (initially)
117,500 (finally)[Note 1]
Egypt: 10,000 initially, rising to 20,000
Transjordan: 7,500–10,000[9][10]
Iraq: 2,000 initially,[9] rising to 15,000–18,000
Syria: 2,500–5,000[9]
Lebanon: 436[11]
Saudi Arabia: 800–1,200 (Egyptian command)
Yemen: 300
Arab Liberation Army: 3,500–6,000.
Total:
13,000 (initial)
51,100 (minimum)
63,500 (maximum)[Note 2]
Casualties and losses
6,373 killed (about 4,000 fighters and 2,400 civilians)[12] Arab armies:
3,700–7,000 killed
Palestinian Arabs:
3,000–13,000 killed (both fighters and civilians)[13][14]

The 1948 (or First) Arab–Israeli War was the second and final stage of the 1947–49 Palestine war. It formally began following the end of the British Mandate for Palestine at midnight on 14 May 1948; the Israeli Declaration of Independence had been issued earlier that day, and a military coalition of Arab states entered the territory of British Palestine in the morning of 15 May.

The first deaths of the 1947–49 Palestine war occurred on 30 November 1947 during an ambush of two buses carrying Jews.[15] There had been tension and conflict between the Arabs and the Jews, and between each of them and the British forces since the 1917 Balfour Declaration and the 1920 creation of the British Mandate of Palestine. British policies dissatisfied both Arabs and Jews. Arab opposition developed into the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine, while the Jewish resistance developed into the Jewish insurgency in Palestine (1944–1947). In 1947, these on-going tensions erupted into civil war following the 29 November 1947 adoption of the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, which planned to divide Palestine into an Arab state, a Jewish state, and the Special International Regime encompassing the cities of Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

On 15 May 1948, the civil war transformed into a conflict between Israel and the Arab states following the Israeli Declaration of Independence the previous day. Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, and expeditionary forces from Iraq entered Palestine.[16] The invading forces took control of the Arab areas and immediately attacked Israeli forces and several Jewish settlements.[17][18][19] The 10 months of fighting took place mostly on the territory of the British Mandate and in the Sinai Peninsula and southern Lebanon, interrupted by several truce periods.[20]

As a result of the war, the State of Israel controlled the area that UN General Assembly Resolution 181 had recommended for the proposed Jewish state, as well as almost 60% of the area of Arab state proposed by the 1947 Partition Plan,[21] including the Jaffa, Lydda, and Ramle area, Galilee, some parts of the Negev, a wide strip along the Tel AvivJerusalem road, West Jerusalem, and some territories in the West Bank. Transjordan took control of the remainder of the former British mandate, which it annexed, and the Egyptian military took control of the Gaza Strip. At the Jericho Conference on 1 December 1948, 2,000 Palestinian delegates called for unification of Palestine and Transjordan as a step toward full Arab unity.[22] The conflict triggered significant demographic change throughout the Middle East. Around 700,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes in the area that became Israel, and they became Palestinian refugees[23] in what they refer to as Al-Nakba ("the catastrophe"). In the three years following the war, about 700,000 Jews emigrated to Israel.[24][24] Around 260,000 Jews came to Israel from the Arab world during and immediately after the war.[25]

1948 Arab–Israeli War Intro articles: 93

Background

Proposed separation of Palestine

On 29 November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution recommending the adoption and implementation of a plan to partition the British Mandate of Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Jewish, and the City of Jerusalem.[26]

The General Assembly resolution on Partition was greeted with overwhelming joy in Jewish communities and widespread outrage in the Arab world. In Palestine, violence erupted almost immediately, feeding into a spiral of reprisals and counter-reprisals. The British refrained from intervening as tensions boiled over into a low-level conflict that quickly escalated into a full-scale civil war.[27][28][29][30][31][32]

From January onwards, operations became increasingly militarized, with the intervention of a number of Arab Liberation Army regiments inside Palestine, each active in a variety of distinct sectors around the different coastal towns. They consolidated their presence in Galilee and Samaria.[33] Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni came from Egypt with several hundred men of the Army of the Holy War. Having recruited a few thousand volunteers, al-Husayni organized the blockade of the 100,000 Jewish residents of Jerusalem.[34] To counter this, the Yishuv authorities tried to supply the city with convoys of up to 100 armoured vehicles, but the operation became more and more impractical as the number of casualties in the relief convoys surged. By March, Al-Hussayni's tactic had paid off. Almost all of Haganah's armoured vehicles had been destroyed, the blockade was in full operation, and hundreds of Haganah members who had tried to bring supplies into the city were killed.[35] The situation for those who dwelt in the Jewish settlements in the highly isolated Negev and North of Galilee was even more critical.

While the Jewish population had received strict orders requiring them to hold their ground everywhere at all costs,[36] the Arab population was more affected by the general conditions of insecurity to which the country was exposed. Up to 100,000 Arabs, from the urban upper and middle classes in Haifa, Jaffa and Jerusalem, or Jewish-dominated areas, evacuated abroad or to Arab centres eastwards.[37]

This situation caused the United States to withdraw its support for the Partition plan, thus encouraging the Arab League to believe that the Palestinian Arabs, reinforced by the Arab Liberation Army, could put an end to the plan for partition. The British, on the other hand, decided on 7 February 1948, to support the annexation of the Arab part of Palestine by Transjordan.[38]

Although a certain level of doubt took hold among Yishuv supporters, their apparent defeats were due more to their wait-and-see policy than to weakness. David Ben-Gurion reorganized Haganah and made conscription obligatory. Every Jewish man and woman in the country had to receive military training. Thanks to funds raised by Golda Meir from sympathisers in the United States, and Stalin's decision to support the Zionist cause, the Jewish representatives of Palestine were able to sign very important armament contracts in the East. Other Haganah agents recuperated stockpiles from the Second World War, which helped improve the army's equipment and logistics. Operation Balak allowed arms and other equipment to be transported for the first time by the end of March.

Palmach M4 Sherman tank leading a convoy.

Ben-Gurion invested Yigael Yadin with the responsibility to come up with a plan of offense whose timing was related to the foreseeable evacuation of British forces. This strategy, called Plan Dalet, was readied by March and implemented towards the end of April.[39] A separate plan, Operation Nachshon, was devised to lift the siege of Jerusalem.[40] 1500 men from Haganah's Givati brigade and Palmach's Harel brigade conducted sorties to free up the route to the city between 5 and 20 April. Both sides acted offensively in defiance of the Partition Plan, which foresaw Jerusalem as a corpus separatum, under neither Jewish nor Arab jurisdiction. The Arabs did not accept the Plan, while the Jews were determined to oppose the internationalization of the city, and secure it as part of the Jewish state.[41] The operation was successful, and enough foodstuffs to last two months were trucked into Jerusalem for distribution to the Jewish population.[42] The success of the operation was assisted by the death of al-Husayni in combat. During this time, and independently of Haganah or the framework of Plan Dalet, irregular fighters from Irgun and Lehi formations massacred a substantial number of Arabs at Deir Yassin, an event that, though publicly deplored and criticized by the principal Jewish authorities, had a deep impact on the morale of the Arab population and contributed to generate the exodus of the Arab population.

At the same time, the first large-scale operation of the Arab Liberation Army ended in a debacle, having been roundly defeated at Mishmar HaEmek,[43] coinciding with the loss of their Druze allies through defection.[44]

Within the framework of the establishment of Jewish territorial continuity foreseen by Plan Dalet, the forces of Haganah, Palmach and Irgun intended to conquer mixed zones. The Palestinian Arab society was shaken. Tiberias, Haifa, Safed, Beisan, Jaffa and Acre fell, resulting in the flight of more than 250,000 Palestinian Arabs.[45]

The British had, at that time, essentially withdrawn their troops. The situation pushed the leaders of the neighbouring Arab states to intervene, but their preparation was not finalized, and they could not assemble sufficient forces to turn the tide of the war. The majority of Palestinian Arab hopes lay with the Arab Legion of Transjordan's monarch, King Abdullah I, but he had no intention of creating a Palestinian Arab-run state, since he hoped to annex as much of the territory of the British Mandate for Palestine as he could. He was playing a double-game, being just as much in contact with the Jewish authorities as with the Arab League.

In preparation for the offensive, Haganah successfully launched Operations Yiftah[46] and Ben-'Ami[47] to secure the Jewish settlements of Galilee, and Operation Kilshon, which created a united front around Jerusalem. The inconclusive meeting between Golda Meir and Abdullah I, followed by the Kfar Etzion massacre on 13 May by the Arab Legion led to predictions that the battle for Jerusalem would be merciless.

On 14 May 1948, David Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel and the 1948 Palestine war entered its second phase with the intervention of the Arab state armies and the beginning of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.

Armed forces

By September 1947 the Haganah had "10,489 rifles, 702 light machine-guns, 2,666 submachine guns, 186 medium machine-guns, 672 two-inch mortars and 92 three-inch (76 mm) mortars".[48]

Importing arms

In 1946, Ben-Gurion decided that the Yishuv would probably have to defend itself against both the Palestinian Arabs and neighbouring Arab states and accordingly began a "massive, covert arms acquisition campaign in the West", and acquired many more during the first few months of hostilities.

An Israeli Avia S-199, in June 1948

The Yishuv managed to clandestinely amass arms and military equipment abroad for transfer to Palestine once the British blockade was lifted. In the United States, Yishuv agents purchased three Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, one of which bombed Cairo in July 1948, some Curtiss C-46 Commando transport planes, and dozens of half-tracks, which were repainted and defined as "agricultural equipment". In Western Europe, Haganah agents amassed fifty 65mm French mountain guns, twelve 120mm mortars, ten H-35 light tanks, and a large number of half-tracks. By mid-May or thereabouts the Yishuv had purchased from Czechoslovakia 25 Avia S-199 fighters (an inferior version of the Messerschmitt Bf 109), 200 heavy machine guns, 5,021 light machine guns, 24,500 rifles, and 52 million rounds of ammunition, enough to equip all units, but short of heavy arms.[49] The airborne arms smuggling missions from Czechoslovakia were codenamed Operation Balak.

The airborne smuggling missions were carried out by mostly American aviators – Jews and non-Jews – led by ex-U.S. Air Transport Command flight engineer Al Schwimmer.

Schwimmer's operation also included recruiting and training fighter pilots such as Lou Lenart, commander of the first Israeli air assault against the Arabs.[50][51]

Arms production

The Yishuv also had "a relatively advanced arms producing capacity", that between October 1947 and July 1948" produced 3 million 9 mm bullets, 150,000 Mills grenades, 16,000 submachine guns (Sten Guns) and 210 three-inch (76 mm) mortars",[48] along with a few "Davidka" mortars, which had been indigenously designed and produced. They were inaccurate but had a spectacularly loud explosion that demoralized the enemy. A large amount of the munitions used by the Israelis came from the Ayalon Institute, a clandestine bullet factory underneath kibbutz Ayalon, which produced about 2.5 million bullets for Sten guns. The munitions produced by the Ayalon Institute were said to have been the only supply that was not in shortage during the war. Locally produced explosives were also plentiful. After Israel's independence, these clandestine arms manufacturing operations no longer had to be concealed, and were moved above ground. All of the Haganah's weapons-manufacturing was centralized and later became Israel Military Industries.[52]

Manpower

In November 1947, the Haganah was an underground paramilitary force that had existed as a highly organized, national force, since the Arab riots of 192021, and throughout the riots of 1929, Great Uprising of 1936–39,[48] and World War II. It had a mobile force, the HISH, which had 2,000 full-time fighters (men and women) and 10,000 reservists (all aged between 18 and 25) and an elite unit, the Palmach composed of 2,100 fighters and 1,000 reservists. The reservists trained three or four days a month and went back to civilian life the rest of the time. These mobile forces could rely on a garrison force, the HIM (Heil Mishmar, lit. Guard Corps), composed of people aged over 25. The Yishuv's total strength was around 35,000 with 15,000 to 18,000 fighters and a garrison force of roughly 20,000.[48][53]

There were also several thousand men and women who had served in the British Army in World War II who did not serve in any of the underground militias but would provide valuable military experience during the war.[54] Walid Khalidi says the Yishuv had the additional forces of the Jewish Settlement Police, numbering some 12,000, the Gadna Youth Battalions, and the armed settlers.[55] Few of the units had been trained by December 1947.[48] On 5 December 1947, conscription was instituted for all men and women aged between 17 and 25 and by the end of March, 21,000 had been conscripted.[56] On 30 March, the call-up was extended to men and single women aged between 26 and 35. Five days later, a General Mobilization order was issued for all men under 40.[57]

Irgun

The Irgun, whose activities were considered by MI5 to be terrorism, was monitored by the British.[58]

By March 1948, the Yishuv had a numerical superiority, with 35,780 mobilised and deployed fighters for the Haganah,[59][60] 3,000 of Stern and Irgun, and a few thousand armed settlers.[61]

Arab forces

The effective number of Arab combatants is listed at 12,000 by some historians[62] while others calculate a total Arab strength of approximately 23,500 troops, and with this being more of less or roughly equal to that of the Yishuv. However, as Israel mobilized most of its most able citizens during the war while the Arab troops were only a small percentage of its far greater population, the strength of the Yishuv grew steadily and dramatically during the war.[63]

According to Benny Morris, by the end of 1947, the Palestinians "had a healthy and demoralising respect for the Yishuv's military power" and if it came to battle the Palestinians expected to lose.

1948 Arab–Israeli War Background articles: 47

Political objectives

Yishuv

Yishuv's aims evolved during the war.[64] Mobilization for a total war was organized.[65] Initially, the aim was "simple and modest": to survive the assaults of the Palestinian Arabs and the Arab states. "The Zionist leaders deeply, genuinely, feared a Middle Eastern reenactment of the Holocaust, which had just ended; the Arabs' public rhetoric reinforced these fears". As the war progressed, the aim of expanding the Jewish state beyond the UN partition borders appeared: first to incorporate clusters of isolated Jewish settlements and later to add more territories to the state and give it defensible borders. A third and further aim that emerged among the political and military leaders after four or five months was to "reduce the size of Israel's prospective large and hostile Arab minority, seen as a potential powerful fifth column, by belligerency and expulsion".[64]

Plan Dalet, or Plan D, (Hebrew: תוכנית ד'‎, Tokhnit dalet) was a plan worked out by the Haganah, a Jewish paramilitary group and the forerunner of the Israel Defense Forces, in autumn 1947 to spring 1948, which was sent to Haganah units in early March 1948. According to the academic Ilan Pappé, its purpose was to conquer as much of Palestine and to expel as many Palestinians as possible,[66] though according to Benny Morris there was no such intent. In his book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Pappé asserts that Plan Dalet was a "blueprint for ethnic cleansing" with the aim of reducing both rural and urban areas of Palestine.[67] According to Gelber, the plan specified that in case of resistance, the population of conquered villages was to be expelled outside the borders of the Jewish state. If no resistance was met, the residents could stay put, under military rule.[68] According to Morris, Plan D called for occupying the areas within the U.N sponsored Jewish state, several concentrations of Jewish population outside those areas (West Jerusalem and Western Galilee), and areas along the roads where the invading Arab armies were expected to attack.[69]

The intent of Plan Dalet is subject to much controversy, with historians on the one extreme asserting that it was entirely defensive, and historians on the other extreme asserting that the plan aimed at maximum conquest and expulsion of the Palestinians.

The Yishuv perceived the peril of an Arab invasion as threatening its very existence. Having no real knowledge of the Arabs' true military capabilities, the Jews took Arab propaganda literally, preparing for the worst and reacting accordingly.[70]

Arab League as a whole

The Arab League had unanimously rejected the UN partition plan and were bitterly opposed to the establishment of a Jewish state.

The Arab League before partition affirmed the right to the independence of Palestine, while blocking the creation of a Palestinian government. Towards the end of 1947, the League established a military committee commanded by the retired Iraqi general Isma'il Safwat whose mission was to analyse the chance of victory of the Palestinians against the Jews.[71] His conclusions were that they had no chance of victory and that an invasion of the Arab regular armies was mandatory.[71] The political committee nevertheless rejected these conclusions and decided to support an armed opposition to the Partition Plan excluding the participation of their regular armed forces.[72]

In April with the Palestinian defeat, the refugees coming from Palestine and the pressure of their public opinion, the Arab leaders decided to invade Palestine.[73]

The Arab League gave reasons for its invasion in Palestine in the cablegram:[74]

  • the Arab states find themselves compelled to intervene in order to restore law and order and to check further bloodshed
  • the Mandate over Palestine has come to an end, leaving no legally constituted authority
  • the only solution of the Palestine problem is the establishment of a unitary Palestinian state.

British diplomat Alec Kirkbride wrote in his 1976 memoirs about a conversation with the Arab League's Secretary-General Azzam Pasha a week before the armies marched: "...when I asked him for his estimate of the size of the Jewish forces, [he] waved his hands and said: 'It does not matter how many there are. We will sweep them into the sea.'"[75] Approximately six months previously, according to an interview in an 11 October 1947 article of Akhbar al-Yom, Azzam said: "I personally wish that the Jews do not drive us to this war, as this will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades".[76]

According to Yoav Gelber, the Arab countries were "drawn into the war by the collapse of the Palestinian Arabs and the Arab Liberation Army [and] the Arab governments' primary goal was preventing the Palestinian Arabs' total ruin and the flooding of their own countries by more refugees. According to their own perception, had the invasion not taken place, there was no Arab force in Palestine capable of checking the Haganah's offensive".[70]

King Abdullah I of Transjordan

King Abdullah was the commander of the Arab Legion, the strongest Arab army involved in the war according to Rogan and Shlaim in 2007.[77] However, Morris wrote in 2008 that the Egyptian army was the most powerful and threatening army.[78] The Arab Legion had about 10,000 soldiers, trained and commanded by British officers.

King Abdullah outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, 29 May 1948, the day after Jordanian forces took control of the Old City in the Battle for Jerusalem

In 1946–47, Abdullah said that he had no intention to "resist or impede the partition of Palestine and creation of a Jewish state."[79] Ideally, Abdullah would have liked to annex all of Palestine, but he was prepared to compromise.[80][81] He supported the partition, intending that the West Bank area of the British Mandate allocated for the Arab state be annexed to Jordan.[82] Abdullah had secret meetings with the Jewish Agency (at which the future Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir was among the delegates) that reached an agreement of Jewish non-interference with Jordanian annexation of the West Bank (although Abdullah failed in his goal of acquiring an outlet to the Mediterranean Sea through the Negev desert) and of Jordanian agreement not to attack the area of the Jewish state contained in the United Nations partition resolution (in which Jerusalem was given neither to the Arab nor the Jewish state, but was to be an internationally administered area). In order to keep their support to his plan of annexation of the Arab State, Abdullah promised to the British he would not attack the Jewish State.[83]

The neighbouring Arab states pressured Abdullah into joining them in an "all-Arab military invasion" against the newly created State of Israel, that he used to restore his prestige in the Arab world, which had grown suspicious of his relatively good relationship with Western and Jewish leaders.[79] Jordan's undertakings not to cross partition lines were not taken at face value. While repeating assurances that Jordan would only take areas allocated to a future Arab state, on the eve of war Tawfik Abu al-Huda told the British that were other Arab armies to advance against Israel, Jordan would follow suit.[84] On 23 May Abdullah told the French consul in Amman that he "was determined to fight Zionism and prevent the establishment of an Israeli state on the border of his kingdom".[85]

Abdullah's role in this war became substantial. He saw himself as the "supreme commander of the Arab forces" and "persuaded the Arab League to appoint him" to this position.[86] Through his leadership, the Arabs fought the 1948 war to meet Abdullah's political goals.

Other Arab states

King Farouk of Egypt was anxious to prevent Abdullah from being seen as the main champion of the Arab world in Palestine, which he feared might damage his own leadership aspirations of the Arab world.[80] In addition, Farouk wished to annex all of southern Palestine to Egypt.[80] According to Gamal Abdel Nasser the Egyptian army first communique described the Palestine operations as a merely punitive expedition against the Zionist "gangs",[87] using a term frequent in Haganah reports of Palestinian fighters.[88] According to a 2019 study, "senior British intelligence, military officers and diplomats in Cairo were deeply involved in a covert scheme to drive the King to participate in the Arab states' war coalition against Israel."[89] These intelligence officers acted without the approval or knowledge of the British government.[89]

Nuri as-Said, the strongman of Iraq, had ambitions for bringing the entire Fertile Crescent under Iraqi leadership.[80] Both Syria and Lebanon wished to take certain areas of northern Palestine.[80]

One result of the ambitions of the various Arab leaders was a distrust of all the Palestinian leaders who wished to set up a Palestinian state, and a mutual distrust of each other.[80] Co-operation was to be very poor during the war between the various Palestinian factions and the Arab armies.[80]

Arab Higher Committee of Amin al-Husayni

Following rumours that King Abdullah was re-opening the bilateral negotiations with Israel that he had previously conducted in secret with the Jewish Agency, the Arab League, led by Egypt, decided to set up the All-Palestine Government in Gaza on 8 September under the nominal leadership of the Mufti.[90] Abdullah regarded the attempt to revive al-Husayni's Holy War Army as a challenge to his authority and all armed bodies operating in the areas controlled by the Arab Legion were disbanded. Glubb Pasha carried out the order ruthlessly and efficiently.[91][92]

1948 Arab–Israeli War Political objectives articles: 20

Initial line-up of forces

Military assessments

Though the state of Israel faced the formidable armies of neighboring Arab countries, yet due to previous battles by the middle of May the Palestinians themselves hardly existed as a military force.[93] The British Intelligence and Arab League military reached similar conclusions.[94]

The British Foreign Ministry and C.I.A believed that the Arab states would finally win in case of war.[95][96] Martin Van Creveld says that in terms of manpower, the sides were fairly evenly matched.[97]

In May, Egyptian generals told their government that the invasion would be "A parade without any risks" and Tel Aviv would be taken "in two weeks."[98] Egypt, Iraq, and Syria all possessed air forces, Egypt and Syria had tanks, and all had some modern artillery.[99] Initially, the Haganah had no heavy machine guns, artillery, armoured vehicles, anti-tank or anti-aircraft weapons,[54] nor military aircraft or tanks.[48] The four Arab armies that invaded on 15 May were far stronger than the Haganah formations they initially encountered.[100]

On 12 May, three days before the invasion, David Ben-Gurion was told by his chief military advisers (who over-estimated the size of the Arab armies and the numbers and efficiency of the troops who would be committed – much as the Arab generals tended to exaggerate Jewish fighters' strength) that Israel's chances of winning a war against the Arab states were only about even.[99]

Yishuv/Israeli forces

Jewish forces at the invasion: Sources disagree about the amount of arms at the Yishuv's disposal at the end of the Mandate. According to Karsh before the arrival of arms shipments from Czechoslovakia as part of Operation Balak, there was roughly one weapon for every three fighters, and even the Palmach could arm only two out of every three of its active members.[54] According to Collins and LaPierre, by April 1948, the Haganah had managed to accumulate only about 20,000 rifles and Sten guns for the 35,000 soldiers who existed on paper.[101] According to Walid Khalidi "the arms at the disposal of these forces were plentiful".[55] France authorized Air France to transport cargo to Tel Aviv on 13 May.[102]

Yishuv forces were organised in 9 brigades, and their numbers grew following Israeli independence, eventually expanding to 12 brigades. Although both sides increased their manpower over the first few months of the war, the Israeli forces grew steadily as a result of the progressive mobilization of Israeli society and the influx of an average of 10,300 immigrants each month.[103] By the end of 1948, the Israel Defense Forces had 88,033 soldiers, including 60,000 combat soldiers.[104]

Brigade Commander Size[105] Operations
Golani Moshe Mann 4,500 Dekel, Hiram
Carmeli Moshe Carmel 2,000 Hiram
Alexandroni Dan Even 5,200 Latrun, Hametz
Kiryati Michael Ben-Gal 1,400 Dani, Hametz
Givati Shimon Avidan 5,000 Hametz, Barak, Pleshet
Etzioni David Shaltiel Battle of Jerusalem, Shfifon, Yevusi, Battle of Ramat Rachel
7th Armoured Shlomo Shamir Battles of Latrun
8th Armoured Yitzhak Sadeh Danny, Yoav, Horev
Oded Avraham Yoffe Yoav, Hiram
Harel Yitzhak Rabin[106] 1,400 Nachshon, Danny
Yiftach Yigal Allon 4,500 inc. some Golani Yiftah, Danny, Yoav, Battles of Latrun
Negev Nahum Sarig 2,400 Yoav

After the invasion: France allowed aircraft carrying arms from Czechoslovakia to land on French territory in transit to Israel, and permitted two arms shipments to ‘Nicaragua’, which were actually intended for Israel.[102]

Czechoslovakia supplied vast quantities of arms to Israel during the war, including thousands of vz. 24 rifles and MG 34 and ZB 37 machine guns, and millions of rounds of ammunition. Czechoslovakia supplied fighter aircraft, including at first ten Avia S-199 fighter planes.

The Haganah readied twelve cargo ships throughout European ports to transfer the accumulated equipment, which would set sail as soon as the British blockade was lifted with the expiration of the Mandate.[107][108]

Following Israeli independence, the Israelis managed to build three Sherman tanks from scrap-heap material found in abandoned British ordnance depots.[109]

Sherman tanks of the Israeli 8th Armoured Brigade, 1948

The Haganah also managed to obtain stocks of British weapons due to the logistical complexity of the British withdrawal, and the corruption of a number of officials.[110]

A Cromwell tank

After the first truce: By July 1948, the Israelis had established an air force, a navy, and a tank battalion.[108]

On 29 June 1948, the day before the last British troops left Haifa, two British soldiers sympathetic to the Israelis stole two Cromwell tanks from an arms depot in the Haifa port area, smashing them through the unguarded gates, and joined the IDF with the tanks. These two tanks would form the basis of the Israeli Armored Corps.[111]

IDF soldiers of the Samson's Foxes unit advance in a captured Egyptian Bren Gun carrier.

After the second truce: Czechoslovakia supplied Supermarine Spitfire fighter planes, which were smuggled to Israel via an abandoned Luftwaffe runway in Yugoslavia, with the agreement of the Yugoslav government. The airborne arms smuggling missions from Czechoslovakia were codenamed Operation Balak.

Arab forces

At the invasion: In addition to the local irregular Palestinians militia groups, the five Arab states that joined the war were Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq sending expeditionary forces of their regular armies. Additional contingents came from Saudi Arabia and Yemen. On the eve of the war, the available number of Arab troops likely to be committed to war was between 23,500 and 26,500 (10,000 Egyptians, 4,500 Jordanians, 3,000 Iraqis, 3,000–6,000 Syrians, 2,000 ALA volunteers, 1,000 Lebanese, and several hundred Saudis), in addition to the irregular Palestinians already present. Prior to the war, Arab forces had been trained by British and French instructors. This was particularly true of Jordan's Arab Legion under command of Lt Gen Sir John Glubb.

Syria bought a quantity of small arms for the Arab Liberation Army from Czechoslovakia, but the shipment never arrived due to Haganah force intervention.[112]

Arab states

Jordan's Arab Legion was considered the most effective Arab force. Armed, trained and commanded by British officers, this 8,000–12,000 strong force was organised in four infantry/mechanised regiments supported by some 40 artillery pieces and 75 armoured cars.[113] Until January 1948, it was reinforced by the 3,000-strong Transjordan Frontier Force.[114] As many as 48 British officers served in the Arab Legion.[115] Glubb Pasha, the commander of the Legion, organized his forces into four brigades as follows:

Military Division Commander[116][117] Rank Military Zone of operations
First Brigade, includes: 1st and 3rd regiments Desmond Goldie Colonel Nablus Military Zone
Second Brigade, includes: Fifth and Sixth Regiments Sam Sidney Arthur Cooke Brigadier Support force
Third Brigade, includes: Second and Fourth Regiments Teel Ashton Colonel Ramallah Military Zone
Fourth Brigade Ahmad Sudqi al-Jundi Colonel Support: Ramallah, Hebron, and Ramla

The Arab Legion joined the war in May 1948, but fought only in the area that King Abdullah wanted to secure for Jordan: the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

France prevented a large sale of arms by a Swiss company to Ethiopia, brokered by the U.K foreign office, which was actually destined for Egypt and Jordan, denied a British request at the end of April to permit the landing of a squadron of British aircraft on their way to Transjordan, and applied diplomatic pressure on Belgium to suspend arms sales to the Arab states.[102]

The Jordanian forces were probably the best trained of all combatants. Other combatant forces lacked the ability to make strategic decisions and tactical maneuvers,[118] as evidenced by positioning the fourth regiment at Latrun, which was abandoned by ALA combatants before the arrival of the Jordanian forces and the importance of which was not fully understood by the Haganah general-staff. In the later stages of the war, Latrun proved to be of extreme importance, and a decisive factor in Jerusalem's fate.

In 1948, Iraq's army had 21,000 men in 12 brigades and the Iraqi Air Force had 100 planes, mostly British. Initially the Iraqis committed around 3,000 men[119] to the war effort, including four infantry brigades, one armoured battalion and support personnel. These forces were to operate under Jordanian guidance[120] The first Iraqi forces to be deployed reached Jordan in April 1948 under the command of Gen. Nur ad-Din Mahmud.[121]

Vickers light tanks in the desert

In 1948, Egypt's army was able to put a maximum of around 40,000 men into the field, 80% of its military-age male population being unfit for military service and its embryonic logistics system being limited in its ability to support ground forces deployed beyond its borders. Initially, an expeditionary force of 10,000 men was sent to Palestine under the command of Maj. Gen. Ahmed Ali al-Mwawi. This force consisted of five infantry battalions, one armoured battalion equipped with British Light Tank Mk VI and Matilda tanks, one battalion of sixteen 25-pounder guns, a battalion of eight 6-pounder guns and one medium-machine-gun battalion with supporting troops.

The Egyptian Air Force had over 30 Spitfires, 4 Hawker Hurricanes and 20 C47s modified into crude bombers.

Syria had 12,000 soldiers at the beginning of the 1948 War, grouped into three infantry brigades and an armoured force of approximately battalion size. The Syrian Air Force had fifty planes, the 10 newest of which were World War II–generation models.

France suspended arms sales to Syria, notwithstanding signed contracts.[102]

Lebanon's army was the smallest of the Arab armies, consisting of only 3,500 soldiers.[114] According to Gelber, in June 1947, Ben-Gurion "arrived at an agreement with the Maronite religious leadership in Lebanon that cost a few thousand pounds and kept Lebanon's army out of the War of Independence and the military Arab coalition."[122] A token force of 436 soldiers crossed into northern Galilee, seized two villages after a small skirmish, and withdrew.[11] Israel then invaded and occupied southern Lebanon until the end of the war.[123]

Arab forces after the first truce: By the time of the second truce, the Egyptians had 20,000 men in the field in thirteen battalions equipped with 135 tanks and 90 artillery pieces.[124]

During the first truce, the Iraqis increased their force to about 10,000.[125] Ultimately, the Iraqi expeditionary force numbered around 18,000 men.[126][127]

Saudi Arabia sent hundreds of volunteers to join the Arab forces. In February 1948, around 800 tribesmen had gathered near Aqaba so as to invade the Negev, but crossed to Egypt after Saudi rival King Abdallah officially denied them permission to pass through Jordanian territory.[128] The Saudi troops were attached to the Egyptian command throughout the war,[129] and estimates of their total strength ranged up to 1,200.[130][131] By July 1948, the Saudis comprised three brigades within the Egyptian expeditionary force, and were stationed as guards between Gaza city and Rafah.[132] This area came under heavy aerial bombardment during Operation Yoav in October,[133] and faced a land assault beginning in late December which culminated in the Battle of Rafah in early January of the new year. With the subsequent armistice of 24 February 1949 and evacuation of almost 4,000 Arab soldiers and civilians from Gaza, the Saudi contingent withdrew through Arish and returned to Saudi Arabia.[134]

During the first truce, Sudan sent six companies of regular troops to fight alongside the Egyptians.[135] Yemen also committed a small expeditionary force to the war effort, and contingents from Morocco joined the Arab armies as well.[4]

1948 Arab–Israeli War Initial line-up of forces articles: 58