These sections are reproduced from Israel and Zionism/Struggle & Defense
Tzahal - The Israel Defense Forces (abbr. IDF)
The IDF was established on May 26 1948, by the Provisional Government of the State of Israel. The IDF is an organic part of the people, essentially based on reserve service by the civilian population.
The IDF has proven itself one of the most important factors in effecting the integration of the varied cultural elements of Israel's population. In the early days of the state, the IDF probably had more influence in this respect than any other single element, and today it is on a par with the school system in bringing about national integration.
From its inception, Israel established a system of compulsory military service requiring both men and women of certain ages to report for varying periods of service. The IDF comprise three types of service: conscript service, reserve service and regular service. On conclusion of his or her conscript service, every soldier is assigned to a reserve unit. The IDF is composed of three elements: regular officers and N.C.O.; the standing army - regular officers, N.C.O.s and conscripts; and reserve forces, which can be mobilized at any given time.
Members of the minority communities may, under certain circumstances, volunteer for service in the IDF and the Border Police. The Druze community is liable for conscription into the IDF in the same manner as members of the Jewish population. It was at the specific request of the Druze community that the National Service Law imposing conscription was applied to its members.
a. The War of Independence (1947 - 1949)
The War of Independence, also known as the War of Liberation, lasted from the end of November 1947 until July 1949. The war was divided into two distinct phases.
The first phase began on November 30, the day after the UN General Assembly adopted its resolution on the partition of Palestine (see UN Resolution 29.11.1947), and ended on May 15, 1948, the last day of the British Mandate.
The second phase started on the very last day of the British Mandate and came to an end on July 20,1949, when the last of the Armistice Agreements (with Syria) was signed.
In the first phase which, as mentioned before, began on the morrow of the UN Partition Resolution, the yishuv and its defense forces - the Haganah - were under attack by Palestinian Arabs, aided by irregular volunteers from Arab countries. On May 14, 1948, the day preceding the end of British Mandate, The National Council convened at the Tel Aviv Museum and approved the proclamation of Independence, which declared the establishment of the State of Israel (see also David Ben Gurion).
During the night of May 14-15, Tel Aviv was bombarded by Egyptian airplanes. Thus began the second phase of the War of Independence, in which the regular armies of five neighboring Arab states invaded the new state of Israel. From the north, east and south came the armies of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Transjordan and Egypt.(Saudi Arabia sent a formation to fight under Egyptian command; Yemen considered itself at war with Israel but sent no military forces.)
The War of Independence lasted for more than 13 months. Israel paid a heavy price: 4,000 soldiers and 2,000 civilians killed. The financial cost was also heavy. The Jewish state, however, was now a definite fact. It held an area of almost 8,000 sq. miles compared with some 6,200 sq. miles granted within the boundaries as drawn up in the Partition Plan.
Palestinian Arab terrorist groups, called "Fedayeen" ("suicide fighters"), began systematic raids against the Israeli civilian population. The "Fedayeen" operated from bases located in and controlled by Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan. In the period 1951- 1956, over 400 Israelis were killed and 900 injured as a result of the "Fedayeen" infiltrations and attacks. The "Fedayeen" acts of terror, supported by the Arab countries led, eventually, to the outbreak of Sinai Campaign.
Armistice agreements were concluded separately between Israel and the neighboring belligerent states in early-mid 1949.
b. Sinai Campaign - 1956
The Sinai Campaign, also known as Operation Kadesh, lasted eight days, from October 29, 1956 to November 5, 1956. The short war between Israel and Egypt partly coincided with the Anglo-French Suez Campaign. The Sinai Campaign was launched by Israel as a reaction to the increasing Fedayeen terror activities. IDF Chief of Staff at the time was Moshe Dayan. The Anglo-French attack on Egypt came as a result of Egypt's nationalization of the Suez Canal.
The objectives of Israel's operation were:
By November 5, 1956 the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip and Sharm el- Sheikh were captured by the Israeli army. IDF losses in the campaign were 171 dead, several hundred wounded, and 4 Israelis taken prisoner. Egyptian losses were losses were estimated at several thousand dead and wounded, while 6,000 prisoners were taken.
As a result of a prolonged political struggle, in which both the United States and the Soviet Union opposed Israel, the IDF was compelled to evacuate the Sinai peninsula and the Gaza Strip. Troops of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) were posted in the Gaza Strip and Sharm el-Sheikh to guarantee free passage of Israeli shipping through the Straits of Tiran. Israel secured a considerable degree of quiet on its southwestern border and free access to Eilat. These gains were preserved until 1967.
c. The Six Day War (5.6.1967 - 10.6.1967)
d. The Yom Kippur War (October 1973)
The Yom Kippur War that began on October 6, 1973, on the Jewish Day of Atonement, was the fiercest Arab-Israeli war since the War of Independence, in 1948. Egypt and Syria attacked Israel simultaneously, catching Israel off guard. Egyptian forces crossed the Suez Canal at five points and Syrian forces attacked at two points on the Golan Heights.
In the later stages of the Yom Kippur War, after Israel repulsed the Syrian attack on the Golan Heights and established a bridgehead on the Egyptian side of the Suez Canal, international efforts to end the fighting were intensified. On October 20, the US Secretary of State flew to Moscow, and -- together with the Soviet government -- the US proposed a cease-fire resolution in the UN Security Council. On October 24, 1973, the cease-fire went into effect, thus ending the fighting.
In 18 days of fighting Israel casualties were more than 2,500 killed. Egypt lost 7,500 men and Syria 7,300.
e. The Peace for Galilee Operation (The Lebanon War), June 1982
After the Six Day War, most of the terrorist activities of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (P.L.O.) were carried out from Jordanian territory. In September 1970, there were fierce clashes between the P.L.O. and the Jordanian army, as a result of which the organization was expelled from Jordan.
After expulsion from Jordan, the main center for P.L.O. terror became Southern Lebanon, the Lebanese government being unable to prevent terrorist activities. In 1978 Palestinians guerrillas launched an air raid on Israel from their bases in Lebanon. In retaliation, Israel sent troops into southern Lebanon to occupy a strip 6-10 km. deep and thus protect Israel's border (Litani Operation). Eventually, a UN peace-keeping force was set up there.
In spite of the presence of the UN peace-keeping force, attacks against Israel continued. On June 6, 1982, Israel launched a massive attack to destroy all military bases of the P.L.O. in Southern Lebanon and to free Israel northern towns and villages from constant fire. A ten-week siege of the Muslim sector of West Beirut, a P.L.O. stronghold, forced the Palestinians to accept a US- sponsored plan, whereby the P.L.O. terrorists would evacuate Beirut and remove to several Arab countries that had agreed to accept them. Israel withdrew from Lebanon in 1985, but continued to maintain a Lebanese buffer zone north of its border.