169. Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency’s Office of Current Intelligence1


  • The Arab-Israeli War: Who Fired the First Shot
An analysis of presently available information suggests that Israel fired the first shots today. The Israelis, however, claim they were responding to a movement by Egyptian air and armored forces [Page 319] “toward” Israel which they interpreted as an attack. Cairo says flatly that Israel attacked Egypt.
The Egyptian army’s foreign liaison officer informed the US Defense Attaché in Cairo that Israel started raiding the Suez Canal Zone and El-Arish Airfield in northeastern Sinai at 9 a.m. Cairo time (2 a.m. EDT). An announcement on the Israeli army radio service at 9:05 Cairo time (2:05 EDT) said the Israeli army was clashing with an Egyptian armored force “moving toward Israel.” An Israeli army spokesman later announced that the Egyptians had “opened an air and land attack.” He said Egyptian armored forces moved at dawn “toward” southern Israel and that Israeli forces “went out to meet them.” He also said that Egyptian jet aircraft were seen on radar “coming toward the country’s shores,” and that a similar air movement was occurring along the Sinai border. Air clashes developed, he added, when Israeli planes flew to meet them.
Israeli Foreign Minister Eban told Ambassador Barbour that Egyptian ground forces began the fighting by shelling Israeli border villages. An official Israeli report passed to the US Embassy, however, said Egypt’s 4th armored division plus a mobile task force had teamed up “with the apparent intention” of striking across southern Israel toward Jordan. The report said Israel armored forces had moved to engage the Egyptian armor, and that Israel had attacked Egyptian airfields.
[9 lines of source text not declassified]
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Middle East Crisis, Situation Reports. Top Secret; [codeword not declassified]. The memorandum was not prepared on letterhead and bears no drafting information, but a copy bears the handwritten notation “CIA/OCI memo.” (Ibid., NSC Histories, Middle East Crisis, Vol. 3) See footnote 7, Document 149.