The following is the history of the nation of Israel, also known as Israel-Palestine, from its beginning to the present day.
Since Israel declared independence in May of 1948, it has played a significant role in the geopolitics of the Middle East. It can trace its religious and historical origins in the region going back over 2,000 years. In the 7th Century, the area was conquered by the Muslims, who became the dominant power. In the 19th Century, there was a movement among Jews to return to the region, now called Palestine, and establish a nation in what they viewed as their homeland. In response to this longstanding request, the United Nations partitioned Palestine in 1947 into two separate states, one Arab and the other Jewish. When Britain ended its nearly 30 year mandate over the area in 1948, the Jewish state declared autonomy. The next thirty-five years would witness five major wars between Israel and its Arab neighbors. Each would result in victory for Israel and expand its modern borders. Over the course of these wars, Israel would capture Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan; the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt; and the Golan Heights from Syria. Additionally, thousands of Palestinian Arabs who either fled or were expelled from Israel to adjacent countries, organized militant organizations to demand the restoration of the Palestinian homeland. These groups began launching terrorist attacks against Israel in the 1960s to achieve their goals. Israel’s strongest ally was the US, who supported it internationally and supplied substantial financial and military aid. The militaries of both nations regularly interacted. By the late 1970s, Egypt became the first Arab nation to make peace with Israel, which restored diplomatic relations and returned the Sinai in 1982.
On the eve of Doomsday, Israel was a nation and people defined by not only its past, but the wars and terrorism it had endured since independence. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) was one of the best battle trained militaries in the world. It featured a highly mechanized ground force, numbering over 100,000 soldiers and nearly 500,000 reserves. The Air Force consisted of over five hundred planes, including F-15s, F-16s, and Mirage III fighters, with 28,000 personnel and 50,000 reserves. Additionally, Israel was the only nation in the Middle East to possess nuclear weapons, with the ability to deploy them by plane or IRBMs. Because of the constant strife with its neighbors, the law mandated compulsory military service for all men and women over the age of 18. A nationwide civil defense network existed and citizens were required by law to have underground shelters to go to when sirens alerted them.
Israel possessed a series of early warning radar stations which were positioned at locations throughout their country and the occupied territories and allowed them to monitor military activities in adjacent nations. They did not possess airborne early warning radar platforms or satellite observation. As such, the first warning the IDF received regarding the Soviet nuclear launches came at approximately 2:50 AM local time in the form of a communiqué from the US to its allies alerting them.
Upon receiving the news, the IDF immediately contacted a stunned Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Defense Minister Moshe Arens. Shamir declared a state of emergency, activation of the civil defense system, and a full mobilization of the military with instructions to take all necessary steps to protect the nation. In implementing the prime minister’s orders, Arens ordered the IDF to scramble and get airborne as many warplanes as they could and for all surface to air missile batteries to be active and ready in preparation for the unknown. Radar stations were alerted and made aware of the situation. Arens also ordered the dispersal of the military into smaller groups to avoid wholesale destruction if something should happen. In a surprise move, Shamir telephoned Jordan and Egypt to make them aware of what was happening so they would not think hostilities were being initiated against them.
With the activation of the civil defense system, air raid sirens began to go off across the entire country. As dawn was over an hour away, most of the population had been asleep and only a small percentage was about. Once roused, people sought refuge in underground shelters located in homes and residential or industrial buildings. Key government leaders such as the prime minister and foreign minister were moved to secure locations as well.
At approximately 3:25 AM local time, three Soviet SS-19 ICBMs, each possessing six 550-kiloton warheads, dropped out of the atmosphere and prepared to deploy, one each over northern, central, and southern Israel. It is unknown why certain areas were targeted, but it is believed since Israel was a US ally, the purpose of the strikes was to incapacitate its ability to provide aid and support to American forces. It was a testament to the skill and bravery of the Israeli Air Force that of the eighteen warheads, they managed to shoot down five. Adding to the difficulties of pilots, as warheads began to detonate, the resulting EMP affected their systems. At least fifty fighters reportedly crashed as a result. In one case, a desperate pilot, his fighter giving out, rammed the missile heading for Tel Aviv. This resulted in the warhead exploding three miles off shore instead of over the city. A sixth warhead malfunctioned and crashed without detonating and three of the remaining twelve warheads suffered guidance issues and struck the wrong targets. As it was, the list of targets broke down as follows:
- The capital of Jerusalem - warhead was shot down.
- The port of Haifa – warhead airburst over harbor destroying large part of the city.
- The port of Ashkelon - warhead malfunctioned, overshot the city, and airburst over Gaza City in the Gaza Strip.
- The port of Ashdod – warhead airburst over city destroying it.
- The Golan Heights, specifically the headquarters of the 36th Armored Division – warhead malfunctioned and crashed without detonating.
- IDF early warning radar stations in the Shomron and Yehuda Hills of in the northern region of the West Bank – warhead malfunctioned and airburst over the West Bank city of Jenin, destroying it and a nearby Palestinian refugee camp.
- Ramat David Air Base located near Megiddo - warhead airburst over base and destroyed it.
- Sde Dov/Tel Aviv Air Base located 13 miles from Ben Gurion Airport, near the center of Tel Aviv – warhead airburst over water three miles offshore. The city of Tel Aviv was heavily damaged by both the detonation and a tsunami generated by the explosion.
- Sedot Mikha Jericho IRBM base near Zekharyah, east of Ashkelon and southeast of Tel Nof Air Base – warhead was successfully shot down.
- Tel Nof Air Base near Rehovt, southeast of Tel Aviv - warhead detonated over two miles from the base destroying several small communities and seriously damaging the base.
- Hatzor Air Base, east-southeast of Ashdod – warhead airburst over base and destroyed it.
- Palmachim Air Base, which included a missile test range, near Palmachim – warhead was successfully shot down.
- Soreq Nuclear Research Center, research and development institute which included a 5 megawatt light water nuclear reactor, near Palmachim and Yavne – warhead was successfully shot down.
- Ramon Air Base, southwest of Beersheba – warhead airburst over base destroying it.
- Hatzerim Air Base, west of Beersheba – warhead airburst over base destroying it.
- Nevatim Air Base southeast of Beersheba on the edge of the Negev, location of underground strategic air command post - warhead airburst over base, destroying it.
- Negev Nuclear Research Center, involved in the production of nuclear weapons, located near Dimona - warhead detonated over facility destroying it, resulting in radioactive plume from reactor.
- Ovda Air Base, northwest of Eliat in the southern Negev Region. Warhead was shot down.
As dawn broke and the full scale of the attacks became apparent, the Israeli government was shocked. Despite the near collapse of the country’s electrical system and communications network, reports were able to filter in slowly to the underground command post near Jerusalem. The picture it provided was horrific. The major ports of Haifa and Ashdod as well as Jenin and Gaza were being consumed by firestorms, Tel Aviv had been devastated by a tsunami generated by another bomb, the Negev Nuclear Research Center near Dimona had been flattened and radioactive debris was spewing out, and five major IDF airfields were either destroyed or damaged.
Prime Minister Shamir and other leaders realized as bad as it was, it could have been far worse. Only five urban areas were hit and radioactive fallout from several strikes was being carried by westerly winds into the Negev Desert. With the concurrence of the cabinet and legislators, Shamir declared martial law throughout the country. Residents not in the affected areas or involved in relief operations were ordered to stay in shelters for the time being. The IDF and civil defense were directed to lead relief efforts and take all steps necessary to rescue survivors; evacuate endangered populations; and bring fires under control if they could, regardless if they were in Israeli or Palestinian areas. A special team was ordered to Dimona to see if they could contain the radioactive plume being emitted from the burning reactor.
On Doomsday, the population of Israel stood at 4.1 million people, including settlers in the occupied territories, and the total Arab population for the West Bank and Gaza Strip was roughly 1.5 million. Investigations by the government would later estimate approximately 25% of the overall Israeli and Arab population or roughly 1.3 million people died as a direct result of the attacks or over the next two weeks. Despite the overall success of the Israeli civil defense network in moving most of the population to shelters, the size and scope of the attack resulted in at least 850,000 deaths across the country. At least 100,000 more perished when Jenin and an adjacent Palestinian refugee camp were destroyed on the West Bank and 100,000 in the destruction of Gaza City in the Gaza Strip.