1948 Arab-Israeli War

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On 15 May 1948, following the declaration of independence by the the Jewish community of the British Mandate of Palestine, officially declared independence as the State of Israel, it was attacked by the Arab states of Egypt, Syria, Transjordan (now Jordan), and Lebanon, along with Palestinian Arab volunteers, immediately attacked the new country.


The Arab armies suffered from poor training and equipment, as well as a lack of planning, and the war went spectacularly badly for them from the start. The Transjordanian Arab Legion, which had been trained by the British and was by far the best fighting force the Arabs had, managed to hold a large area abutting the Jordan river, including the eastern half of Jerusalem, which became known as the West Bank. The Egyptians retained a small piece of land, centered around the city of Gaza, that became known as the Gaza Strip. The rest of Palestine fell to the Israelis, who took and annexed large areas that UNSCOP's partition plan had allocated to the Arabs.


Most of the Arab population of these areas fled and became refugees. Mainstream Israeli historians and some other historians focus on the large numbers of refugees who chose to flee of their own free will or responded to Arab calls for evacuation. Official Arab and revisionist Israeli historiography, and some other historians, focus on the refugees who were expelled by Israeli troops. In 1949, the Arab states and Israel agreed to a truce.


See also: Israel-Palestine Conflict

Following the war, the region slipped into an uneasy peace. The Palestinian refugees, about 750,000 people, stayed in nearby Arab countries, where the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), a special organization created by the UN to care for the refugees, built camps for them. Jordan allowed Palestinians in its territory full citizenship, and annexed the West Bank in 1950. The other Arab states did not allow their refugee populations citizenship, and denied them access to high-paying jobs and confined the majority of them to the camps, which over time grew into large, impoverished slums.