Eitan was a junior officer in the Palmach, the Haganah's elite strike force, and took part in the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. He fought in Jerusalem and received a head wound in the battle for the San Simon Monastery in April 1948. Later he served with the 10th Infantry Battalion in the Lachish-Negev region.
In 1954, Captain Eitan became commander of a Paratroops company in Unit 101. During Operation Olive Leaves in 1955 he received a machine gun wound to his chest, while participating in a military raid into Syria. For this action he was decorated with the Medal of Courage.
In the 1956 Suez Crisis, Major Eitan was the commander of the 890 Paratroopers battalion and participated in the 29 October parachute attack on the Mitla Pass.
During the Six-Day War in early June 1967, as a Colonel he commanded the Paratroopers Brigade on the Gaza front. He received a severe head wound in combat while approaching the Suez Canal.
In the evening of 28 December 1968, he commanded the Commando raid on Beirut airport.
In 1969 he was appointed head of infantry forces and later served as a division commander. As a division commander, of 36th Ugda, Brigadier General Eitan stopped the Syrian attack into the Golan Heights during the October 1973 Yom Kippur War. After the war, he was appointed to commander of the northern command and promoted to the rank of Major General.
Image: Raful Eitan (squatting, right) with members of 890th Paratroop Battalion after Operation Egged (November 1955). Standing l to r: Lt. Meir Har-Zion, Maj. Arik Sharon, Lt. Gen Moshe Dayan, Capt. Dani Matt, Lt. Moshe Efron, Maj. Gen Asaf Simchoni; On ground, l to r: Capt. Aharon Davidi, Lt. Ya'akov Ya'akov, Capt. 'Raful' Eitan.