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Indybay Feature
Sat Jan 1 2000 (Updated 12/27/21)
Palestine History
Palestine: pre-1900 through 2008

An Expanded Brief History of Palestine


December 27th: Israeli air strikes target police stations in Gaza killing over 200 people and injuring hundreds more. Air strikes continued on December 28th, with the death toll reaching close to 300 by mid-day.
March 1st-March 5th: Israel mounts a ground offensive against the Gaza Strip. The attacks claim the lives of over 112 Palestinians, including many civilians. According to Gaza health ministry statistics, 22 children were killed and more than 350 people were wounded.
January 23rd: Masked militants destroyed around two-thirds of the metal wall separating the Gaza Strip from Egypt. Tens of thousands of Palestinians flooded across the border to buy food and supplies. A tightening of a blockade against the Gaza Strip had been deepening an ongoing humanitarian catastrophe, plunging its 1.5 million people into cold and darkness and threatening to unleash both mass hunger and a serious health crisis. The Israeli cabinet voted in early January to seal all border crossings into Gaza, cutting off food, medicine and fuel for the population and turning the entire territory into a vast prison.


June 15th: Hamas militants seize the Palestinian presidential compound in Gaza City and took full control of the Gaza Strip. The Occupied Territories have now been effectively split into two separate entities with Hamas in charge of Gaza and Fatah controlling the West Bank.
June 14th: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announces the dismissal of the Hamas-led government and declares a state of emergency. Abbas says he would now rule by presidential decree until the conditions were right for early elections.
May 13th: Following the killing of a senior Fatah leader, violence erupted throughout the Gaza Strip. Two attempted ceasefires collapse within hours and fighting between Fatah and Hamas results in dozens of deaths, threatening to shatter the two factions' unity government.


December 18th After a month of fighting a cease fire is agreed between Hamas and Fatah, but gun battles continue in one of the worst days of fratricidal violence in the Gaza Strip. Walid Awad, a spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party, said Fatah and Hamas had agreed to withdraw all armed men from the streets of Gaza and the West Bank. They also agreed to release all the people they had kidnapped from each other. Under the deal, negotiations for a national unity coalition would resume and all demonstrations have been prohibited for the foreseeable future. more
October 1st: Most Israeli troops withdraw from Lebanon. While Israel tried to present the end result a victory, Hezbollah survived and did no agree to disarm. Over a thousand Lebanese civilians were killed, several hundred members of Hezbollah were killed, 119 Israeli soldiers were killed and 43 Israeli civilians were killed in the conflict.
August 11th: The United Nations Security Council unanimously approves UN Resolution 1701 in an effort to end the hostilities. The resolution, which was approved by both Lebanese and Israeli governments the following days, called for disarmament of Hezbollah, for withdrawal of Israel from Lebanon, and for the deployment of Lebanese soldiers and an enlarged United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) force in southern Lebanon.
July 12th: Hezbollah's military wing attack two armoured IDF Humvees with anti-tank rockets, killing three soldiers and taking the remaining two in captivity to Lebanon's territory. Israel responds by bombing Lebanon. The world community responds by evacuating foreigh nationals and refusing to call for a ceasefire as hundreds of thousands of Lebanese are forced to evacuate their homes and hundreds die.
June 25th, an Israeli soldier is captured by Palestinian militants who attacked an army post in Israel after crossing the border from the Gaza Strip into Israel, Israel responds by invading Gaza and bombing infrastructure.
January 20th: Hamas wins a sweeping victory in the first Palestinian parliamentary elections in a decade. Israel and the United States say they will not deal with a Palestinian Authority that includes Hamas.
January 4th: Ariel Sharon suffers a stroke and Ehud Olmert becomes acting Prime Minister of Israel.


August: Israel enagages in a "unlateral pullout" from Gaza (which mainly meant evacuating settlers)
January 9th, Mahmoud Abbas wins the Palestinian elections and is sworn in as President of the Palestinian National Authority


November 10th: Arafat dies after being in a coma and on life-support equipment for the several days.
May: Israel Defense Forces commit massacre in Rafah
On April 17th, Hamas leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi is assassinated by Israel.
On April 14th, Bush meets with Sharon and they agree on a wall in the West Bank that will make many Israeli settlements permanent.
On March 22nd Israel assassinates Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Ismail Yassin.


Second Intifada, or the Al-Aqsa Intifada, Begins. Negotiations for a final settlement fall apart in July. Palestinians had insisted that refugees should have the right to return to Israel, which would produce an Arab majority in Israel. Israel had insisted on annexing key portions of the Palestinian areas and on leaving most settlements intact, and offers only a limited form of Palestinian statehood. On September 28, Palestinians riot after Israeli former military and opposition leader Ariel Sharon, with 1,000 Israeli troops, visits the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which is also the site of the Al-Aqsa mosque and Sharon proclaims the area eternal Israeli territory. The violence escalates rapidly with many casualties on both sides, although the loss of life falls far more heavily on the Palestinians. Less than a year later, Sharon is elected Prime Minister of Israel, and the violence continues today...


September 13: Oslo Accords, or Oslo Declaration of Principles. The PLO and Israel agree to mutual recognition. The Palestinian Authority is created and granted partial control over parts of the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The PLO leadership renounces terrorism, and agrees to revise the PLO charter to remove chapters referring to destruction of Israel. In 1995, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, one of the architects of the Oslo Peace Accords (along with Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat), is assasinated by a right-wing, fundamentalist Israeli who views the Accords as treasonous. Israel does not dismantle any settlements, and the number of settlers and new settlements increases considerably, especially once the conservative Benjamin Netanyahu is elected as Israeli Prime Minister after the assassination of Rabin. Palestinian groups do not remove their charter goals of destroying Israel. In January 1996, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian-controlled parts of the West Bank elect a legislature controlled by the Fatah faction, with Yasser Arafat as Chairman to administer these areas.


The First Intifada. A spontaneous explosion of popular resistance to the Israeli occupation, a resistance which had begun some fifty years before, a revolt called the Intifadeh, begins in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Hamas is founded by Sheikh Ahmed Ismail Yassin and dedicates itself to the destruction of Israel and the creation of an Islamic state in Palestine. After its losses in Lebanon, the PLO signals that it would accept a two state solution in 1988.


June 6: Israel invades Lebanon to fight the PLO. UN Security Council Resolution 509 demands that Israel withdraw all its military forces, but Israel advances rapidly to Beirut anyway, surrounding the capital by June 13th, beyond the 40 KM limit declared by Ariel Sharon originally. A multinational force, including the U.S., lands in Beirut on August 20, 1982 to oversee the PLO withdrawal from Lebanon, including Yasser Arafat being expelled from Beirut, and relocated to Tunis, Tunisia. Israeli Minister of Defense Ariel Sharon was considered responsible for the massacre and rape of possibly 1,000 or more Palestinian civilians by Lebanese Christian militias in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps and Sharon later resigned. Hizballah, a Shi'ite anti-Israel terror group, which also establishs many humanitarian organizations, was created in Lebanon. After a demoralizing occupation, Israel slowly withdraws.


March 26: Egypt and Israel sign peace treaty, brokered by President Carter as the Camp David Accords (1978) between Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. The terms of the treaty require both countries to stop all hostile activity and demilitarize the Sinai. Israel withdraws to the pre-1967 border, giving up military bases, settlements, roads and other infrastructure as well as the Sinai oil fields. Four days prior to signing of treaty, UN Security Council Resolution 446 declares settlements on Palestinian land to be illegal.


October 6: Yom Kippur War (or Ramadan War or October War). In a surprise attack on the Jewish day of atonement, Egypt retakes the Suez canal. Syria reconquers the Golan Heights. Following massive US and Soviet resupplying of the sides, Israel succeeds in pushing back the Syrians and threatening Damascus. Ariel Sharon crosses the Suez Canal and cuts off the Egyptian Third Army.


June 5: The Six-Day War. After Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser closes the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping and dismisses UN peacekeeping force in May, and negotiations with the U.S. to reopen the Straits of Tiran fail, Israel attacks the Egyptians, reconquering the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza. Jordan begins to attack Israel, and Israel in turn conquers the West Bank and Jerusalem. Syrian artillery based in the Golan Heights pounds civilian targets in northern Israel, and after dealing with Egypt, Israel conquers the Golan heights as well. The war changes the perceived balance of power in the Middle East, as Israel has acquired extensive territories that were several times larger than the 1948 borders. UN Security Council Resolution 242 calls for Israeli withdrawal from the acquired territories to no avail. As a result of the war, 300,000 additional Palestinians were evicted from their homes. 180,000 of them were resettled refugees from the 1948 war who became refugees anew.


May: Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) founded, headquartered in Beirut, Lebanon and Damascus, Syria. The Palestinian National Charter (1968) officially calls for liquidation of Israel. Fatah joins with the PLO in 1969.


October 29: Suez War. After Egyptian-sponsored terrorists, known as "fedayeen," launch frequent incursions into Israeli territory, Israel invades the Sinai peninsula and occupies it for several months, with French and British collaboration. Israel withdraws after a UN peace keeping force is placed in Sinai, and US guarantees right of passage for Israeli shipping through the Straits of Tiran. In 1957, Yasser Arafat founds al-Fatah to work towards Palestinian independence. Fatah carries out numerous acts of terrorism in Western Europe and the Middle East to achieve those ends.


April 3: Armistice Agreements between Israel and Arab states ends the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. The war has created over 780,000 Palestinian refugees who fled or were evicted from Jewish held areas. Through the borders established along the "green line", Israel gains about 50% more territory than was originally allotted to it by the failed UN Partition Plan (1947). Gaza falls under the jurisdiction of Egypt. The West Bank of the Jordan is occupied by Jordan and later annexed, consistent with secret agreements made with the Zionist leadership prior to the initiation of hostilities.


May 15: 1948 1948 Arab-Israeli War (or Israeli War of Independence). Declaration of Israel as the Jewish State. British leave Palestine. Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia declare war on Israel. The Deir Yassin massacre and Palestinian exodus occurred during this war.


Arab Revolt (or Great Uprising). Since the British Mandate was established, a large influx of Jewish immigrants escaping persecution in Europe, especially after the rise of Adolf Hitler, move to the area and this immigration draws immediate and violent opposition from local Arabs. During the "Great Uprising" of 1936-1939 over 5,000 Arabs are killed, mostly by the British, and several hundred Jews are killed by Arabs.


October 2: Promising a homeland for the Jews in Palestine, the British issue the Balfour Declaration, after having defeated the Ottoman Empire in WWI and subsequently attaining control of the area from the League of Nations in the so-called British Mandate. The British formally partition 'Palestine' in 1922. At the time, the population of Palestine consisted of approximately 638,000 Muslims, 93,400 Jews and 81,400 Christians.


While earliest records indicate the small region west of the Jordon was called Cannan while under Egyptian control before 1500 B.C.E., it was later referred to as Palestine by Greek writers as early as Herodotus, and the Bible uses the terms Palestine [the coastal region inhabited by the Philistines] and Israel ["(land of) Israel", "land of the Hebrews", "land flowing with milk and honey", "land that [God] swore to your fathers to assign to you", "Holy Land", and "land of the LORD"]. Over millenia, political, religious, and ethnic control has changed several times. After the Egyptian empire crumbled, Hebrew tradition states that 12 tribes of Jews from Egypt conquered the area about 1000 B.C.E. The kingdom was divided into Judea in the south and Israel in the north following the death of David's son, Solomon. Several hundred years later, the Assyrians conquered Israel and the Babylonians conquered Judah and destroyed Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem, exiling a large number of Jews. The Persian king Cyrus later conquered Babylonia and allowed a group of Jews to rebuild Jerusalem and settle in it. About 61 B.C., Roman troops under Pompei invaded Judah and sacked Jerusalem. The Romans called the area Judea. Roman rulers put down at least two Jewish revolts and in A.D. 135, the Romans drove the Jews out of Jerusalem, renaming the area Palaestina about this time. In time, Christianity spread to most of Palestine. During the seventh century, Muslim Arab armies moved north from Arabia to conquer most of the Middle East, including Palestine. Muslim powers controlled the region for the most part until the early 1900's. The rulers allowed Christians and Jews to keep their religions. However, most of the local population gradually accepted Islam and the Arab-Islamic culture of their rulers. Jerusalem became holy to Muslims as the site where, according to tradition, Muhammed ascended to heaven after a miraculous overnight ride on his horse Al-Buraq. The al-Aqsa mosque was built on the site generally regarded as the area of the Jewish temples. European Crusaders invaded Palestine, capturing Jaffa and Jerusalem in A.D. 1099. The Crusaders were finally evicted by Muslim forces in 1291, although Crusaders raided the coast of Palestine frequently. To minimize the gains from these raids, the Muslim rulers pulled back population from the coasts and the result was to greatly depopulate and impoverish the coast of Palestine for hundreds of years. In the mid-1200's, Mamelukes, originally soldier-slaves of the Arabs, based in Egypt established an empire that in time included the area of Palestine. Arab-speaking Muslims made up most of Palestine's population. Beginning in the late 1300's, Jews from Spain and other Mediterranean lands settled in Jerusalem and other parts of the land. The Ottoman Turks defeated the Mamelukes in 1517, and Palestine became part of the Ottoman Empire.

In the late 1800's, oppression of Jews in Eastern Europe started to spur Zionist emigration to the Ottoman province of Palestine. By 1880, about 24,000 Jews lived in Palestine, out of a population of about 400,000. In 1896, Theodor Herzl wrote the book "Der Judenstaat" ("The Jewish State") and in 1897 the Zionist Organisation (later known as the WZO) was formed with the goal of establishing a Jewish homeland outside of Europe. The Zionist Organization established companies and institutions to carry out its policies including Keren Hayesod, the Jewish National Fund, the Jewish Colonial Trust, and the Jewish Colonial Trust's subsidiary, the Anglo-Palestine Bank. Immigation to Palestine before World War One occured in two distinct waves. The First Aliyah, usually seen as being from 1882-1903, involved the migration of 20,000 to 30,000 Orthodox Jews mainly from Eastern Europe to small farms spread across Palestine. The Second Aliyah (1904-1914) involved the movement of over 100,000 mainly secular Jews (including many Socialists) to both farms and factories that were built by the Rothschild Foundation to encourage emigration. Only half of those who immigrated to Palestine during the Second Aliyah stayed since work was scarce as factories found the European settlers unwilling to work for as low wages as the Arabs. On the eve of World War One, Palestine's total population was around 700,000, with a Jewish population of 85,000 (12%).

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