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The Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron on the West Bank is said to contain the remains of Abraham, one of the forefathers of the Jewish faith.
Kingdom of Israel
1000 B.C. (circa)

Toward the end of the second millennium B.C., Moses led the Hebrew people out of Egypt into the "Promised Land" -- Canaan. In the early 12th century B.C., the region was invaded by the seafaring Philistines, who ruled it for about 150 years. At some point, the Greeks and Romans began calling the region the "Land of the Philistines," from which the name Palestine is derived. The Hebrews under Saul created their own kingdom around 1020 B.C. Around 950 B.C., the kingdom fractured into two states: Israel, with its capital at Samaria, and Judah, with its capital in Jerusalem.

A sculpture of Jesus Christ by artist Richmond Barth
Christians claim the Holy Land
A.D. 312

Over the centuries, Persians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Greeks and Romans ruled Palestine, the latter during the time of Jesus of Nazareth. In A.D. 312, Roman Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, and Jerusalem became a destination for Christian pilgrims. Tradition says that Jesus was crucified and buried on the site where Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher now stands

Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock around 1912.
An Islamic shrine in Jerusalem

Muslim Arabs under caliph Umar captured Palestine in 640. In 691, they built one of Islam's holiest shrines, the Dome of the Rock, on a site where the Hebrew Temple of Solomon once stood in Jerusalem. The site was chosen because it was believed to be the place where the prophet Muhammad halted on his journey to heaven, but it also set the stage for centuries of conflict between Arabs and Jews. The disputed holy site is called Temple Mount by the Jews and Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary, by Muslims.

The Mamluks, a class of soldier slaves, seized power in Egypt in the 13th century and stood fast against the Mongols. (Photo credit Islamicity)
Rule of the Ottomans

Centuries of conflict between Christians and Arabs in the Holy Land ended in 1291 with the rise of the Mamluks, warrior slaves who overthrew Egypt's rulers and established a 260-year dynasty in the Middle East. They, in turn, were overthrown by the Ottoman Turks, who kept outsiders from Palestine for nearly 300 years.

The First Zionist Congress convenes in Basel, Switzerland. The participants vow to "create a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured by public law."
Nationalism from A to Z

Responding to growing anti-Semitism in Europe in the late 19th century, a number of influential European Jews founded a movement called Zionism whose goal was to re-create a Jewish homeland in Palestine. During the years before World War I, Zionists established dozens of colonies in Palestine amidst a population that was largely Arab and Muslim. There were, however, pockets of Arab Christians and Jews as well, and many of the Jewish settlements were on land purchased from Arabs. At the same time, Arab nationalism was beginning to surface in opposition to Turkish rule.

Arthur J. Balfour, 1917
Arthur J. Balfour

Britain gained control of Palestine after World War I and endorsed Foreign Secretary Arthur J. Balfour's idea of a "national home" for the Jews. The British also promised to respect the rights of non-Jews in the area, and to allow Arab leaders to have their own independent states. There was a critical misunderstanding, however: The Arabs thought Palestine was to be an independent Arab state, which was not what the British intended.
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A British police officer faces a crowd of demonstrators near a government house in Jaffa in 1933.
(Courtesy Israeli National Photo Archive)
Armed conflict

The British began governing Palestine in 1920. They announced a Jewish homeland would be created in the region, but that it would exist within Palestine and not encompass the entire country. The first Arab riots against Zionism took place that same year, and in 1929 a dispute at the Wailing Wall ignited an Arab riot and a call for an Islamic jihad. Consequently, Jews began arming themselves, and both sides waged terrorist attacks.

Hitler rose to power in 1933
Nazism, strikes and boycotts

The rise of Nazism in Europe reinvigorated Zionism, and the British raised Jewish immigration quotas for Palestine from about 5,000 in 1932 to about 62,000 in three years. Fearing the Jews would seize control, Arabs launched a series of strikes and boycotts. A British commission concluded that Palestine should be partitioned into Jewish, Arab and British states, something the Zionists accepted reluctantly. But the Arabs, enraged that they might be removed forcibly from the proposed Jewish state, rejected the idea.

For 12 years between 1933 and 1945, in what would later be referred to as the Holocaust, Germany's Adolf Hitler persecuted Jews and other minorities. The Nazis systematically killed an estimated 6 million Jews.
War, Holocaust and partition

Jewish refugees from the Holocaust flooded into Palestine during World War II, their plight stirring support for a Jewish state. The Arabs formed the Arab League as a counterweight to Zionism, and in 1947 the United Nations voted to divide Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, the latter occupying 55 percent of the land west of the Jordan River. Jerusalem was designated as an international enclave.
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Members of the Israel Defense Forces' 8th Brigade in 1948
Independence, war, armistice

Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion's declaration in Tel Aviv on May 14, 1948, that Israel was an independent state triggered an invasion by Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, Lebanon and Iraq. Over the next 15 months, the Israelis expanded their holdings to northern Galilee and southern Negev. The ensuing armistice divided Jerusalem between Israel and Jordan, but the fate of 400,000 Palestinian Arabs who fled Israel during the fighting and were in camps near the border was not resolved.
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A political crisis centered around the Suez Canal in 1956.
War in the Sinai

Raids and reprisals between the Arabs and Israel, and Egypt's seizure of the Suez Canal, led to Israel's invasion of the Sinai Peninsula. While French and British troops took control of the canal, the Israelis took Gaza and Sharm el Sheikh at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula that controls access to the Gulf of Aqaba and the Indian Ocean. Israel withdrew in 1957 after its access to the gulf was guaranteed by the United Nations.

Yasser Arafat led the militant group Al Fatah in the 1960s.
Al Fatah and the PLO

Former Palestinian activist and Egyptian army soldier Yasser Arafat and Abu Jihad (Khalil al-Wazir) founded Al Fatah -- an acronym for the Palestine National Liberation Movement. It grew rapidly through the 1960s to become the biggest and richest Palestinian force. In 1969, Arafat became chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, a group formed in 1964 as an umbrella for a number of Palestinian factions engaging in guerrilla warfare against Israel. The U.N. General Assembly voted to grant observer status to the PLO in November 1974.

Israeli Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin visiting troops in the Six-Day War in 1967
Six-Day War

In May 1967, Egypt closed the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli shipping and began mobilizing its forces to attack Israel. Syria and Jordan also mobilized against Israel. In response, Israel launched a strike. Starting June 5, the Israeli air force destroyed Egypt's planes on the ground. Enabled by air superiority throughout the region, Israeli tank columns and infantry captured the Sinai Peninsula in three days. Elsewhere, the Israelis overran the Golan Heights, the West Bank of the Jordan River, including the Old City of Jerusalem (which Israel later annexed), and Gaza. The war was over by June 10, ended by a U.N.-arranged cease-fire. The United States called on the Israelis to withdraw from occupied territories but did not specify how much land it should give up.

Relatives of the Israeli athletes killed during the Palestinian hostage crisis at the 1972 Munich Olympics arrive for a memorial service at Ben-Gurion Airport in Lod, Israel.
PLO expelled

Artillery duels between Israelis and Palestinians based in Jordan, along with airline hijackings by Palestinian guerrillas, led to fears that Jordan might be taken over by the PLO. Jordanian troops drove the PLO out of the country in 1971, and the PLO relocated to Lebanon. In September 1972, a militant faction known as Black September killed 11 Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany.

Israeli troops question a captured Syrian soldier in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Yom Kippur War

Egypt and Syria launched a joint attack on Israel on October 6, the Jewish holy day Yom Kippur. Iraq also joined the attack, and other Arab states contributed support. Caught off-guard, Israel took several days to mobilize, suffering heavy casualties, but it forced the opposition back. The Israeli army even pushed Egyptian forces back across the Suez Canal and occupied the canal's western bank. It also took large chunks of Syrian territory before the Arab forces agreed to another cease-fire arranged by the United Nations. In a series of 1974 agreements, Israel withdrew its forces back across the canal into Sinai and came to cease-fire terms with Syria. But the war established Israel as the dominant power in the region.

U.S. President Jimmy Carter with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, left, and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat at Camp David, Maryland, in 1979.
Camp David accords

Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty March 26 that formally ended the state of war that had existed between them for 30 years. In return for Egypt's recognition of Israel's right to exist, Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula. The two nations also formally established diplomatic relations.
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Israeli troops invaded Lebanon to destroy PLO strongholds.
War in Lebanon

Just a few weeks after withdrawing from the Sinai, Israeli jets in early June bombed PLO strongholds in Beirut and southern Lebanon in retaliatory raids. Shortly thereafter the Israeli army invaded Lebanon and surrounded Beirut, halting negotiations with the PLO. After 10 weeks of intense shelling, the PLO agreed to leave Beirut under the protection of a multinational force and to relocate to other Arab countries. The episode precipitated an intense leadership struggle among PLO factions. Israel had withdrawn from most of Lebanon by 1985, but it continued to hold a buffer strip along its border that it seized in 1978. Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in May 2000.

Palestinians carry the body of a fellow Palestinian suspected of collaborating with Israel during the intifada in 1987

After 20 years of occupation, friction peaked again when Palestinians living in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem rioted against the Israelis in what came to be known as the intifada, or "uprising." The demonstrations continued for years, and Yasser Arafat proclaimed that the PLO was the government in exile of a "State of Palestine." The PLO formally recognized Israel's right to exist in 1988. When peace talks began in 1991, however, the PLO was excluded

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, right, and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shake hands before U.S. President Bill Clinton after signing the Oslo accords in 1993.
A handshake and treaty

Secret negotiations near Oslo, Norway, between Israel and the PLO resulted in a treaty that included mutual recognition, limited self-rule for Palestinians in Jericho and Gaza, and provisions for a permanent treaty that would resolve the status of Gaza and the West Bank. Signed in Washington, the agreement was sealed by a historic handshake between Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Rabin, Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.

Three victims of the Hebron massacre in 1994.
Massacre and withdrawal

In February, an extremist Jewish settler killed 39 Palestinians as they prayed in a West Bank mosque. Tensions were high. Nevertheless, Israel withdrew in May from Jericho on the West Bank and from Gaza. In July, Arafat entered Gaza and swore in members of the Palestinian Authority, which took control of education and culture, social welfare, tourism, health and taxation.

An image of the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin adorns an Israeli flag shortly after his assassination in 1995.
Rabin assassination

In September, Rabin and Peres signed an agreement expanding Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and giving the Palestinian Authority control over six large West Bank towns. Rabin was assassinated at a peace rally two months later by an Israeli law student with connections to right-wing extremists.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves to the crowd after his election victory in 1996.
Pivotal elections

In the first-ever elections held by Palestinians, Arafat was the overwhelming choice as president of the Palestinian Authority. In Israel, a massive bus bomb set off by Islamic extremists killed 25 and wounded dozens in the run-up to the prime minister election. Hard-line Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu defeated Peres in a close race. Netanyahu and Arafat pledged to work toward a final peace treaty. The Israeli government decided later that year to end a freeze on construction in the occupied territories. Clashes continued between Palestinians and Jewish settlers.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat shakes hands with the crowd during the Israeli handover of Hebron in 1997.
Handover, housing and Hamas

The West Bank town of Hebron was returned to Palestinian control after 30 years under the Israelis. But Netanyahu approved a large new Jewish housing project in eastern Jerusalem. New violence broke out. Among the incidents were the detonation of suicide bombs in an outdoor market in Jerusalem that killed 15 and wounded 170. An extremist Palestinian group called Hamas claimed responsibility, and the Israeli Cabinet insisted the peace talks would continue only when the terrorism ended.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, shakes hands with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at the signing of the Wye River accords in 1998. Jordan's King Hussein and U.S. President Bill Clinton look on.
Wye River accords

After a yearlong stalemate and a marathon 21-hour session mediated by U.S. President Bill Clinton, Netanyahu and Arafat signed a land-for-peace deal October 23 at Wye Mills, Maryland. It called for a crackdown on terrorists, redeployment of Israeli troops, transfer of 14.2 percent of the West Bank land to Palestinian control, safe passage corridors for Palestinians between Gaza and the West Bank, the release of 750 Palestinians from Israeli prisons and a Palestinian airport in Gaza.

Newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak celebrates after winning the 1999 election
Barak by a landslide

Moderate Labor candidate Ehud Barak unseated Netanyahu in the May prime minister election, winning by a record margin. Israel released 200 Palestinian prisoners and began transferring West Bank land to Palestinian control as part of the terms of the Wye accords.

U.S. President Bill Clinton talks with Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat, center, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at Camp David, Maryland, in June 2000.
Impasse, more fighting

Clinton moderated a summit between Barak and Arafat at Camp David in July as the September 13 deadline for a final peace accord approached. The talks ended after 15 days with no agreement. Arafat rejected Barak's offer for control of most, but not all, the territory Israel occupied in the 1967 Six-Day War.

In late September, Israeli right-wing opposition leader Ariel Sharon led a delegation to a Jerusalem site that Jews and Muslims consider sacred. Crowds of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank began attacking Israeli security forces after the controversial visit. The violence continued on both sides. Barak's support eroded, and he resigned in December, calling for a special prime minister election to be held in February 2001.
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Ariel Sharon celebrates his victory as Israeli prime minister in February 2001.
Sharon victory and renewed violence

President Clinton left office in January without bringing both parties together in a final peace agreement.

After months of stepped-up violence between Palestinians and Israelis, Likud Party leader Ariel Sharon defeated Ehud Barak by a landslide in Israel's February 6 special election for prime minister.

The September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States sparked a renewed interest in the Mideast peace process. But violence erupted again in December after explosions in Jerusalem and the northern Israeli port city of Haifa, which killed at least 25 Israelis and three suicide bombers. The attacks led to major Israeli military strikes against Palestinian targets in the West Bank and Gaza, and a new round of violence started, stalling the peace process once more.

Violence in the Middle East worsened in 2002 with outbreaks such as a Palestinian gunman's assault on a Tel Aviv restaurant that killed three Israelis in March. Emergency workers attend to a victim in the attack.
Violence intensifies as Saudi leader proposes peace plan

The situation in the Mideast worsened, with a seemingly constant barrage of suicide bombings and Israeli military actions. Israeli forces invaded Palestinian refugee camps to flush out what Israelis say are militants, while multiple suicide bombings were carried out by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the military wing of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement. On March 8, the deadliest day so far in the 17 months of renewed fighting, at least 45 were killed.

But there also has been an increasing interest in a peace plan put forth by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah in which Arab states would recognize Israel's right to exist in exchange for its return to pre-1967 borders. The idea has received support from other Arab nations and the United States, and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon signaled a new willingness to pursue cease-fire negotiations with the Palestinians and lifted the ban preventing Arafat from traveling outside the West Bank city of Ramallah.