Updated: June 2015
Who (are the main combatants): The government of Israel, with strong support from the United States, opposes the governing authorities of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO/Fatah), is in charge of the West Bank, while Hamas controls the Gaza Strip. In 2014, Fatah and Hamas formed a unity government, led by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.
What (are the major aims and events): Israel aims to consolidate its territory in the region and protect itself against attacks from Palestinian groups, whose ultimate objectives are to end the Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and West Bank and create a Palestinian state in those territories with East Jerusalem as the capital city, allowing for a return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland.
When (has fighting occurred): Fighting between Israel and Palestine has been ongoing since the United Nations created the state of Israel in 1947.
Where (has the conflict taken place): In recent years the primary centres of conflict have been in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip have been met with Israeli airstrikes, and the two sides have frequently exchanged fire. Clashes have also taken place in Lebanon; Israel invaded Lebanon in 1978 and 1982.
2015 Conflict in Israel-Palestine persisted. In April Palestine acceded to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as a full member. Israel held parliamentary elections in March; incumbent Prime Minister Netanyahu returned to office after forming a right-wing coalition. In mid-June Palestinian Authority President Abbas dissolved the unity government between Fatah and Hamas and ordered Prime Minister Hamdallah to form a new government. Tension between Hamas and Salafi Jihadists resulted in a number of violent attacks. The Israeli government restricted Muslim access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in September. Low-intensity conflict persisted during the year, with a marked increase in December.
2014 Peace talks continued early in the year, but collapsed in April. Rocket fire by Islamic Jihad temporarily broke a 16-month ceasefire in March. The early June murder of three Israeli youths prompted an intensive arrest campaign in the West Bank. Militants in Gaza responded with rocket fire. In July, protests swelled after a Palestinian teenager was killed to avenge the Israeli teenagers. The same month, Israel launched a military operation into Gaza that left at least 2,104 Palestinians and 72 Israelis dead. Conflict significantly deescalated when summer ended. Agreement on a ceasefire was reached with the help of Egyptian authorities. A coalition between Hamas and Fatah resulted in the formation of a united Palestinian government midyear. The European Union General Court removed Hamas from its list of terrorist organizations. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu announced plans to build an additional 1,500 housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem; this move was met by international condemnation. Palestine applied to join the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in January 2015.
2013 Although levels of violence and the number of fatalities declined, with 49 deaths reported for the year, tensions between Israel and Palestine remained high. Peace talks mediated by the United States began in August and continued in early 2014, but have been impeded by ongoing construction of settlements by Israel in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Binyamin Netanyahu was reelected Israeli Prime Minister in January. Hamas and Fatah also engaged in peace talks and recommitted to forming a unity government. However, political turmoil in Egypt proved problematic for negotiations, as Hamas feared that Fatah would use support from Cairo to regain power in the Gaza Strip. Late in the year the new government in Egypt closed off tunnels used to smuggle food and fuel into the Gaza Strip, intensifying a humanitarian crisis when water and sewage plants shut down from lack of fuel. Israel intensified its blockade and restricted imports of construction materials after discovering a Hamas-run tunnel linking Israel and Egypt. Palestinian demonstrations supporting prisoners undertaking a hunger strike were violently repressed by Israeli forces early in the year.
2012 The year saw little if any advance in the peace process. Palestinian authorities insisted that Israel halt the construction of settlements on Palestinian-occupied territory as a precondition to negotiations. Israel stated that it was willing to resume peace talks without the preconditions. International pressure on Israel to freeze settlement activity intensified. Violence continued. Palestinian militants fired many rockets into Israel. In retaliation Israel launched airstrikes. International Crisis Group reported more than 219 conflict deaths. November was the deadliest month with the launch of a seven-day operation by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) against Hamas in Gaza. Also in November, Palestine was granted non-member observer status by a majority UN General Assembly vote. In retaliation Israel announced the construction of 3,000 new homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
2011 Hamas and Israeli forces continued to exchange fire in Gaza, as violence rose to a level not seen in some years. Peace negotiations were halted when the Palestinians refused to return to talks until Israel halted the building of settlements in the occupied territories. Israel responded by building new settlements. Palestine was admitted as a full member of the United Nations Economic, Scientific and Cultural Organization, prompting Israel to temporarily freeze funds to the Palestinian Authority. In a prisoner swap 1,027 Palestinian prisoners were released in exchange for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation accord in May; talks went on during the year.
2010 Although the number of Palestinian rocket attacks declined, rocket attacks and retaliatory airstrikes by Israel continued. Settler violence against Palestinians increased substantially; Palestinian protesters and Israel Defense Forces clashed. Egypt and Israel attempted to seal off underground tunnels between the Sinai and Gaza Strip with an underground wall, also bombing tunnel openings. In May, Israeli naval commandos killed nine civilians on a flotilla that tried to pass the Gaza blockade. In September, Israel and the Palestinian Authority resumed peace talks, which stalled a few weeks later over settlement construction, especially in East Jerusalem. In December, Palestinians began seeking recognition as an independent state; several Latin American countries recognized an independent Palestine along 1967 borders.
2009 Although the Israeli offensive Operation Cast Lead ended major armed violence in the Gaza Strip in late January, tensions remained high. Reports accused Israel Defense Forces (IDF) of human rights abuses and operating outside international law. Sporadic rocket attacks from Gaza during the year led to renewed airstrikes by Israel. In April, the United Nations Human Rights Council appointed former UN war crimes prosecutor Richard Goldstone to head an investigation into war crimes by both sides during the war in Gaza. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for US$11-million in compensation for the UN property that Israel damaged during the operation. Tensions remained high between Fatah and Hamas, with clashes in the West Bank as well as executions of Fatah party members by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
2008 The blockade in Gaza led to an increasing humanitarian crisis. The first six months of 2008 saw increased fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas rebels; a six-month ceasefire was agreed to in June. The summer saw heightened violence between Hamas and Fatah. Israel shut down the border crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel and shut off fuel to the power plant in mid-January. The fuel was eventually turned on although blackouts occurred sporadically during the year. The blockade was opened periodically to allow in a minimal amount of humanitarian aid. However, for much of the year, the 1.5 million Gaza Strip inhabitants, including those needing medical aid, were trapped, with few resources. Conflict intensified after December 19.
2007 The November 2006 ceasefire was broken when Hamas and Fatah renewed fighting in April and May. In June, Hamas led an attack on the Gaza headquarters of Fatah, gaining control of the Gaza Strip. This caused an immediate blockade of goods from Israel and the international community, leaving three-quarters of the residents in Gaza living in extreme poverty. Palestinian militants continued to attack the Israeli border area with crude rockets, which led to retaliation by Israel. While death tolls were down, almost 400 people, most Palestinian, were killed in Israeli-Palestinian exchanges. More than 400 Palestinians died in factional fighting in Gaza.
2006 Ehud Olmert replaced an incapacitated Ariel Sharon as Israel’s Prime Minister in January. After the Hamas election victory early in the year, a power struggle between Hamas and the Fatah Party of President Mahmoud Abbas led to violence and failed attempts to form a unity government. In the wake of the Hamas victory, a number of international actors and the Israeli government cut funds to the Palestinian Authority. In response to the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier, Israel launched intensified military offensives in Gaza from July to November. Fighting in Gaza was overshadowed, however, by a 34-day war between Hezbollah and Israel. Fighting in Gaza and factional Palestinian fighting led to the deaths of nearly 1,000 people.
2005 The Israeli government unilaterally removed ground troops and dismantled its settlements in Gaza while continuing to expand settlements in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon quit the Likud Party and created a new party, Kadima, triggering 2006 elections. After a breakdown in an informal ceasefire between Palestinian militants and the Israeli army, fighting resumed. Approximately 275 people, mostly Palestinians, were killed.
2004 Violence continued as Palestinian suicide attacks on Israeli civilians and major Israeli military operations in the occupied territories killed more than 900 people. Long-time Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat died in November. The Israeli cabinet and Parliament approved a plan drafted by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to completely withdraw troops from the Gaza Strip and dismantle Israeli settlements. Sporadic clashes and Israeli airstrikes in Lebanon continued, killing at least 20 people.
2003 Violence continued most of the year, except for a two-month hiatus that followed the unveiling of a “road map” peace process backed by the United States. This process envisioned a Palestinian state by 2005, but stalled before the end of the year. In spite of new Palestinian suicide bombings and Israeli “anti-terror” operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the death toll declined significantly. A controversial security fence begun by Israel in the West Bank drew heavy criticism from the international community.
2002 Violence escalated as Israeli forces invaded a number of cities and refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza, and seized Yassar Arafat’s Ramallah compound. An estimated 1,600 people, most civilian, died from Israeli attacks and Palestinian suicide bombings.
2001 The year saw a dramatic increase in suicide bombings, raids, Israeli retaliations and assassinations. In February, Ariel Sharon became Israel’s Prime Minister and announced that he would not negotiate with Palestinians until violence and terror attacks stopped. In July, the Israeli security cabinet granted powers to the army to “liquidate” anyone it suspected of being a terrorist. There were at least 700 conflict-related deaths in Israel and the Palestinian territories. In Lebanon, raids, mortar attacks and Israeli reprisals resulted in at least 30 more conflict deaths amid claims that Iran had increased military aid to Hezbollah guerrillas in southern Lebanon. In November, the United Nations announced a reduction in its UN Interim Force in Lebanon.
2000 Violence between Israeli security forces and Palestinian demonstrators escalated dramatically in September after Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to Muslim holy sites in East Jerusalem. Security forces responded to Palestinian protests with lethal force; violent clashes soon spread to other parts of the West Bank, Gaza and Israel. An increase in attacks by Hezbollah forces resulted in the early withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon and the collapse of the Southern Lebanon Army. Lebanon rejected UN verification of the withdrawal, arguing that Israel still held Lebanese territory. At least 400 people, most Palestinians, died.
1999 There were violent confrontations between Israeli security units and Palestinian demonstrators and attacks by armed Palestinian groups on Israelis in the occupied territories and Israel. In Lebanon, rebels fired rockets on northern Israel and Israeli forces shelled Lebanese villages and bombarded rebel targets and civilian infrastructure. More than 100 died in the conflict, most in Lebanon.
1998 Israeli security forces killed Palestinian demonstrators; Israelis and Palestinians died in revenge attacks and suicide bombings. In Lebanon, guerrilla attacks were met with frequent Israeli artillery and air attacks on suspected rebel bases. At least 110 died, 80 in Lebanon.
1997 The Oslo II peace process was in shambles. Israeli security forces killed Palestinians in violent demonstrations triggered by stalled peace talks, new Israeli housing construction in the West Bank and anti-Islamic posters. Suicide bombings attributed to Hamas guerrillas killed civilians in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The conflict escalated in Lebanon with frequent Israeli air assaults on rebel bases and Hezbollah guerrilla bombings and rocket attacks. Israeli troops experienced the highest death toll in more than a decade. Approximately 250 died.
Type of Conflict
1. Government of Israel: Likud leader Binyamin (Benjamin) Netanyahu formed a government on February 20, 2009 with support from the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party. He was re-elected in 2013 and headed a coalition government made up of the Likud-Yisrael-Beitenu alliance and the Hatnua, Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi parties. Reuven Rivlin is President, a primarily ceremonial role. The Israeli government refuses to consider a division of Jerusalem, which it sees as the political and religious centre of the Jewish state. Netanyahu accepted the creation of a Palestinian state, but supported the construction of Israeli settlements on Palestinian territory in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The Israeli government opposed the right to return of Palestinian refugees displaced by wars.
2. United States Government: The U.S. government continues to be the largest supplier of military aid to Israel, as well as a strong backer of Israeli military policies. As a member of the Quartet (see below), the United States has also been a key actor in the promotion of the “roadmap to peace” plan for a negotiated settlement to the conflict. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is a key player in negotiations between Israel and Palestine that began in 2013. Israel is the closest U.S. ally in the region and one of the top recipients of U.S. foreign aid.
Palestinian Opposition Organizations and Groups:
3. Palestinian Unity Government: In June 2014, the two main Palestinian political factions, Fatah and Hamas, formed a coalition government that united the West Bank and Gaza under one government. The government was internationally recognized, but rejected by Israel, which regards Hamas as a terrorist organization. The 17-member unity government is led by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.
4. Harakat al-Tahrir al-Filistiniya/Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO/Fatah): The PLO was the internationally recognized multiparty confederation and representative body of the Palestinian people until 2014. It was founded in 1965 by Yasser Arafat to promote the liberation of Palestine from Israeli control. It is committed to engaging in peace talks with Israel and recognizes the right of Israel to exist. It became the largest Palestinian political faction and headed efforts to create a two-state solution with Israel under the 1990s Oslo Peace Accords. But in the January 2006 Palestinian election, the PLO lost to Hamas. In February 2007, Hamas and the PLO agreed to form a national unity government which was later dissolved due to internal conflict. From June 2007, Fatah’s authority became restricted to the West Bank. Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is the President of the State of Palestine. The PLO hopes to establish the Palestinian state in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as the capital city. In 2014, Fatah and Hamas formed a national unity government that united the West Bank and Gaza.
a. Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades: This armed Palestinian group is associated with, but not openly supported by, Fatah. It was established after the eruption of the second intifada (uprising) and has operated against Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza. Unlike Hamas, Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades does not seek an Islamic state, but fights for an independent Palestine.
5. State of Palestine (formerly Al-Sulta al-Wataniyyah al-Filistiniya/Palestinian National Authority (PNA/PA) and originally the Palestinian Authority): Under the 1994 Oslo agreement between the PLO and the Israeli government, the PNA became the governing body of the semi-autonomous Palestinian regions. The PNA was to be an interim governing body pending final negotiations of Palestine’s status. The PNA Parliament is made up of the Palestinian Legislative Council, whose 88 members are elected by the Palestinian people in the autonomous regions. The PNA was first led by President Yasser Arafat, and, beginning in 2003, an appointed Prime Minister. Mahmoud Abbas was elected President of the PNA in January 2005, following the death of Arafat in November 2004. Abbas, like his predecessor, is a member of the Fatah party. Rami Hamdallah is the current Prime Minister, replacing Salam Fayyad in 2013. After being recognized as a non-member observer state by the United Nations in 2012, PNA changed its name to State of Palestine in 2013.
6. Hakarat al-Muqawama al-Islamia/Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas): Hamas is a Gaza-based group established during the 1980s Palestinian uprising (the first intifada). Its current leader is Khaled Mashal. It provides healthcare, education and social services to the Palestinian people. Hamas’s Charter calls for the destruction of Israel. In its 2006 election manifesto, Hamas dropped this call. In 2006, Hamas won the elections, with 76 of 132 seats. The United States considers Hamas a terrorist organization, but in 2014, the European Union removed Hamas from its list of terrorist groups. Hamas and the PLO agreed to form a government of national unity in February 2007, but after internal clashes, Hamas ousted Fatah from the Gaza Strip and maintained control in the region. In 2014, Hamas and Fatah united Gaza and the West Bank under one government.
a. The Izzedine al-Qassam Brigade: is the military wing of Hamas. Hamas made its military presence felt in June 2007 by forcibly taking control of the Gaza Strip, which it has since used to launch missiles into Israel.
7. Salafi Jihadist Groups: These groups adhere to a strict interpretation of Islamic law and see themselves as a global movement defending Muslims against non-Muslim enemies.
a. Jund Ansar Allah/Soldiers of the Followers of God: Established in November 2008, this is an al-Qaeda-inspired group seeking to enforce sharia law in the Gaza Strip as well as supporting a global jihad. Believing Hamas is too liberal, they want an Islamic emirate in the Middle East. Hamas has come down sharply on this group.
8. Other groups opposed to the Israeli government
Many of these groups are, or have been, supported by Arab states, including Syria, Iraq, and Libya.
a. The Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine (PIJ): A major militant group in the Gaza Strip, it has fired missiles into Israel since 2007. It was set up by three Palestinian students who studied in Egypt in the late 1970s and were inspired by the Islamic revolution in Iran. The group’s intention is to resolve the conflict through armed confrontation. Their attacks range from armed infiltration into Israeli settlements to planting car bombs and suicide bombings on Israeli buses. Its long-term goals are similar to those of Hamas and the two groups have grown closer.
b. Hezbollah: Formed after Israel’s second invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Hezbollah has become one of the most powerful parties in Lebanon’s National Assembly, with 12 of its 128 seats. A Shia Muslim organization led by Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, it has 20,000 active members. Hezbollah has twin objectives: the destruction of Israel and the creation of an Islamic state in Lebanon. The party runs hospitals, television stations and newspapers, and is widely supported by the Lebanese.
9. Arab League: Though the organization passed a resolution calling for no peace, no recognition, and nor negotiations with Israel after the 1967 War, it now seeks to create better relations with Israel through the Arab Peace Initiative.
10. The Quartet on the Middle East: The United States, Russia, the EU and UN are international/supranational bodies involved in the mediation process of the Israel/Palestine conflict. The Quartet was established in 2002 to promote an end to the Israel-Palestine conflict while bringing stability to the Middle East. It works with Palestine, Israel, and international organizations and NGOs to establish and develop institutions and a sustainable economy for a future state of Palestine.
11. United Nations: Like the other members of the Quartet, the UN promotes a negotiated settlement to the conflict. The UN two-state partition of the British Mandate of Palestine in 1947 led to the creation of the State of Israel. UN resolutions continue to shape the politics of the region. The UN has also deployed a number of peacekeeping missions.
Since 1948, when the UN Security Council called a halt to hostilities in Palestine in Resolution 50, the UN has stationed a group of military observers, known as the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) in the region. This was the UN’s first peacekeeping operation. UNTSO remained in the area to supervise the Armistice Agreements between Israel and neighbouring countries. In January 2015, UNTSO comprised 151 military observers, 86 international civilian and personnel, and 135 local civilian staff. Its budget for 2014-2015 is $74,291,900.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was established to provide assistance and protection for the more than five million Palestinian refugees who are registered in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
2015 In early May Salafi Jihadists in Gaza intensified their campaign against Hamas; they claimed responsibility for an attack on a Hamas base near Khan Younis. In June Hamas security forces killed leading Salafi-jihadi militant Younis al-Hunnor in Gaza city. The Palestinian Authority arrested more than 250 Hamas members in the West Bank over a period of several weeks.
In early September there were clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protestors at Al-Aqsa Mosque, after the Israeli government restricted Muslim access to the site during the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah. After interventions by Western and Arab leaders Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to relax restrictions, but there were further clashes later in the month. There was a surge in violence at Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade in October. The government ordered heightened security at checkpoints and police on the roof of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and restricted entry to the Old City. According to The Guardian more than 10 Israelis were killed in a series of random stabbing and shooting attacks against civilians and security forces. The violence at Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade decreased dramatically in November, following an agreement between Israel and Jordan, the Muslim custodian of the Esplanade, to strengthen Jordan’s role. Violence increased in December, with a wave of almost daily stabbings, vehicle attacks, and shootings of Israelis by Palestinians in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza (Crisis watch).
2014 Rocket attacks on Israel by Islamic Jihad—the largest since the escalation of conflict in 2012—temporarily broke a 16-month ceasefire in March. The group claimed its actions were retaliation for the deaths of three members in an Israeli air strike. The announcement of a Fatah-Hamas unity government was followed by intense rocket fire between Israeli and Palestinian forces. During the Palestinian commemoration of the 1948 war in the West Bank, two Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli troops; the United Nations and United States urged further investigation.
In late June, three Israeli youths were killed in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu accused Hamas of complicity and launched the largest arrest campaign in the West Bank since 2003. In response, rockets were launched into Israel. In July a Palestinian teenager was killed to avenge the Israeli teenagers, sparking protests. In response to the rocket fire, in July Israel began a military operation in Gaza. In one of the deadliest summers of the conflict, more than 2,104 Palestinians and 69 Israelis were killed. In the two months that followed, Israel took steps to ease restrictions on travel between Gaza and Israel and the West Bank and permitted some reconstruction materials to enter the region. At the end of October, Israeli authorities closed the Holy Esplanade to all visitors following the killing of a Palestinian and other violence in Jerusalem. President Abbas declared the closure a “declaration of war,” and authorities lifted the closure order the same day. In November, five Israelis were killed and eight wounded during an attack on a Jerusalem synagogue. Several clashes were reported across Israel and Palestine. Tensions de-escalated in December.
2013 Continued construction of new settlement homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem by Israel contributed to tensions with Palestine. The year began with a ceasefire, which was broken in late February when the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade fired rockets into Israel. Israeli forces responded with an attack on the West Bank village of Qasra that injured civilians and destroyed property. According to the Israel Defense Forces website, in 2013, 41 rockets were fired on Israel from the Gaza Strip, compared to 2,248 the previous year. No Israeli casualties were reported. In February and April, hundreds of Palestinians were injured in the West Bank when civilian protests were met with force from Israeli forces. The demonstrations supported Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails who were undertaking a hunger strike to protest their captivity. The year ended in violence, as Israel launched airstrikes on the Gaza Strip in response to rocket attacks into southern Israel and the killing of an Israeli by a sniper at the border. The airstrikes killed at least two people, including a three-year-old Palestinian girl.
2012 Armed conflict between Israeli and Palestinian forces persisted. In March, Palestinian militants fired approximately 200 rockets into Israel. Most were intercepted by Israel’s missile defence system, Iron Dome. In retaliation, Israel launched an airstrike attack. An Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreement significantly reduced the rocket fire. In June violence again escalated, including a Gaza border gunfight, a cross-border attack from Egypt into southern Israel, continued Israeli airstrikes against Gaza and more rockets launched into Israel. November was among the deadliest months in 2012, with the launch of a seven-day IDF operation against Hamas in Gaza. This operation began with the assassination of Hamas militant leader Ahmed al-Jaabari and airstrikes into Gaza. Hamas retaliated with frequent rocket attacks near Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Five Israeli civilians and one soldier, along with more than 150 Palestinians (including militants) were killed. Two hundred nineteen Israelis and 1,200 Palestinians, mainly civilians, were injured. Much damage was done to Gaza’s infrastructure. November also saw several protests and clashes in the West Bank, with two protesters killed and dozens injured. A bus bombing in Tel Aviv injured 21. Following an Egyptian-negotiated ceasefire agreement, there were several reported incidents in which Israeli forces opened fire on Palestinians on the Gaza border. One person was killed and more than a dozen injured. Raids, arrests and clashes in occupied territories continued in December.
2011 In Gaza, violence between Israel and Hamas was at its highest point in years, despite a truce that began in November 2010. In March, Hamas significantly increased rocket strikes from Gaza into Israel. A bus bombing in the Jewish area of Jerusalem on March 23 was the first such attack in the city since 2008. Soon after, Israel launched a series of airstrikes. A family of five in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank were slain in their home; Palestinian militants were believed responsible. In July and August, Hamas and the IDF exchanged fire between Gaza and southern Israel. A truce, mediated by Egypt and the United Nations, was reached, but fighting resumed soon after. Sporadic violence along the Gaza border continued to the end of the year. On May 15, Palestinians marking the Nakba or Catastrophe–their term for the founding of the Israeli state in 1948–were fired upon by the IDF; 15 people were killed and 400 wounded.
2010 Israeli forces and militants in Gaza exchanged rocket fire during the year, with Israel claiming that their airstrikes were in retaliation for Hamas-fired rockets. These exchanges were particularly intense in January, April, May, July, September, November and December, killing a number of Hamas leaders and civilians. Palestinian rockets continued to target populated areas in Israel. IDF forces and Palestinian protesters clashed in both East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The UN reported 80-per-cent more settler violence than in 2009, with more than 300 incidents that resulted in injury to Palestinian persons or property. Egypt and Israel attempted to seal off underground tunnels between the Sinai and Gaza Strip by building an underground wall. Israel bombed tunnel openings. In May, a flotilla carrying humanitarian aid attempted to pass the Gaza blockade. Israel naval commandos boarded the ship and killed nine civilians; the UN condemned the action and called for an investigation. Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu defended IDF actions, saying that the soldiers acted in self-defence. In August, Israel bombed a suspected weapons manufacturing site and three smuggling tunnels in Gaza after mortar fire injured two Israeli soldiers.
2009 Fallout from Operation Cast Lead continued; various human rights organizations documented human rights abuses and war crimes. The IDF was accused of extrajudicial killings of civilians, the use of human shields and the unlawful use of white phosphorus shells over densely populated areas of the Gaza Strip. Human Rights Watch reported that the IDF used unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs), or drones, to target civilians. Even after a ceasefire, Palestinian militants continued to fire rockets into Israel. In December, extremist Jewish settlers attacked a mosque in the northern West Bank, burning hundreds of Korans and spraying graffiti in Hebrew. Jewish extremists issued death threats against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for his proposal to limit settlement construction. In February, Israel launched fresh attacks on the Gaza Strip, claiming to target the elaborate tunnel system under the Gaza-Egypt border, Gaza’s only unrestricted access to the outside. Clashes between Fatah security forces and Hamas armed groups continued in the West Bank.
2008 In the first six months, 380 Palestinians civilians and 25 Israeli soldiers were killed. A ceasefire was reached in June and held for 5.5 months. During that time, fighting escalated between Fatah and Hamas, as well as between Israeli settler populations and Palestinians in settler areas. In late November, Israel launched a raid into the Gaza Strip in response to cross-border tunneling and rocket attacks. Violence between Hamas and the Israelis then escalated. On December 28, violence in Gaza reached the highest level in the four decades of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip; 1,300 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilians, reportedly died.
2007 In April and May, fighting broke out between Hamas and Fatah, ending a ceasefire that began in November 2006. In June, Hamas seized the Fatah headquarters in the Gaza Strip, effectively giving them control of the region. This coup also ended the unity government that President Mahmoud Abbas had been hoping could work with Israel to define two separate states. Militants in the Gaza Strip began launching crude rockets on Israeli border towns, which led to air and ground attacks by the Israeli Defense Forces and the Israeli Air Force.
2006 After Hamas won Palestinian elections and formed the government early in the year, fighting between Hamas and Fatah erupted over control of their respective security forces, raising fears of civil war. After the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier in late June, Israel launched a major military offensive in Gaza, killing hundreds and destroying power and water plants. Fighting persisted in the shadow of the war in Lebanon until a ceasefire took hold in late November.
2005 Early in the year the Palestinian Authority and Israel agreed to a ceasefire; a unilateral ceasefire was announced by Palestinian militants. Israel removed ground forces from Gaza while retaining military control over Gaza’s borders and air space. The informal truce between Palestinian militants and the Israeli army unraveled later in the year. Palestinian militants carried out several suicide bombings in Israel and launched rockets into Israel from Gaza. The Israeli army carried out raids and air bombings in the occupied territories. Palestinian security forces clashed with Palestinian militants. Clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinians and human rights abuses by the Israeli army and Palestinian armed groups in the occupied territories continued.
2004 Palestinian attacks on Israeli civilians and intense Israeli military operations in the occupied territories killed more than 900. An Israeli airstrike killed Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and seven others. In June, Israel launched a massive incursion into Gaza that left 40 dead and 2,000 homeless. Clashes along the Israeli-Lebanon border and Israeli airstrikes into Lebanon continued.
2003 Palestinian militants used guerrilla tactics, often suicide bombs targeting Israeli citizens and soldiers. Israeli security forces responded with “anti-terror” military operations in Palestinian areas of the West Bank and Gaza. Israeli forces assassinated several Palestinian leaders, including Hamas co-founder Ibrahim Makadme; dozens of Palestinian civilians also died. A June ceasefire announced by Hamas and Islamic Jihad survived for almost two months, ending with a suicide bombing in Jerusalem in August and retaliatory strikes by Israeli forces. The Lebanon-Israel border remained tense as sporadic shelling of the disputed territory of Shebaa Farms, reportedly by Hezbollah, was met with Israeli airstrikes against suspected Hezbollah positions in Lebanon. Israel also launched a bombing raid on Syria, the first in more than two decades, citing Syria’s alleged support for Palestinian militant groups.
2002 In March, Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield, a major military offensive, on the main cities of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in response to increased suicide bombings by Palestinian militants. Amnesty International later accused Israeli forces of war crimes against Palestinian citizens in Jenin and Nablus; the UN General Assembly passed a May resolution condemning Israel’s military action in the Jenin refugee camp. Flights over, and bombing of, Lebanese territory by Israeli military aircraft continued. In April, Hezbollah rebels shelled the Shebaa Farms region near Israel’s border with Lebanon in retaliation for Israeli attacks on the West Bank.
2001 After the election of hard-line Prime Minister Ariel Sharon early in the year, conflict violence rose rapidly. Suicide bombings, Palestinian shootings, Israeli military retaliations and Israeli targeted assassinations were weekly, sometimes daily, occurrences. In Lebanon and northern Israel, Hezbollah raids and mortar attacks were met with Israeli retaliations. Israeli intelligence said in July that Iran had increased military support of Lebanese guerrillas.
2000 Violence between Israeli security forces and Palestinian demonstrators escalated dramatically after Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon’s September visit to Muslim holy sites in East Jerusalem. Security forces responded to Palestinian protests with lethal force, killing five and wounding more than 200. Violence spread to other parts of the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel. In October, in retaliation for the mob killing of two Israeli soldiers, Israeli helicopters hit Palestinian militia headquarters in four cities in the West Bank and Gaza. Increased attacks by Hezbollah forces led to the early withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon and the collapse of the Southern Lebanon Army. Lebanon rejected UN verification of the withdrawal, claiming that Israel still held Lebanese territory.
1999 Violent confrontations between Israeli security units and Palestinian demonstrators resulted in Palestinian deaths. Armed Palestinian groups, such as Hamas and the Palestine Islamic Jihad, launched a number of attacks against Israelis in the occupied territories and Israel. Hezbollah militants in Lebanon fired rockets on northern Israel, while Israeli forces shelled Lebanese villages and bombarded Palestinian and Lebanese rebel targets, as well as civilian infrastructure.
1998 Israeli security forces killed Palestinian demonstrators; Israelis and Palestinians died in revenge attacks and suicide bombings. Guerrilla roadside bombings and mortar and rocket attacks in Lebanon were met with frequent Israeli artillery and air attacks on suspected rebel bases.
1997 The Oslo II peace process was in shambles. Israeli security forces killed Palestinian demonstrators in clashes triggered by stalled peace talks, new Israeli housing construction in the West Bank and anti-Islamic posters. Suicide bombings attributed to Hamas killed civilians in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. In Lebanon. frequent Israeli air assaults on rebel bases and Hezbollah guerrilla bombings and rocket attacks claimed the highest toll on Israeli troops in more than a decade.
Total: It is estimated that more than 120,000 have been killed. Wars in 1948, 1967 and 1973 killed approximately 100,000. From December 1987 to 1992, a popular Palestinian uprising in the Israeli-occupied territories, the intifada, claimed more than 1,500, mostly Palestinian, lives. More than 12,000, including 500 Israelis, died in the Israeli invasions of Lebanon in 1978 and 1982. An estimated 4,228 Palestinians, 1,024 Israelis and 63 foreigners were killed in conflict between 2000 and 2007. During the 50-day conflict in Gaza in 2014, at least 2,104 Palestinians and 72 Israelis died.
2015 Approximately 152 Palestinian were killed and 14,925 injured, according to the UN OCHA report. It is estimated that 23 Israelis died.
Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDP): The UNHCR reported a total of 38,500 refugees, 6,591 asylum seekers, and 88 stateless persons residing in Israel-Palestine in June 2015 (UNHCR). Nine hundred and sixty-two refugees and 356 asylum seekers were reported to have originated from Israel-Palestine. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) at least 263,500 Palestinians were internally displaced in July 2015.
2014 There were approximately 81 Israeli deaths and 2,186 Palestinian deaths, according to International Crisis Group. UN OCHA reported 2,104 (1,462 civilian) Palestinian deaths and 69 (four civilian) Israeli deaths in July and August. The Military Balance reported 66 Israeli soldier and six civilian deaths.
Refugees and IDPs: OCHA reported approximately 100,000 internally displaced persons as a result of the conflict in Gaza – a drop from approximately 500,000 before the ceasefire brokered by Egypt took effect. There are approximately 1.2 million refugees from the Gaza strip and 765,000 from the West Bank; an additional 2.3 million Palestinians are food insecure or vulnerable to food insecurity because of the conflict.
2013 The death toll decreased significantly. International Crisis Group reported the deaths of four Israelis, while the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that 45 Palestinians were killed. The Israeli Security Agency listed six Israeli fatalities from “terrorist violence.” OCHA reported more than 4,000 Palestinians wounded, many during protests.
Refugees: There are 1.5 million registered Palestinian refugees living in 58 recognized Palestine refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. The total number of Palestinian refugees exceeds 5 million. This figure includes all people who lived in the territory of Palestine from 1946 to 1948, prior to the creation of the state of Israel. The UN Refugee Agency lists 96,801 refugees and 2,517 asylum seekers within its mandate; 1,054 refugees originate from Israel. Israel hosts more than 48,000 refugees from other countries. The right of Palestinian refugees to return has been a main point of contention.
2012 International Crisis Group reported more than 219 deaths, including approximately 21 Israelis and 198 Palestinians.
2011 According to ICG, 113 were killed, including 98 Palestinians, 11 Israeli civilians and two members of the IDF.
2010 According to media reports, 37 Palestinians, 26 Hamas militants and 26 IDF soldiers were killed. The UN reported 15 Palestinians killed and 1,148 injured and two IDF soldiers killed and 124 injured. Eight Turkish and one U.S. civilian were killed by the IDF in the May flotilla raid.
2009 Most reported fatalities occurred during the 22-day conflict following Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza between December 2008 and January 2009. According to an investigation by Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, 1,387 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces.
2008 The estimated death toll was 1,900, all but 100 Palestinian. In the first five months, approximately 380 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli army. Dozens of critically ill patients in Gaza reportedly died after being denied permission to leave to seek medical attention. Attacks from late December until the end of January 2009 caused an additional 1,300 Palestinian deaths.
2007 According to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, an estimated 373 Palestinians, one-third civilian, were killed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Thirteen Israeli soldiers and seven civilians were killed by Palestinians. Palestinian factional fighting within the Gaza Strip was more intense, killing 400 Palestinians.
2006 Close to 1,000 people were killed. An estimated 660 Palestinians (half civilian) were killed by Israeli forces, mainly in Gaza, while approximately 25 Israelis were killed by Palestinians. An estimated 300 Palestinians were killed in fighting between Fatah and Hamas.
2005 Approximately 275, of which about 215 were Palestinian, were killed. Fewer people were killed this year than in each of the four years since the beginning of the second intifada.
2004 More than 900 people, most Palestinian, were killed in Israel and the occupied territories, including Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and his replacement. At least 20 more combatants were killed in sporadic skirmishes on the Lebanese border.
2003 Approximately 800 were killed–600 Palestinian and most civilian.
2002 More than 1,500, most civilians, were killed; 1,200 were Palestinians and more than 300 Israelis.
2001 About 700, most Palestinian civilians, died. Violence in Lebanon killed 30.
2000 At least 350, most Palestinian civilians, died in Israel and the occupied territories. More than 50 others, some civilian, died from Israel-Lebanon cross-border attacks.
1999 More than 20 people were killed in Israel and the Palestinian territories. At least 90 died in southern Lebanon.
1998 At least 30 people died in Israel and the Palestinian territories. In Lebanon, more than 57 combatants and 22 civilians died.
1997 More than 200 people died in Lebanon, including 73 Israeli soldiers killed in a double helicopter collision in February. At least 40 people died in suicide bombings in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and in Israeli troop clashes with Palestinian demonstrators.
2015 In early January the UN announced that Palestine would accede to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court; it became a full member of the ICC in April. After the announcement, Israel froze the transfer of Palestinian tax revenues, but resumed payment in late March. The Palestinian Authority (PA) refused to pay Gaza’s Hamas-hired civil servants.
Israeli legislative elections took place in mid-March. The Likud party took 30 of the 120 parliamentary seats (Al Jazeera). By May Prime Minister Netanyahu had formed a right-wing government coalition. U.S. President Obama stated in mid-May that he would not resume peace talks with the new government and would focus instead on smaller goals such as reconstruction in Gaza.
In June the PA dissolved the Hamas-Fatah unity government; President Abbas of the State of Palestine ordered Prime Minister Hamdallah to form a new government, which Hamas refused to join. In late August Abbas announced that he would resign from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) but retain the presidency.
According to Crisis Watch, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met separately with Netanyahu and Abbas in both October and November in attempts to quell the violence (Crisis Watch). In early December Kerry warned Israel about the dangers of the possible collapse of the PA.
2014 Peace talks mediated by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry broke down in April after Israel’s refusal to free a fourth group of Palestinian prisoners and Palestine’s declared intention of joining 15 international treaties. The U.S. attempt to broker an extension of peace talks past the April deadline ultimately failed. Following a summer of violent conflict, an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire agreement was reached. In June, rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas formed a unity government, with most senior positions filled by members of the previous government. Israel, which views Hamas as a terrorist organization, rejected the government. The EU General Court reversed their designation of Hamas as a terrorist organization – a decision several European states pledged to dispute. Israel announced a plan to build 1,500 new housing units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem; this move was met with international condemnation. Palestine applied to join the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court following the failure of the Jordanian-submitted Palestinian draft resolution to the UN Security Council calling for the withdrawal of Israel from occupied Palestinian territories.
In May the Israeli Government approved a law that would allow judges to sentence prisoners to life imprisonment without parole for terrorism and other crimes of particularly heinous nature. In November the bill was passed by the Knesset. The same month, Prime Minister Netanyahu declared his support for a controversial law that would define Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People. A campaign for Jewish prayer rights on the Temple Mount raised tensions in Jerusalem. Prime Minister Netanyahu upheld the status quo. Reuven Rivlin became president of Israel in June. In December the Knesset granted Prime Minister Netanyahu`s request for an early election.
2013 Incumbent Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Likud-Yisrael-Beiteinu alliance, consolidated power in January elections, winning 31 seats in the 120-member parliament with 23 per cent of the vote. Netanyahu formed a coalition with Hatnua, Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi.
Peace talks mediated by the United States began in August between Israeli and Palestinian representatives, with all major issues on the table: Palestinian refugees, Jerusalem, security and borders. Three of four sets of 26 Palestinian prisoners were released by Israel in 2013 in August, October and December. In advance of the peace talks in August, Israel announced plans for 2,000 new settlement homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem; 1,700 additional homes were approved in November. The same month, talks derailed after a plan by the Israeli Ministry of Housing to build 24,000 new homes for Israelis in the West Bank and East Jerusalem was uncovered. Palestinian negotiators resigned and Netanyahu halted the settlement plans, denying any personal involvement in the project. Israel was heavily criticized by the United States, the European Union and the Palestinian Authority in December for granting approval for the construction of 14,000 settlement homes in the West Bank.
Hamas and Fatah also engaged in several months of talks in Cairo to advance a unity deal signed in 2011. In May, they agreed to form a unity government by August. However, political upheaval in Egypt, resulting in the overthrow of the Morsi government, proved detrimental to the talks. While Hamas denounced the change in government, Fatah continued to work with Egyptian authorities; some feared that Fatah would seek support from the new regime to overthrow Hamas in Gaza. Hamas objected when PLO President Mahmoud Abbas named Rami Hamdallah Prime Minister after Salam Fayyad resigned in April.
A humanitarian crisis intensified in the Gaza Strip late in 2013 as the new Egyptian government shut down tunnels linking Gaza to Egypt, which have been a main source of goods, fuel and food during Israeli blockades of the area. Israel tightened the blockade after the discovery of a Hamas tunnel linking the West Bank and Israel. When fuel ran short, power plants, water pumps and sewage treatment centres were shut down.
2012 Palestinian authorities insisted that Israel halt the construction of settlements on Palestinian-occupied territory as a precondition to peace talks. Israel was willing to resume peace talks without preconditions. International pressure on Israel to freeze settlement activity increased. In January tensions between the EU and Israel rose after several reports criticized Israel’s settlement construction policy, settler violence and housing demolitions in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu ordered the construction of 851 new settlement homes and the demolition of eight Palestinian West Bank villages in South Hebron Hills to create an IDF training zone. Widespread demonstrations, strikes and rioting in the West Bank occurred in September, triggered by rising prices of essential goods and services and the release of an anti-Islam film. Again in September, the Israeli government approved the expansion of settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, drawing further international protest. A majority UN General Assembly vote granted Palestine non-member observer status in November. In retaliation, Israel announced the construction of 3,000 new homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. U.S. senators stated that aid to the Palestinian Authority would be cut off if it pursued criminal charges against Israel at the International Criminal Court.
The United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) continued peacekeeping operations in the area. More than 3.7 million Palestinian refugees were living in camps throughout the Middle East, with many more exiles living elsewhere.
2011 In October, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted to admit Palestine as a full member, marking the first time that Palestine had been recognized as the full member of a UN agency. In response, the United States halted $60-million in funding to UNESCO and Israel temporarily froze funds intended for the Palestinian Authority. Peace talks stalled as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas refused to resume negotiations until Israel halted settlement construction. Israel continued to build new settlements. In a prisoner swap, 1,027 Palestinian prisoners were released in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. At year’s end, about 5,000 Palestinians were in Israeli jails. Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation accord in May and continued talks during the year.
2010 The ending of the term of the Palestinian Parliament in January led to renewed Fatah-Hamas tensions. Hamas and Fatah met in Syria to discuss reconciliation, but talks stalled over security issues. Elections in the West Bank were postponed when Fatah did not agree to the election lists. The United States, Russia, the European Union and UN (the Quartet) called for a freeze on settlement construction and for talks to begin, aiming for a two-state solution in two years. After visiting Gaza with the EU foreign policy chief, the UN Secretary-General called for an end to the Gaza blockade. Israel was condemned internationally for its response to the flotilla raid. Turkey withdrew its ambassador to Israel and banned the IDF from using Turkish airspace. Israel subsequently eased the Gaza blockade, allowing in some civilian goods. U.S. Special Envoy George Mitchell continued proximity talks with Israel and the Palestinian Authority, although the PA continued to refuse to enter official talks until Israel promised to completely freeze settlement construction. In September, for the first time in 20 months, direct talks between Benyamin Netanyahu, Mahmoud Abbas and Hillary Clinton were held in Washington, DC. Talks stalled a few weeks later when Israel announced new plans to construct settlements in East Jerusalem. In October, Israel announced that it would freeze construction if Israel were recognized as the state of the Jewish people, which Palestinians rejected. In late December, Palestinians began pursuing Plan B to seek international recognition of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem as an independent state. Some Latin American countries have since recognized an independent Palestine along 1967 borders. Israel contends that this move jeopardizes the entire framework of the peace talks.
2009 A ceasefire was declared between Israel and Hamas on January 17. A February Amnesty International report stated that foreign arms supplies were fueling the conflict in Gaza. Since 2002, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups had obtained longer-range rockets from Iran and China; Israel had received more than $21-billion in U.S. military and security assistance. A UN report by a commission led by South African Judge Richard Goldstone concluded that war crimes were perpetrated by both sides during the Israeli-led Operation Cast Lead into Gaza, but came down more harshly on Israel. Peace negotiations stalled as Israel continued to approve settlement construction, including in East Jerusalem. Hamas and Fatah leaders met in Cairo, but unity appeared elusive. In August, Fatah convened in Bethlehem in a bid to rejuvenate and restructure the party. Hamas called for a boycott of the January 2010 elections in Gaza called by Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas. After elections in Israel, Benyamin Netanyahu formed a coalition government with smaller right-wing parties.
2008 After a breach of the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt in January, Egypt tightened border security. Israeli officials insisted that the Gaza border remain closed until Hamas released an Israeli soldier they were holding. The ceasefire between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups came into force on June 19. After a brief period of open borders was followed by renewed rocket attacks from within Palestine, Israel closed the borders and rarely opened them for the rest of the year. Approximately 8,500 Palestinians, including 900 from Gaza, were detained in Israeli jails, all denied family visits since June 2007. Approximately 80 per cent of the 1.5 million residents of Gaza depended on the trickle of international aid let in by Israel. Acute malnutrition rates rose. The UN condemned Israel’s “disproportionate use of force.”
2007 In March, Hamas and Fatah formed a unity government. In April and May, both sides mounted attacks, including assassinations of government officials. In June, Hamas overran Fatah headquarters in the Gaza Strip, gaining control of the entire region. President Mahmoud Abbas dissolved the Hamas-led government and replaced it with an emergency cabinet. Israel immediately imposed restrictions on Gaza’s borders. International funding saw dramatic cuts, leaving 75 per cent of the 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip in extreme poverty. In November, a one-day Middle East peace conference was held in Annapolis, Maryland, with representatives from more than 50 nations. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas launched a peace process. Israel stated its willingness to make major concessions for peace, while Abbas called for the end of Israeli occupation of all Palestinian lands. Both parties called for the release of political prisoners; the Palestinian Authority demanded the cessation of construction on new homes in occupied lands. After the conference, talks between Olmert and Abbas continued. complicated by tensions between Hamas and Fatah and Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israeli cities. Israel retaliated with further military assaults in the occupied territories.
2006 After Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke in early January, Ehud Olmert became the acting Prime Minister. Olmert led the recently formed Kadima Party to victory in March elections, and officially took the post of Prime Minister in April. In January Palestinian elections, Hamas won an overwhelming majority. In February, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas asked Hamas to form the government, despite international threats to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority if Hamas took control, as well as threats by Olmert to sever ties with Abbas if Hamas formed the government. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh became Prime Minister. Tensions grew between Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah party. In November, Hamas and Fatah agreed to a blueprint for a unity government led by Hamas-nominated and Abbas-approved Prime Minister Muhammed Shubair, but talks were stalled at the end of the year. Abbas called for early elections, but Hamas rejected this idea as a “coup.” In June, Hamas ended a 16-month informal ceasefire when Israel resumed military offensives in Gaza. A UN resolution urging Israel to stop its Gaza offensive was vetoed in the Security Council by the United States; international efforts promoting a prisoner exchange and mutual ceasefire failed. A ceasefire began at the end of November. A 34-day war between Hezbollah and Israel led the Israeli government to shelve its plan to dismantle Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
2005 Mahmoud Abbas was elected president of the Palestinian Authority in January. In August, Israel unilaterally dismantled Israeli settlements in Gaza and pulled out all ground troops after meetings between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon failed to achieve an agreement on withdrawal and the future status of Gaza. The construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem continued. The Israeli Supreme Court ordered alterations to several sections of the “separation barrier” in the West Bank, but allowing its construction to continue. Abbas’s Fatah party won local Palestinian elections, but was significantly weakened by in-fighting and Hamas, which made significant gains. A new coalition of independents split from Fatah to contest the elections. Sharon, facing opposition from members of his Likud Party, triggered 2006 Israeli elections when he left Likud to form a new party, Kadima.
2004 Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat died in November. The Israeli cabinet approved a plan by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to begin a full troop pullout from the Gaza Strip. In October, the Israeli Parliament approved Sharon’s plan to dismantle Israeli settlements in Gaza, but it met with major resistance from Sharon’s own party and Israeli settlers and religious groups. The Israeli high court ruled in June that parts of the controversial West Bank security wall were illegal. In Lebanon, Syria bowed to UN pressure and announced that it would remove 3,000 troops.
2003 After January elections, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon formed a government with a coalition of nationalist and religious political parties reluctant to compromise with the Palestinian Authority. In April, the Quartet of the United States, UN, European Union and Russia unveiled a “performance-based road map to a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” a three-year, three-phased proposal to end conflict and create a Palestinian state. A June summit in Jordan, attended by Sharon, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. President George W. Bush, produced a ceasefire by the main Palestinian militant groups and the withdrawal of Israeli soldiers from parts of the West Bank and Gaza. The ceasefire collapsed in August after a Palestinian suicide bombing and Israeli retaliatory strikes. Abbas resigned in September. The Israeli government withdrew support for the road-map process. Leaders of armed Palestinian groups were assassinated and construction began of a security fence around parts of the West Bank. The vacuum caused by the collapse of the road map was filled by such alternative peace agreements as the Geneva Initiative by several prominent Israelis and Palestinians under the auspices of the Swiss government. The initiative was not recognized by either the Israeli government or the Palestinian Authority.
2002 A suicide bombing in Netanya, Israel during Passover killed 28 people and prompted an Israeli military campaign to occupy Palestinian cities and towns. In May and September, Israeli troops besieged Arafat’s Ramallah compound. UN Security Council resolution 1402 demanded an end to the siege and a withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian towns. In June, the Israeli government introduced a new policy to seize and hold more Palestinian-administered territory each time Israel suffered a terrorist attack and started construction of a 360-kilometre security fence near Jenin. In October, the Israeli government collapsed and elections were called for January 2003. Hamas pulled out of talks to form a united Palestinian front and refused to stop attacking civilians. A growing number of Israelis refused to serve in the territories. The UN, European Union, United States and Russia (the Quartet) pushed for a peace deal that envisioned the creation of a Palestinian state within three years. In March, the UN Security Council passed its first resolution calling for Israeli and Palestinian states “side by side” in the region.
2001 In February, Ariel Sharon became Israel’s Prime Minister. He announced that there would be no peace talks until violence and terror stopped. By July, the Israeli security cabinet had given approval to the military to “liquidate” anyone it regarded as a potential terrorist. In November, the UN announced that it would cut the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) from 4,500 to 2,000 by July 2002.
2000 After the early unilateral withdrawal of Israeli troops from its southern region, Lebanon declared May 25 Resistance and Liberation Day. Lebanon refused to deploy its army in the region until a “comprehensive” Middle East peace deal, covering Israel, Palestine and Syria, was reached, putting on hold the full deployment of a 5,400 UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Israel and Palestine missed the February deadline for a framework agreement and two weeks of negotiations at Camp David failed. In September, U.S. President Clinton pushed the two parties to work toward a final peace agreement. In October, an emergency Arab Summit failed to take strong action against Israel; an Israel-Palestine summit announced a ceasefire that was not respected by either side. Israeli Prime Minister Barak called off the peace process in October.
1999 Labour Party leader Ehud Barak was elected Prime Minister of Israel in May. Israeli and Palestinian authorities started final-status talks in November. Israel and Syria resumed peace talks in December. At year’s end, Israel maintained troops in Lebanon, but pledged that its forces would go home by July 2000.
1998 A 19-month hiatus in the Oslo peace process ended when a U.S.-brokered accord in October approved withdrawal of Israeli troops from an additional 13 per cent of the West Bank. The announcement of an Israeli election stalled the process. Israel accepted a 20-year-old UN resolution calling for its withdrawal from Lebanese territory.
1997 Palestinian opposition to Israeli housing construction and offers of limited troop withdrawals and Israeli outrage at Hamas suicide bombings halted the Oslo peace process. Renewed peace talks sponsored by the United States made little progress.
The 1917 Balfour Declaration supporting a Jewish homeland in Palestine, although long opposed by Palestinians, encouraged increased Jewish immigration under British rule. In 1947, the UN partition of Palestine to create the state of Israel led to immediate conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbours. Three wars ended with the flight of Palestinians to neighbouring states and Israeli territorial gains, including the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights.
Since 1955, Israel has violated a number of key UN resolutions, which it describes as biased, often with the tacit or explicit support of the United States. In an effort to consolidate Israeli sovereignty over the newly occupied territories, Israel began large-scale construction of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, fragmenting the Palestinian population into isolated enclaves and forcing them onto the least productive lands.
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), founded in 1964 with support from the Arab League, soon led the struggle for a Palestinian state.
In response to Lebanese-based PLO attacks, Israel invaded Lebanon in 1978 and 1982; more than 12,000, including 500 Israelis, died. The second Israeli invasion drove the PLO from Lebanon; when it withdrew in 1985, Israel created a southern “security zone” patrolled by the proxy, initially Christian, South Lebanese Army (SLA).
After the second Israeli invasion into Lebanon, the militant Shia Muslim group Hezbollah was formed to end the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon. It has the tacit support of the Lebanese government and Syrian backers. Growing domestic political opposition to Israeli troop fatalities in occupied southern Lebanon led Israel to accept a 20-year-old UN resolution calling for withdrawal from Lebanese territory; Israeli troops left the region in May 2000. The border territory of Shebaa Farms remains under dispute.
Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. After the 1991 Gulf War PLO-Israel talks, conducted secretly in Norway, resulted in a peace accord that gave Palestinians partial self-rule in Gaza and the West Bank. An opponent to self-rule assassinated the Israeli Prime Minister in 1995. In 1994 the war between Israel and Jordan formally ended. A second Israeli-Palestinian accord, signed in late 1995, stalled in 1996 when a new Israeli government ignored or reversed earlier commitments. Peace talks with Syria ground to a halt.
A 19-month hiatus in the Oslo peace process ended when the U.S.-brokered Wye River Memorandum in October 1998 approved withdrawal of Israeli troops from an additional 13 per cent of the West Bank. An Israeli election again stalled the process. Final status negotiations resumed in November 1999, but quickly became deadlocked.
Beginning in September 2000, conflict violence increased in unrelenting rounds of Israeli military attacks and assassinations and suicide bombings by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. By April 2002, Israel had reoccupied parts of the West Bank and created a network of security checkpoints. The relationship between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President of the Palestinian Authority Yasser Arafat weakened. The 2003 “road map” to peace, prepared by the Quartet of the United States, Russia, the UN and the European Union was well received by Sharon and newly appointed Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. Peace talks collapsed in late 2003, when Israeli security forces and Palestinian militant groups failed to end their attacks. In November 2004, Arafat died and was succeeded in January 2005 by Abbas, also a member of the Fatah party. In 2005, Sharon pulled Israeli settlers out of Gaza.
In 2006, Hezbollah and Hamas organized separate infiltration operations. The Israeli army retaliated by invading Gaza and attacking Hamas forces. Hezbollah captured three Israeli soldiers and killed five others. The Israeli responded by bombing parts of Lebanon.
Since 2006, Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations have been complicated by conflict between the major Palestinian factions–Fatah and Hamas. After the January 2006 Palestinian parliamentary election victory of Hamas and its subsequent takeover of Fatah headquarters in Gaza in June 2007, the Palestinian National Authority split between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. Because Hamas was considered a terrorist organization by Israel and many other countries, it has not been party to official negotiations. In 2014, Fatah and Hamas formed a unity government and the EU General Court reversed their designation of Hamas as a terrorist organization.
The humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip grew in 2008 as Israel continued its blockade, closing down all border crossings and shutting off fuel to the power plant. The blockade left 1.5 million Gaza Strip inhabitants with few resources. Israeli offensive Operation Cast Lead ended in January 2009. By the end of 2010, a number of Latin American countries had recognized an independent Palestine based on 1967 borders.
Violence between Hamas and Israeli forces escalated markedly in 2011. Palestine refused to return to negotiations until Israel stopped building settlements in the occupied territories. In 2013 peace talks resumed but broke down again in April 2014. In 2011 Palestine was admitted as a full member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. In 2012 it was recognized as a non-member observer state by the United Nations. In April 2015, Palestine joined the International Criminal Court.
The United States is by far the largest foreign arms supplier to Israel. According to Military Balance, the United States annually provides $3-billion in military assistance to Israel. Israel had a defence budget of $20.1-billion for 2014, an increase over the previous year. Germany and Italy have also supplied Israel with weapons. Israel has a substantial domestic arms industry; it was ranked the world’s sixth largest arms exporter in 2012 by defence analyst IHS Jane’s.
Human rights groups accused Israel of using experimental and illegal weapons during the 22-day Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, a claim Israel denied. The weapons under scrutiny included depleted uranium added to munitions, white phosphorus and Dense Inert Metal Explosive (DIME) weapons.
Palestinian groups receive weapons and training from neighbouring Arab states. In 2009, Israeli commandos seized a ship near Cyprus carrying arms that were bound for Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. According to Israel, the arms shipment had originated in Iran.
Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups receive small arms, light weapons and rockets through tunnels that connect Gaza to Egypt. The guns are said to be Russian and Chinese, with some AK47s flowing in from Sudan. Katyusha rockets from Russia have been launched into towns and villages in southern Israel. Also used are Qassam rockets, homemade short-range artillery rockets. In recent years, Israeli and Egyptian security forces have intercepted arms shipments into Gaza. A tunnel linking the West Bank to Egypt was discovered and closed off by the Israeli government in 2013. Before the 2014 conflict in Gaza, Israeli security officials estimated that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad had approximately 10,000 rockets some of which were used and others destroyed in the conflict. Between 2,000 to 3,000 rockets were left after the conflict according to estimates.
According to The Military Balance, the Israeli military defence budget for 2015 was estimated at $15.5-billion, down from the previous year. The United States, Germany, and Italy continued to supply Israel with arms and armoured vehicles. According to Human Rights Watch, the United States allocated $3.1-billion in military aid to Israel in 2015 and $441-million in assistance to Palestinian security forces and economic support to the PA (Human Rights Watch).
Israeli Arabs have faced decades of discrimination, poverty and unemployment. Palestinians in the occupied territories are deprived of basic necessities and face restrictions on their movements. These factors, exacerbated by political powerlessness, have contributed significantly to high levels of frustration and outbursts of violence in recent years. Since Hamas was elected to power in Gaza in 2006, the region has experienced a humanitarian crisis. Immediately after the election, the United States, Israel and the European Union began a boycott of the government, suspending all economic ties, curtailing UN refugee aid and shutting down charities. In June 2007, these same forces tightened the boycott into an all-out land, sea and air blockade.
Four major economic factors contribute to the conflict:
- distribution of fertile land
- distribution of water
- U.S. financial support for the state of Israel.
When Zionists settled on Palestinian territory at the start of the conflict, they gained possession of Arab-owned land. Over time, Israelis came to own the most fertile land. The new agricultural economy that emerged excluded Arabs. Operation Cast Lead, an Israeli offensive launched in December 2008, extended Israel’s “buffer zone” as much as two kilometres further into Gaza, taking 30 per cent of the area’s fertile agricultural land. The construction of the separation wall and settlements in the West Bank have taken more fertile land and destroyed Palestinian houses, animal pens and olive orchards.
The supply of water is extremely limited in the Palestinian Territories. Palestinians pay four to six times more than Israelis for water. Israel controls nearly 90 per cent of the water in the region. Estimates predict that in 10 years, Gaza will not have any drinkable water. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza could become completely dependent on Israel for their water supply, affecting Palestinian development and infrastructure, including waste water management, water consumption and development of water resources.
Supply blockades by Israel have all but shut down economic activity in occupied territory. Tens of thousands of people have lost jobs that can no longer be performed because of a lack of supplies. Only humanitarian food and medicine are allowed into Gaza. The blockades have caused frequent power shortages and deteriorating healthcare and left little running water. Highly-priced goods had been smuggled through tunnels at the Egypt-Gaza border, but the new government in Egypt has moved to close such access. In the summer of 2009, Israel opened the crossing between the West Bank and Jordan 24 hours a day to encourage the Palestinian economy. The Israeli Defense Forces also removed dozens of roadblocks in the West Bank to make passage between Palestinian towns easier. None of the roadblocks between Palestine and Israel were affected. Much of the physical infrastructure in Gaza was destroyed by the 2008 Israeli offensive Operation Cast Lead. The operation destroyed 50,000 homes, 800 industrial properties, 200 schools, 39 mosques, 2 churches, 15 of Gaza’s 27 hospitals and 43 of 110 primary healthcare facilities. In the 2014 50-day conflict in Gaza, bombing damaged vital infrastructure such as wells, pipelines, reservoirs, and the region’s only power plant. According to the Palestinian Authority, 17,000 homes were destroyed. PA estimated that $7.8-billion will be needed for reconstruction.
Thousands of people in Gaza remain homeless. But blockades restrict the import of construction materials, including cement, tiles, doors, windows and pipes, into Gaza. According to Israel, pipes can be turned into rockets and cement can be used to create rocket-launching pads. Many families in the occupied territories live in shacks, huts and lean-tos constructed from rubble.
GDP growth slowed in Israel between 2011 and 2012, dropping from 4.61 per cent to 2.95 per cent. The growth rate for 2013 was 3.2 per cent and 2.5 per cent in 2014 according to the Military Balance. The conflict in Gaza in 2014 cost Israel $2.52-billion, prompting the government to reduce spending by 2 per cent. The United States gives Israel $3-billion to $6-billion each year. This financial aid supports Israel’s military capacity and sustains the blockades.
map: CIA Factbook