Timeline: The Middle East conflict

A timeline of important events in the Middle East conflict since the first world war.

Dome of the Rock, Temple Mount, Jerusalem



The Dome of the Rock lies at the heart
of the divided city of Jerusalem

1915-1916: Hussein-McMahon correspondence. Exchange of letters between Hussein ibn Ali, sharif of Mecca, and Sir Henry McMahon, British high commissioner in Egypt, regarding the future political status of the Arab lands of the Middle East.


Britain offered Arabs across the Middle East self-rule in exchange for their aid in defeating the Ottoman empire during the first world war.


1916, May 16: Sykes-Picot Agreement. Britain and France sign a secret pact outlining their spheres of control in the Middle East after the first world war. Palestine is designated for international administration pending consultations with Russia and other powers. The agreement is seen by Arabs as a betrayal of the Hussein-McMahon correspondence.

1917, November 2: Balfour Declaration. Arthur James Balfour, Britain’s foreign secretary, sends a letter to Lord Rothschild, president of the Zionist federation, stating the government’s support for the establishment of “a national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, the area consisting of today’s Israel, the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jordan.

The declaration reads: “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

1922, July 24: The League of Nations gives Britain a mandate to administer Palestine. Britain expresses an interest in Zionism, and describes its intention to develop a Jewish state.


The rise of fascism in Europe led large
numbers of Jews to flee to Palestine


1939: In large part
because of the rise of fascism in Europe, about 250,000 Jews arrive in Palestine during this period.

1929, summer: Arguments between Muslims and Jews over access to the Western Wall. More than 130 Jews are killed and 339 wounded and 116 Arabs killed and 232 wounded during clashes involving British forces.

1929, August 23: Hebron massacre: After hearing rumours of killings of Arabs in Jerusalem, rioters kill 67 Jews in Hebron. Many Jews survive by sheltering with Arab neighbours, and after the riots, the remainder of the Jewish population is evacuated by the British.

1930-35: Violent activities of Black Hand Islamist group led by Sheikh Izz al-Din al-Qassam against Jewish civilians and the British.

1936-39: Arab revolt to protest against Jewish immigration to Palestine led by Haj Amin al-Husseini. More than 5,000 Arabs are killed, mostly by the British. Several hundred Jews are killed by Arabs.


1946, July 22: Bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which housed the British civil, military and police command in Palestine, by the Irgun, a Zionist organisation. A total of 91 people are killed: 28 British, 41 Arab, 17 Jewish and five from other countries. 


1947, November 29: United Nations General Assembly passes a partition plan dividing the British Mandate of Palestine into two states. Accepted by the Jewish leadership but rejected by the Arab leadership.

1947-1949: The Nakba, meaning “disaster” or “cataclysm” in Arabic. Up to 900,000 Palestinians flee or are expelled from their homes in the part of the land that becomes the state of Israel.

1948, April 9, 11: Deir Yassin massacre. Between 100 and 254 Palestinian villagers, mainly women, old people and children are killed during and after an attack on the village of Deir Yassin near Jerusalem by Irgun members.

1948, May 15: Declaration of Israel as the Jewish state. British withdraw from Palestine. Arab-Israeli war. Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Lebanon declare war on Israel. Egypt, Jordan and Syria invade Israel.

1949, April: Israel and Arab states agree an armistice. Israel takes about 50 per cent more land than was originally allotted to it by the UN partition plan.

1956: Egypt nationalises Suez Canal (July 26). France, Britain and Israel plan invasion of Egypt. Israel invades the Sinai peninsula (October 29). Pressure from the US and USSR force France, Britain and Israel to withdraw. 

1964, May: The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) is founded in Cairo by the Arab League. The PLO states its goal as the destruction of the Israel through armed struggle, and the restoration of an “independent Palestinian state” between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean sea.

1967, June: Third Arab-Israeli war (Six-Day War). Israel launches a pre-emptive attack on Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Israel captures Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria and the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan.

1967: Israel begins settlement programme in areas captured during the Six-Day war.

1967, November 22: UN Security Council passes resolution 242, which calls for Israel to withdraw its armed forces from all territories occupied since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The resolution affirms the right of all states in the region to “live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries”.

1968-1970: War of Attrition. Limited war fought between Egypt and Israel in which Egypt attempts to regain the Sinai Peninsula lost in the Six Day war. The war ended with a ceasefire in August 1970 with the same frontiers as at the start.

1969, February 2: Yasser Arafat is appointed chairman of the PLO.


Yasser Arafat led the Palestine Liberation Organisation for 25 years

1972, September 5: Eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team and one German police officer are killed by Palestinian group Black September at the Munich Olympics.

1973, October 6:  Fourth Arab-Israeli war (October war). In a surprise attack on the Jewish Day of Atonement, Egypt and Syria retake the areas in Sinai and the Golan Heights that were lost in the Six Day war. Despite initial gains they are soon forced to retreat by Israeli forces.

1973, October 22: UN Security Council passes resolution 338, which calls for a ceasefire in the on-going war between Israeli and the Arab coalition.

1978, September 17: Menachem Begin, Israel’s prime minister, and Anwar Sadat, Egypt’s president, sign the Camp David Accord, with Israel agreeing to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula in exchange for peace and a framework for future negotiation over the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

1979, March 26: Peace deal between Egypt and Israel. Egypt becomes the first Arab country to recognise Israel.

1979: Arab League suspends Egypt’s membership of the league following Egypt’s peace agreement with Israel. The organisation moves its headquarters to Tunis.

1981, October 6: Sadat is assassinated by members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad organisation, while reviewing a military parade, in retaliation for Sadat’s recognition of Israel.

1982, June 6: Israel invades Lebanon to remove PLO fighters who it claims are threatening its border.

1982: PLO relocates to Tunis as it is driven out of Lebanon by Israel during the six-month invasion of the country. It remains active in Lebanon but not to the same extent as before 1982.

1982, September: Sabra and Shatila massacre. Lebanese Phalangists (members of a Christian para-military group) kill up to 2,750 Palestinians in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila.

1983, August: The Israeli army withdraws from most of Lebanon, maintaining a self-proclaimed “security zone” in the south.

1985, October 1: Israel’s Operation Wooden Leg attempts to kill Arafat with an air raid on his headquarters in Tunis. He survives, but 60 members of the PLO are killed including much of the leadership.

1987, December 8: First intifada (uprising) starts. Palestinians begin general strikes, riots and civil disobedience campaigns across the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israeli army replies with tear gas, plastic bullets, and live rounds. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin creates Hamas from the Gaza wing of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

1988, November 15: The Palestinian National Council, meeting in Algiers, unilaterally proclaims a State of Palestine.

1990, August 2: Iraq invades Kuwait, prompting UN sanctions. An international coalition force launch and air and ground assault against Iraq in January 1991. Iraq launches missiles in Iraq and Saudi Arabia during the fighting. The war ends on February 28, 1991 with a decisive victory for the international coalition.

1991, October: Middle East peace conference opens in Madrid, attended by Israeli, Syrian, Lebanese, Jordanian and Palestinian delegations. The conference opens dialogues on Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian relations.

1993, September 13: Oslo declaration of principles. PLO and Israel agree to recognise each other.

1994, February 25: Baruch Goldstein, an American-Israeli settler, enters Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi (The Cave of the Patriarchs), a religious site in Hebron, and kills 29 Palestinians, injuring another 125.

1995, September 28: Interim agreement on the future of Israeli-occupied Gaza and the West Bank is signed by Israel and the PLO. The agreement recognises the formation of a Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority – an elected council.

1994, October 26: Israel and Jordan sign a peace treaty ending 45-years of hostility. Israel agrees to recognise the special role of Jordan over Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.

1995, November 4: Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s prime minister, is assassinated by Yigal Amir, an Israeli orthodox Jewish student who is against the Middle East peace plan. Shimon Peres takes over as prime minister.

1998, October 23: Wye River Memorandum is negotiated between Israel and the Palestinian Authority to implement the 1995 interim agreement. The memorandum examines redeployment of Israeli troops from areas occupied since 1967 and Palestinian guarantees on security.

2000, July: The Camp David summit between Ehud Barak, Israel’s prime minister, Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestinian Authority, and President Bill Clinton. Aimed at reaching a “final status” agreement the talks break down after two weeks and the US and the Israelis blame Arafat for refusing to accept a proposal drafted by their negotiators.


Ariel Sharon was elected leader of the Likud party on February 6, 2001

2000, September: Palestinians riot after Ariel Sharon, of the Likud party in Israel, visits the Temple Mount (the Noble Sanctuary) in Jerusalem. Second intifada begins.

2001, January: Summit between Israel and Palestinian Authority is held at Egyptian resort of Taba. The talks are designed to lead to ‘final status’ agreements on refugees, territory, security and Jerusalem. Differences remained between Israel and the Palestinians despite the discussions.

2001, February 6: Sharon is elected the leader of Likud and refuses to continue negotiations with Arafat.

2001, June 1: A Hamas suicide bomber attacks an Israeli nightclub. Twenty-one Israelis killed, mainly teenagers, more than 100 injured.

2001, October 17: Rehavam Zeevi, Israel’s tourism minister, is shot dead in Jerusalem by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

2001, December: Sharon sends troops into Ramallah, shelling and surrounding the Palestinian government’s West Bank headquarters; Arafat is unable to leave.

2002, March: Israeli army launches Operation Defensive Shield, the country’s biggest military operation in the West Bank since the Six Day war in 1967.

2002: Israel begins construction of separation barrier between the West Bank and Israel, but for some of its length it serves to annex large areas of Palestinian land.

2002, March 27, 28: Beirut summit between heads of Arab nations to discuss plans to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Arafat is unable to attend as Israel will not guarantee he will be able to return. Arab leaders collectively offer Israel peace, recognition and normal relations in return for Israel’s withdrawal from Arab lands captured since 1967, the restoration of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital and a “fair solution” for the 3.8 million Palestinian refugees.

2002, June 24: President George W Bush, outlines his ‘road map’ to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The plan, proposed by the ‘Quartet’ of international negotiators (the US, the EU, Russia and the UN) requires the Palestinian Authority to reform its government and end militant attacks. Israel, for its part, must end settlement activity and support Palestinian democratic institutions.

2004, March 22: Sheikh Yassin, co-founder and leader of Hamas, is assassinated by an Israeli helicopter gunship.

2004, April 17: Abd al-Aziz al-Rantissi, co-founder of Hamas and successor to Yassin, is assassinated by the Israeli military.

2004, July 9: International Court of Justice rules that the Israeli separation barrier violates international law and must be removed.

2004, November 11: Arafat dies in France.

2005, January 9: Mahmoud Abbas is elected president of the Palestinian National Authority.

2005, January 10: Sharon creates government of unity with Labour and United Torah Judaism parties.

2005, February 8: Leaders from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Egypt meet in Sharm el-Sheikh to discuss ways towards ending the four year Palestinian intifada (uprising).

2005, May 26: Bush meets Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian president and leader of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Bush pledges $50m in aid to the PA.

2005, August: Completion of Israel’s unilateral disengagement plan from Gaza and four West Bank settlements.

2006, January 4: Sharon, Israel’s prime minister, suffers a stroke and falls into a coma.

2006, January 25: Hamas wins majority of seats in Palestinian legislative election. The US, Israel and several European countries cut off their aid to the Palestinians as the party rejects Israel‘s right to exist.

2006, March: The Kadima party takes the most seats in Israel’s legislative elections, with the ruling Likud party suffering a major loss.

2006, April 14: Ehud Olmert of the ruling Kadima party becomes Israel’s prime minister after exercising an acting prime ministerial role in the wake of Sharon’s stroke.

2006, June 25: Palestinians cross the border from the Gaza Strip and capture Corporal Gilad Shalit, killing two Israeli soldiers and wounding four others.

2006, June: Israeli army forces enter Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip to find and release Shalit. The action is the first invasion of Gaza since Israel left Gaza in August 2005. Israel bombs several areas of Gaza and seize Hamas officials. Palestinian fighters respond by firing rockets into Israel. Israeli ground forces later enter northern Gaza and battle Palestinian fighters.

2006, July 12: Islamic Resistance fighters from Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shia organisation, capture two Israeli soldiers and kills three other in a cross-border raid. Israel attempts to retrieve the men, and five more soldiers are killed. Israel bombards what it calls Hezbollah positions in Lebanon. Hezbollah responds by firing rockets into Israel. The conflict lasts for 34 days before a ceasefire is declared, pending the the deployment of a larger international peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon.

2006, September: Violence erupts between Fatah and Hamas factions in the Gaza Strip. Abbas attempts to prevent civil war. Abbas’s Fatah movement supports a Palestinian state alongside Israel, while Hamas rejects Israel‘s right to exist. Hundreds are killed in ongoing clashes between the factions as the Palestinian territories remain in political deadlock.

2007, February: Rival Palestinian parties Fatah and Hamas meet in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and agree to form a national unity government. Ismail Haniya, a Hamas member, remains Palestinian prime minister. Fatah will assume control of six cabinet posts to Hamas’s nine. Four key cabinet posts are to be held by independents.

2007, July: Hamas forces take control of Gaza after fierce fighting against Fatah forces and loyalists. Fatah remains in control of the larger West Bank territory. The geographically separate occupied territories are effectively divided between Hamas and Fatah.

2007, September 6: Israeli fighter aircraft reportedly enter Syrian airspace and allegedly launch a raid on a nuclear facility. Syria denies that any bombs were launched at sites on its territory, and that the fighter jets only dropped fuel reserves after they were fired at by Syrian anti-aircraft posts.

Source: Al Jazeera