History of a Revolution - PLO
PLO: History of a Revolution

Timeline: History of a Revolution

A chronology of key events and developments related to the PLO.

Black September
Peace talks
Yasser Arafat, the late PLO leader, came to embody the Palestinians’ struggle [GALLO/GETTY]

The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) began with the aim of securing a national home for the Palestinians. More than four decades on, that struggle continues.

The following is a chronology of key events and developments related to the PLO.

Founding of the PLO (1947-1967)

November 29, 1947: The UN General Assembly adopts by a two-thirds majority the Palestine partition plan dividing the British Mandate of Palestine into two states.

1947-1949: The Nakbaundefined, meaning “disaster” or “cataclysm”. Up to 900,000 Palestinians leave their homes in the area that becomes the state of Israel.

Ahmad al-Shukairy was named the first chairman of the PLO [GALLO/GETTY]

May 14-15, 1948: Proclamation of the state of Israel. Britain withdraws from Palestine. The Arab states reject the partition plan. Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Lebanon declare war on Israel. Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian armies advance into the newly proclaimed state of Israel. 

December 11, 1949: Adoption of UN Resolution 194, proclaiming the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.

April 24, 1950: The West Bank is put under the administration of Transjordan. Egypt establishes its administrative control over Gaza.

October 1959: The start of the Fatah movement in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Gulf Arab states. The movement aimed to unite Palestinians and to launch a war to “liberate Palestine”. Fatah would later become the main faction within the PLO.

January 13-17, 1964: In Cairo, the first Arab League summit announces the intention to organise Palestinians so that they can contribute to the liberation of Palestine.

May 29, 1964:
The first Palestine National Council meeting is held in Jerusalem. The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) is created undefinedheaded by Ahmad al-Shukairy. The Palestinian National Charter is announced and the Palestine Liberation Army is formed.

January 1, 1965:
Fatah launches its “armed struggle” against Israel.

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Black September (1968-1973)

June 5-10, 1967: Israel attacks Egypt, Syria and Jordan in what it calls a pre-emptive strike. In the Six Day War undefined, Israel captures the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria and the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan.

Palestinian forces patrol Amman’s streets amid clashes with the army [GALLO/GETTY]

March 21, 1968: Palestinian fighters, mostly from PLO, fight beside the Jordanian army at the battle of al-Karama, in Jordan against the Israeli army. The Israeli army suffered serious losses and Israel asked for a ceasefire for the first time in any Arab-Israel war.

February 14, 1969: Fifth session of the Palestine National Council in Cairo. Yasser Arafatundefined becomes the third chairman of the PLO’s executive committee. 

September 1970: Clashes between the PLO and the Jordanian army, known as “Black September” undefined. A year later the PLO is expelled from Jordan and the leadership of the Palestinian resistance moves to Lebanon.

September 5-6, 1972: Attack at the Munich Olympic Games by a Palestinian group calling itself Black September after the fighting in Jordan. Eleven Israeli athletes and coaches are killed.

April 1973: Israel kills three PLO leaders in Beirut. Mass demonstrations of solidarity with the Palestinian resistance take place in Lebanon.

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Recognition and Lebanon’s civil war (1974-1982)

June 1-9, 1974: At the twelfth session of the Palestine National Council, the PLO accepts the idea of national authority over any liberated part of Palestine. 

October 26-29, 1974: At an Arab League summit in Rabat, the PLO is declared the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”. 

November 13, 1974: Arafat addresses the UN General Assembly. The UN recognises the right of the Palestinians to independence and self-determination. The PLO obtains observer status.

April 1975: Civil war breaks out in Lebanonundefined. Observers believe the dispute between Lebanese factions over whether or not to allow Palestinians to fight Israel from Lebanon, was a main factor behind the war. The PLO engaged in the fighting.  

June 1976: The Arab summit in Saudi Arabia approved the intervention of an Arab Deterrence Force in Lebanon. The force was assigned to restore peace and order in Lebanon.

August 12, 1976: The PLO is accused of using civilian areas as headquarters for its fighters. The Palestinian refugee camp of Tal al-Zaatar in East Beirut is overrun by Christian militias, its inhabitants are massacred or expelled.

One of Beirut’s narrow streets piled high with rubble during the civil war [GALLO/GETTY]

March 14, 1978: Israel invades South Lebanonundefined to fight Palestinian resistance fighters based in the country.

September 17, 1978: The Camp David accordsundefined are signed by Egypt, Israel and the US. The accords become the cornerstone for the first peace treaty between Israel and an Arab country. It was signed on March 26, 1979, formally ending the state of war between the two sides.

July 1981: Israeli-Palestinian war on the Lebanese border. Israelis bomb Beirut.

June 3, 1982: Attempted assassination of the Israeli ambassador in London by the anti-Arafat Abu Nidal faction. Israel uses the attempt as a pretext to invade Lebanon and evict the PLO.

June 6, 1982: Israel invades Lebanon. This is followed by the siege of Beirut. All diplomatic peace initiatives are suspended. The PLO begins to withdraw from Beirut in August, under the protection of the Multinational Force. 

September 14-18, 1982: Lebanese president-elect Bashir Gemayel is assassinated. Israelis enter West Beirut. Lebanese members of a Christian paramilitary group kill up to 2,750 Palestinians in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila undefined. Israeli troops are said to have collaborated in the massacre.

September 30, 1982: The PLO leaves Beirut. Arafat along with 87 PLO leaders leaves Beirut on board the Greek ship Atlantis.

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Intifada (1983-1988)

1983: Split in Fatah with a Syrian-backed faction attempting to end Arafat’s control of the PLO. Open conflict for the next several years.

February 11, 1985: King Hussein of Jordan and Arafat adopt a joint declaration in Amman known as the “Jordanian-Palestinian agreement”. Jordan and the PLO agree on co-federalism in a bid to form a pan-Arab formula for peace in the Middle East. The formula stipulates that lands recovered from Israeli occupation would be annexed to Jordan under a federation system.

Spring 1985: The Shia Amal militia attacks Sabra, Shatila and other Palestinian camps in Lebanon. Beginning what becomes known as the Camps Warundefined.

October 1, 1987: Israel’s Operation Wooden Leg: Israeli air raid on the PLO headquarters in Tunis. Arafat survives, but 60 members of the PLO are killed including much of the leadership.

April 20-26, 1987: Reunification of the PLO at the 18th session of the Palestine National Council in Algiers.

Israel’s army replies to the Palestinian  intifada with tear gas and plastic bullets

December 1987: The first Intifada undefined starts. The Palestinian uprising in the occupied Palestinian territories begins with strikes, riots and campaigns in Gaza and spreads to the West Bank. The stone-throwing of children confronting the Israeli army becomes the symbol of the intifada.

April 16, 1988: PLO second-in-command Abu Jihad (Khalil al-Wazir) is assassinated in Tunis by Israel.

November 12-15, 1988: The 19th session of the Palestine National Council in Algier proclaims the state of Palestineundefined, recognises resolutions 181, 242 and 338, and confirms its condemnation of terrorism.

December 13, 1988: Arafat addresses the UN General Assembly in Geneva (the US having refused to issue the PLO leader with a visa) and repeats the statements made by the Palestine National Council in November. The following day he condemns terrorism in any form. Washington then agrees to open a “substantive dialogue” with the PLO.

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Peace talks (1989-1999)

May 2-4, 1989: In Paris, Arafat declares the Palestinian National Charter “null and void”.

June 20, 1990: Following the attempt by a Palestinian commando group to land in Israel, George Bush Snr, the US president, announces the suspension of US-Palestinian dialogue.

Arafat failed to condemn the Iraqi occupation and was criticised within the PLO

August 2, 1990: Iraq invades Kuwait. The PLO supports Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Kuwait responds by severing ties with the PLO, cutting its financial backing and expelling some 400,000 Palestinians who had been living in Kuwait. 

January 15, 1991: The assassination in Tunis of PLO second-in-command Abu Iyad (Salah Khalaf), his advisor Abu Muhammad (Fakhri al-Omari), and PLO security chief Abu al-Hol (Hayel Abdel Hamid).

October 30, 1991: The Madrid peace conference opens with the Palestinians included as part of a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation. 

February 24, 1992: The US makes the grant of bank guarantees for a $10 billion loan to Israel conditional upon a halt to Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

December 16, 1992: Following the kidnapping and murder of a border guard by Hamas, the government of Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli prime minister, deports 415 Palestinians suspected of pro-Islamist sympathies to southern Lebanon.

September 9-10, 1993: Mutual recognition by Israel and the PLO.

September 13, 1993: The PLO and the Israeli government, in the presence of Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, sign the Oslo declaration of principles undefined on interim self-government at the White House. This is otherwise known as the Oslo Accords. 

Rabin, Arafat and Peres were awarded the Nobel peace prize [GPO via Getty Images]

July 1, 1994: Arafat returns to Gaza after 27 years in exile undefined and is to head an interim administration of the new Palestinian authority.

October 14, 1994: Arafat, Rabin and Peres receive the Nobel peace prize.

September 24, 1995: Arafat and Shimon Peres, the Israeli foreign minister, sign the Taba agreement which sets up the mechanism for a transitional period towards Palestinian self-rule in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. 

January 20, 1996: Yasser Arafat is elected president of the Palestinian authority.

October 23, 1998: the Wye River Memorandum is signed in the US, promising Palestinians faster and further autonomy. A revised accord is signed in September kick-starting fresh talks.

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Arafat’s death and the PLO’s decline (2000-present)

July 2000: A summit at Camp David between Arafat and Ehud Barak, the Israeli prime minister, fails to achieve a final peace deal. Arafat refuses to accept a proposal drafted by US and Israeli negotiators. Arafat returns to a hero’s welcome in the Palestinian territories.

Mohamed al-Durra became a symbol of the second intifada following his death in 2000

September 28, 2000: Ariel Sharon, the leader of Israel’s Likud party, visits al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, which is Islam’s third holiest site. Arafat describes the visit as a dangerous affront to Islam’s holy places. The second Intifada undefined begins.

January 4, 2001: Israeli-Palestinian negotiations restart in Washington. Clinton fails in his aim of brokering a lasting peace.

February 6, 2001: Ariel Sharon is elected prime minister of Israel. He refuses to continue negotiations with Arafat.

December 2001: Sharon sends troops into Ramallah, shelling and surrounding the Palestinian government’s West Bank headquarters.

March 2002: The Israeli army launches Operation Defensive Shield, the country’s biggest military operation in the West Bank since the Six Day war. The siege of Yasser Arafat begins.

June 16, 2002: Israel begins construction of separation walls to enclose the West Bank.

September 20, 2002: Israel besieges Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah, demolishing most of his office complex and confining him there, while simultaneously embarking on a policy of extra-judicial assassinations and imprisonment of Palestinian leaders.

October 2004: Arafat suffers a mysterious ailment and Israel announces that it will allow him to seek medical care abroad. He is taken to Paris.

November 11, 2004: Arafat diesundefined in France. Israel denies his wishes to be buried in Jerusalem. Instead he is buried at his headquarters in Ramallah with soil brought from Jerusalem placed in his grave. 

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

August 2005: Israel’s unilateral disengagement plan from Gaza and four West Bank settlements is completed.

January 25, 2006: Hamas wins the Palestinian legislative elections. The US, Israel and several European countries cut off aid to the Palestinians as the Islamist movement rejects Israel’s right to exist.

September 2006: Violence erupts between Fatah and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

June 2007: The Palestinian aid embargo is lifted. The US and the European Union resume aid to Palestine. Abbas announces that it is time to resume peace talks with Israel. Clashes between Fatah and Hamas in Gaza. Hamas emerges victorious and takes control of Gaza. 

November: George W Bush hosts peace talks between Palestine and Israel at Annapolis, Maryland, while Hamas still holds control over Gaza.

November 2008: PLO’s central Committee elects Mahmoud Abbas president of the State of Palestine.

November: Egypt fosters talks among Palestinian factions aims at ending the rift between PLO and Hamas and forming a national unity government.

March 2009: Talks starts in Cairo but marred with deep disagreement.

July 2009: Farouq al-Qadoumi, head of PLO’s Political Department, appears on Al Jazeera screen and accuses president Abbas of collaborating with Israel to assassinate Yasser Arafat. Palestinian Authority suspends Al Jazeera in the West Bank.

August 2009: Fatah holds its first congress undefined in two decades in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

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