In 1917, the British government signaled its support for the establishment of a Jewish state in Israel with the Balfour Declaration.
Intense fighting is raging in Israel and Gaza after Hamas militants launched thousands of rockets into Israel and gunmen infiltrated Southern Israel. "We are at war, and we will win it,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. The fight may be the worst since 2021, but it's part of a complex, bitter conflict that reaches back to the first world war.
The dispute is rooted in pre-biblical times. Though its borders have shifted over the years, Palestinian territories used to be what is now Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.
While the declaration stated support, it also said that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestinian territories, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
West Bank: Smaller than Delaware, the West Bank is east of Israel. About 3 million Palestinians live there, most of them Muslim Arabs. The West Bank contains a number of Jewish holy sites, which are visited by thousands of pilgrims every year.
It was founded in 1987 during the first Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and has controlled Gaza since winning elections in 2007. It's committed to the destruction of Israel and is considered a terrorist group by the U.S., the U.K. and other nations.
1956: Egypt nationalizes the Suez Canal and bars Israeli ships from using it and the Straits of Tiran, another shipping route. Israel, aided by Britain and France, invades Egypt. The Soviet Union, an ally of Egypt, threatens nuclear retaliation, and the U.S. pressures British, French and Israeli forces to withdraw. The U.N. deploys a peacekeeping force.
1964: The Palestine Liberation Organization, a group with the goal of uniting Arab groups and liberating the Palestinian territories through armed struggle, is formed in Egypt.
In a preemptive strike, Israel attacks Egypt and later Jordan and Syria, capturing Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula.
Shift in the state of Israel
1973: The Yom Kippur War starts with Egypt and Syria attacking Israel on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. The war is an attempt to reverse the defeat of the 1967 war.
Caught unaware, the Israelis counterattack and win. The U.S. helps secure disengagement agreements from combatants, laying groundwork for future peace efforts.
1979: The Camp David Accords, an Israeli-Egyptian peace deal, is set up by President Jimmy Carter and signed by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
1979: Israel begins gradual withdrawal from the Sinai.
1987: Palestinians stage the first of two uprisings, or intifadas, in Gaza, Israel and the West Bank, using mass boycotts, civil disobedience and attacks on Israelis. More than 50 Israeli civilians are killed. The intifada lasts more than five years, ending in September 1993.
1993: Oslo I, known as the Declaration of Principles, is signed by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. It establishes a timetable for a Middle East peace process.
1995: Oslo II is signed, a second agreement in which the Palestine Liberation Organization recognizes the state of Israel and Israel allows Palestinians limited self-government in Gaza.
2000: President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat gather at the Camp David summit, a meeting intended to end hostilities. It ends without an agreement.
2017: The Trump administration says it will move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, in effect an official U.S. recognition of Israel's claim to the city. The embassy is relocated in 2018.
2018: Protests break out on the Gaza-Israeli border as the U.S. Embassy is relocated. Demonstrators throw explosives and rocks across barrier fences and are met with gunfire and tear gas. At least 58 Palestinians are killed, the Gaza health ministry says.
2021: Fighting erupts again as Israeli police raid the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on April 13, the first night of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and disconnect speakers broadcasting prayers as Reuven Rivlin, the Israeli president, is speaking at the Western Wall, a site sacred to the Jewish people.
Police then close a nearby plaza, a popular gathering place. Palestinians and Jews begin attacking one another, and Israeli police raid the mosque on May 7.
A ceasefire went into effect on May 21. It lasted until June 16, when Hamas sent incendiary balloons – helium balloons or kites with flammable devices attached – across the Gaza border into Israel.
The devices caused 20 ground fires in fields near the border, according to the Israeli fire brigade. Hamas launched the devices after Israeli officials permitted ultranationalist demonstrators to march in Jerusalem.
2022: In the spring and summer of 2022 Israel experienced a string of terrorist attacks that led it to take what it described as preemptive action, including airstrikes targeting senior commanders and weapons depots, against Iran-backed militant groups such as Islamic Jihad.
At least 44 Palestinians, including 15 children, were killed in three days of violence in August 2022.
2023: In January too this year, Israel launched the first of two raids against the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, where it said Palestinian militants and activists were hiding out.
The second raid, in July 2023, saw Israel send about 1,000 soldiers, backed by drone strikes, to Jenin to demolish what it characterized as a militant "command center."
October 2023: In the biggest offensive in years, dozens of gunmen from the Palestinian militant group Hamas infiltrate southern Israel in a stunning surprise attack that coincided with a major Jewish holiday. Overnight and into the morning, Hamas launched thousands of rockets into Israel. Israel’s national rescue service said at least dozens of people were killed and hundreds wounded.
CONTRIBUTING Katharine Vogel
SOURCE USA TODAY Network reporting and research; The Associated Press; United Nations; Reuters; U.S. State Department