The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was reignited once again on October 7 after a surprise offensive launched by Hamas against Israel. In retaliation, Israel ordered air strikes and a "complete siege" of the Gaza Strip, the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave. This is a new deadly episode in a conflict that has its roots deep in the mid-20th century. FRANCE 24 traces its history.
1947: Thousands of European Jewish emigrants, many of them Holocaust survivors, board a ship – which came to be called Exodus 1947 – bound for then British-controlled Palestine. Heading for the “promised land”, they are intercepted by British naval ships and sent back to Europe. Widely covered by the media, the incident sparks international outrage and plays a critical role in convincing the UK that a UN-brokered solution is necessary to solve the Palestine crisis.
A UN special committee proposes a partition plan giving 56.47 percent of Palestine for a Jewish state and 44.53 percent for an Arab state. Palestinian representatives reject the plan, but their Jewish counterparts accept it.
On November 29, the UN General Assembly approves the plan, with 33 countries voting for partition, 13 voting against it and 10 abstentions.
1948-49: On May 14, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, publicly reads the Proclamation of Independence. The declaration, which would go into effect the next day, comes a day ahead of the expiration of the British Mandate on Palestine. The Jewish state takes control of 77 percent of the territory of Mandate Palestine, according to the UN.
For Palestinians, this date marks the “Nakba”, the catastrophe that heralds their subsequent displacement and dispossession.
As hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, hearing word of massacres in villages such as Dir Yassin, flee towards Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordanian territory, the armies of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq attack Israel, launching the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
The Arab armies are repelled, a ceasefire is declared and new borders – more favourable to Israel – are drawn. Jordan takes control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem while Egypt controls the Gaza Strip.
1956: The Second Arab-Israeli War, or the Suez Crisis, takes place after Egypt nationalises the Suez Canal. In response Israel, the United Kingdom and France form an alliance and Israel occupies the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. The Israeli army eventually withdraws its troops, under pressure from the US and the USSR.
1959: Yasser Arafat sets up the Palestinian organisation Fatah in Gaza and Kuwait. It later becomes the main component of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
1964: The PLO is created.
1967: The Third Arab-Israeli War, or the Six-Day War, between Israel and its Arab neighbours, results in a dramatic redrawing of the Middle East map. Israel seizes the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights.
1973: On October 6, during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, Egyptian and Syrian armies launch offensives against Israel, marking the start of a new regional war. The Yom Kippur War, which ends 19 days later with Israel repelling the Arab armies, results in heavy casualties on all sides – at least several thousand deaths.
1979: An Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement is sealed in Washington following the Camp David Accords signed in 1978 by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. According to the terms of this agreement, Egypt regains the Sinai Peninsula, which it had lost after the Six-Day War. Sadat becomes the first Arab leader to recognise the State of Israel.
1982: Under Defence Minister Ariel Sharon, Israeli troops storm into neighbouring Lebanon in a controversial military mission called “Operation Peace of Galilee”. The aim of the operation is to wipe out Palestinian guerrilla bases in southern Lebanon. But Israeli troops push all the way to the Lebanese capital of Beirut.
The subsequent routing of the PLO under Arafat leaves the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon essentially defenceless. From September 16 to 18, Lebanese Christian Phalangist militiamen – with ties to Israel – enter the camps of Sabra and Shatilla in Beirut, unleashing a brutal massacre that shocks the international community. The massacres, the subject of an Israeli inquiry popularly called the Kahane Commission, would subsequently cost Sharon his job as defence minister.
1987: Uprisings in Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza spread to the West Bank marking the start of the First Palestinian Intifada ("uprising" in Arabic). Nicknamed the "war of stones", the First Intifada lasts until 1993, costing more than 1,000 Palestinian lives. The image of the stone-throwing Palestinian demonstrators pitched against Israel’s military might comes to symbolise the Palestinian struggle.
It was also during this uprising that Hamas, influenced by the ideology of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, was born. From the outset, the Islamist movement favours armed struggle and rejects outright any legitimacy of an Israeli state.
1993: After months of frenetic secret negotiations, Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin sign the Oslo Accords. The accords see the creation of the Palestinian Authority, which gets administrative control of the West Bank and Gaza. On September 13 on the White House lawn, Arafat and Rabin exchange a historic handshake in the presence of US President Bill Clinton. The event is watched by over 400 million TV viewers across the world.
1995: On November 4, Rabin is assassinated by a Jewish right-wing extremist at a peace rally in Tel Aviv.
1996: Benjamin Netanyahu is elected prime minister for the first time.
2000: On September 28, Sharon provokes Palestinians by making a tour of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa/Temple Mount site as leader of the right-wing Likud party, sparking the Second Intifada, also known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada. It lasted until 2005, with 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis killed over five years.
2001: Sharon is elected prime minister of Israel and breaks off contact with Arafat, who is subsequently confined to his compound in Ramallah.
2002: The Israeli government begins Operation Defensive Shield – the construction of a wall to separate Israel from the West Bank. The UN Security Council speaks for the first time of a coexistence between the two states of Israel and Palestine. The Israeli army lifts the siege on Ramallah.
2004: On March 22, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the paraplegic co-founder and spiritual leader of Hamas, is killed in an Israeli helicopter strike. Eight months later, on November 11, PLO chairman Arafat dies at a Paris hospital following a prolonged illness. Arafat's death has been the subject of controversy. Some experts believe he died of natural causes, while others are open to the possibility he was poisoned using polonium 210.
2005: Mahmoud Abbas is elected president of the Palestinian Authority. After a 38-year occupation, Israel pulls out of Gaza.
2006: On January 4, Prime Minister Sharon suffers a stroke and falls into a coma that he stays in until his death in 2014. Ehud Olmert takes over as prime minister and head of Sharon’s newly founded centrist party, Kadima.
Hamas sweeps the legislative elections in the Palestinian Territories, causing the US and EU to freeze direct aid to the Palestinian government.
Lebanese Islamic fundamentalist group Hezbollah launches rocket attacks on Israel and takes two Israeli soldiers captive. Israel retaliates with force and many civilians, mainly Lebanese, are killed. The war, widely viewed as a failure in Israel, led to mounting calls for Olmert to resign.
2007: Following months of internecine military fighting between Hamas and Fatah forces, Hamas seizes control of Gaza.
2008: On December 27, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) launch a surprise offensive on Gaza, killing more than 200 people in one day. Shortly after, the IDF follows up with a two-week-long ground invasion of Gaza. A UN report concluded that both Israel and Hamas committed war crimes during the conflict.
2014: In June, three Israeli teenagers are abducted and murdered near the West Bank city of Hebron. Israeli authorities blame Hamas for the incident and on July 8, launch multiple air strikes on Gaza, prompting an exchange of rocket fire with Hamas over a seven-week period. The Israeli missile strikes result in the deaths of more than 2,200 Palestinians in Gaza.
2018: On March 30, tens of thousands of Palestinians rally near the Israeli border in the Gaza Strip to protest Israel’s blockade of the enclave. Demonstrations continue for several months. At least 189 Palestinians were killed and more than 6,000 injured during these protests between the end of March and the end of December 2018, according to the Independent International Commission of Inquiry mandated by the UN Human Rights Council.
2021: Palestinian worshippers clash with Israeli police in May at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound following weeks of mounting tension. Hamas unleashes a barrage of rockets into Israel after demanding Israeli forces withdraw from the compound. Israel responds with air strikes on Gaza, setting off an 11-day conflict resulting in the deaths of more than 200 people.
2022: Israel pounds Gaza with air strikes on August 5, killing a senior militant of the Islamic Jihad group and triggering retaliatory rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave. At least 40 Palestinians are killed in the three days of fighting that follow.
On October 7, Hamas mounts an unprecedented, multipronged surprise attack on Israel with fighters infiltrating the heavily fortified Gaza border in several locations by air, land and sea. Israeli forces respond with air strikes on Gaza and military reinforcements to the border.
Follow our liveblog on Hamas's attack on Israel and the Israeli military's retaliation in Gaza for all the latest developments.