Since 1948, and again in 1967, millions of Palestinians have been driven from their homes and live in squalor in refugee camps which festoon the Arab world.
But the roots of the conflict pre-date the UN mandate which led to the creation of Israel in 1948.
May 16, 1916: 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.
November 2, 1917: 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.”
July 24, 1922: 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.
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.
July 22, 1946: Bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which housed the British civil, military and police command in Palestine, by members of Irgun, a Zionist organisation. Ninety-one people are killed, 28 British, 41 Arab, 17 Jewish and five from other countries.
November 29, 1947: 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 Nabka, 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. Over 500 Palestinian villages and towns were ethnically cleansed. Then renamed and repopulated by Jewish immigrants. To create ‘Israel’.
April 9, 11, 1948: 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.
May 15, 1948: 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.
April, 1949: Israel and Arab states agree an armistice. Israel has taken 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.
May, 1964: 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.
June, 1967: 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. In this year, Israel begins settlement programme in areas captured during the Six Day war.
February 2, 1969: Yasser Arafat is appointed chairman of the PLO.
October 6, 1973: ‘Yom Kippur 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.
November 13, 1974: As thousands protest outside, Yasser Arafat makes his first appearance before the UN General Assembly, delivering his “olive branch and freedom fighter’s gun” speech.
November 22, 1974: The PLO is granted observer status at the UN.
June 6, 1982: Israel invades Lebanon to remove PLO fighters who it says are threatening its border. PLO relocates to Tunis as it is driven out of Lebanon by Israel during the six-month invasion of the country. Remains active in Lebanon but not to the same extent as before 1982.
September, 1982: Sabra and Shatila massacre. Lebanese Phalangists (members of a Christian paramilitary group) kill up to 2,750 Palestinians in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila.
August, 1983: The Israeli army withdraws from most of Lebanon, maintaining a self-proclaimed “security zone” in the south.
September 25, 1985: Three Israelis are killed on their yacht off the coast of Larnaca, Cyprus, by Force 17, a commando group from Fatah, the largest organisation in the PLO.
October 1, 1985: 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.
December 8, 1987: 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.
November 15, 1988: At a meeting of the Palestine National Council in Algeria, Yasser Arafat unilaterally proclaims a State of Palestine.
August, 1990: The PLO supports Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Kuwait responds by severing ties with the PLO and cutting its financial backing. After Iraqi forces are defeated, Kuwait expels some 400,000 Palestinians who had been living in the emirate.
September 13, 1993: Oslo declaration of principles. PLO and Israel agree to recognise each other.
February 25, 1994: Baruch Goldstein, an American-Israeli settler, enters the Cave of the Patriarchs, a religious site in Hebron, and kills 29 Palestinians, injuring another 125.
October 26, 1994: 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.
November 4, 1995: 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.
11-25 July, 2000: The Camp David Summit between Ehud Barak, Israel’s prime minister, and Arafat, the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, aimed at reaching a “final status” agreement ends after Arafat refuses to accept a proposal drafted by US and Israeli negotiators.
28 September, 2000: Palestinians riot after Ariel Sharon, of the Likud party in Israel, visits the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Second Intifada begins.
October 17, 2001: Rehavam Zeevi, Israel’s tourism minister, is shot dead in Jerusalem by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
December: Sharon sends troops into Ramallah shelling and surrounding the Palestinian government’s West Bank headquarters; Arafat is unable to leave.
March, 2002: Israeli army launches Operation Defensive Shield, the country’s biggest military operation in the West Bank since the Six Day war in 1967. In the same year, 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.
March, 2003: Rachel Corrie, an American Pro-Palestine activist was bulldozed to death by an Israeli bulldozer whilst she was trying to stop a Palestinian chemists family’s home being bulldozed.
March 22, 2004: Sheikh Yassin, the founder and leader of Hamas, is assassinated by an Israeli helicopter gunship.