INDEPTH: MIDDLE EAST
Timeline of recent developments
CBC News Online | July 17, 2006
July 12, 2006:
Hezbollah militants in Lebanon conduct a raid into Israel, killing as many as seven Israeli soldiers and wounding another eight. The militants also capture two Israeli soldiers.
Israel's Defence Ministry says the Lebanese government would be held responsible for the kidnappings.
Israeli rockets target roads and bridges in southern Lebanon in an apparent attempt to block escape routes, and troops enter the country to search for the abducted soldiers.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert calls the Hezbollah attack "an act of war."
June 25, 2006:
Israeli soldiers remove the bodies of two comrades after an attack by Palestinians at a military post near the farming community of Kerem Shalom on June 25, 2006. (Tsafrir Abayov/Associated Press)
Palestinian militants attack an Israeli army post, killing two soldiers and abducting a third. They crawled through a tunnel from the Gaza Strip. Israel later closed the tunnel and shut down the border to Gaza. Israeli leaders said they would wait two days for the militants to return the soldier before launching a military response. This was the first time militants have conducted a deadly raid since the army withdrew from Gaza in September 2005.
June 24, 2006:
Two rival Palestinian groups agree to stop firing rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip. A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas tells Reuters that the Fatah leader and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas have agreed to stop firing rockets at Israel. This move raised hopes of a new truce, but militants with the armed wing of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group deny a ceasefire.
June 13, 2006:
Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz says an inquiry has concluded that Israel is not responsible for an explosion on a beach June 9, blaming it on an explosive buried in the sand. Human Rights Watch says its investigation found the explosion was caused by a 155-millimetre shell "in all likelihood" fire by an Israeli gun.
An Israeli air strike kills nine Palestinians, including two members of Islamic Jihad. The others killed were civilians, including two children, hospital officials say.
June 12, 2006:
Fatah forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas open fire on the parliament building in Ramallah and storm in, smashing furniture and setting fire to cabinet offices.
June 10, 2006:
President Mahmoud Abbas calls a referendum for July 26 on creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Hamas threatens a boycott because they say a yes vote would be a de facto recognition of the state of Israel.
The armed wing of Hamas fires more than a dozen rockets on the Israeli city of Ashkelon, ending a 16-month-old self-declared truce.
June 9, 2006:
Injured children are treated by medics at the hospital in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya on June 9, 2006. (Hatem Moussa/Associated Press)
An explosion on a beach in Gaza kills eight Palestinians, including a family with three children having a picnic. The Palestinian government accuses Israel of firing the shell that caused the explosion. The Israeli defence minister would later deny that the military caused the explosion, blaming it on an explosive buried in the sand.
June 8, 2006:
Israeli helicopters fired four missiles at a training camp in the southern Gaza town of Rafah, killing Jamal Abu Samhadana, the Palestinian government's top security chief, and three other militants. Ten other people are wounded.
June 1, 2006:
Thousands of Palestinian police officers demonstrate in the Gaza Strip over the government's failure to pay close to three months worth of wages.
May 26, 2006:
Hamas withdraws a security force of 3,000 gunmen from Gaza in an effort to reduce tensions with the rival Fatah faction.
May 24, 2006:
The Israeli military conducts a raid on Ramallah, killing at least three Palestinians and injuring 30 others before withdrawing. A short time later in a separate incident, a car bombing kills Gaza security chief and Abbas loyalist Nabil Hodhod.
May 19, 2006:
A gun battle erupts near the Palestinian parliament building in the Gaza Strip between members of the new Hamas security force and police officers loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas.
May 16, 2006:
President Mahmoud Abbas warns that an "explosion of anger" is coming if international donors don't move quickly to restore aid cut off since Hamas won control of the Palestinian parliament.
May 9, 2006:
The quartet of Mideast mediators – the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations – announce a "temporary mechanism" to bypass the Hamas-led Palestinian government so aid money could be given to the Palestinian people.
May 4, 2006:
Israel's acting prime minister, Ehud Olmert, outlines a plan for the occupied territories. It includes withdrawing from some parts of the area. He also tells the Palestinian Authority, "a Palestinian government led by a terror organization will not be a partner for negotiations."
April 18, 2006:
Japan withholds aid money to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority.
April 7, 2006:
The Palestinian Authority's largest donor, the European Union, halts all payments. The EU had been threatening to cut off aid unless Hamas renounced violence, and recognized Israel. A spokesman for Hamas describes the decision as "blackmail" against the Palestinian people.
March 29, 2006:
Saying the new Hamas-led government was refusing to recognize Israel, Canada suspends aid to the Palestinian Authority. Canada had said funding and contact would stop if Hamas did not renounce violence against Israel and stick to existing peace deals.
March 28, 2006:
Ariel Sharon's new Kadima party emerges from Israel's election with 28 seats in the 120-seat Knesset. Sharon's former party, the far-right Likud, drops to just 11 seats. The centre-left Labour party comes in second, with 20 seats.
Kadima leader and acting prime minister Ehud Olmert had campaigned on setting the borders between Israeli and Palestinian land. During his victory speech, Olmert directs some comments directly to Palestinians: "We are ready to compromise, to give up parts of the beloved land of Israel – and evacuate, under great pain, Jews living there, in order to create the conditions that will enable you to fulfil your dream and live alongside us."
March 14, 2006:
Hundreds of Israeli troops in tanks, armoured vehicles and helicopters conduct a raid on a prison in Jericho, in the West Bank, bursting through the front gate shortly after 9 a.m. Palestinian prison guards and Israeli soldiers exchange gunfire. Several hours into the raid, Israeli soldiers order the prisoners to strip to their underwear and leave the prison. Israeli troops take seven of the prisoners into custody, including Ahmed Saadat, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), believed to have planned the 2001 assassination of Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi.
The Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference condemn the raid. Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League, says British and American observers left the prison shortly before the Israeli raid began, indicating "some sort of co-ordination."
The raid sparks violence and protests throughout the Palestinian territories. Several foreigners are kidnapped, including Canadian aid worker Adam Budzanowski. Budzanowski and most of the other hostages are later released.
March 7, 2006:
The Palestinian parliament, dominated by militant group Hamas, votes to revoke a law passed under the Fatah government that gave President Mahmous Abbas, chairman of the Fatah party, sweeping powers. Fatah members walk out in protest, ending the first parliamentary session since the Hamas win.
Feb. 18, 2006:
Hamas formally takes over the running of the Palestinian government. Sami abu-Zuhri, spokesman for the militant group, rules out peace talks with Israel, saying Hamas "rejects negotiations with the occupation under the current circumstances."
Jan. 30, 2006:
Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader, pleads for the international community not to cut off aid money to the Palestinian Authority. "We in Hamas are ready to meet and have an open dialogue," said Haniyeh.
Jan. 26, 2006:
The Islamist group Hamas captures 76 of 132 seats in the Palestinian parliament. The Fatah party wins only 43 seats. The U.S., EU, and Israel all would later threaten to stop sending money to the Palestinian Authority unless Hamas changed its policies toward Israel.
Jan. 4, 2006:
Ariel Sharon is rushed to hospital after suffering what's believed to be a second stroke. He undergoes seven hours of emergency surgery to stop bleeding in his brain. His deputy, Ehud Olmert, is named acting prime minister.
Dec. 18, 2005:
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffers a mild stroke. He is released from hospital two days later.
Nov. 21, 2005:
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon resigns from the Likud party, saying he was creating a new centrist party – Kadima - to lead into an early election. Sharon's decision followed an internal revolt within Likud over his plan to withdraw Israeli settlers and troops from the Gaza Strip. Later, Shimon Peres, a former leader of the Labour Party and a former prime minister, said he would support Sharon.
Oct. 17, 2005:
Israel imposes strict travel restrictions in the West Bank and suspends contact with the Palestinian Authority after three Israelis are killed and five injured in two drive-by shootings.
Sept. 15, 2005:
The Supreme Court of Israel orders the government to change the path of its security barrier in the northern part of West Bank. The court rejects a World Court decision that said the barrier is illegal and must be demolished.
Sept. 12, 2005:
Israeli troops leave the Gaza Strip, ending their 38-year presence in the area. Palestinians celebrate the troop withdrawal. Some of the synagogues remaining in the Strip are set on fire.
Aug. 23, 2005:
The last Israeli settlers leave their settlements in the Gaza Strip, ahead of a full Israeli withdrawal from the area.
Aug. 15, 2005:
Some settlers in the Gaza Strip block the gates to their communities in an attempt to prevent Israeli soldiers from delivering eviction notices.
Aug. 11, 2005:
Over 100,000 people, as many as 300,000 according to some estimates, gather around Rabin Square in Tel Aviv. Both organizers and police call it one of the largest rallies in recent memory.
Aug. 10, 2005:
Thousands of people gather at the Western Wall to pray and protest against the Gaza disengagement plan.
Aug. 4, 2005:
Israeli announces it will build 72 new housing units in the West Bank, two weeks before a planned pullout from the Gaza Strip.
July 15, 2005:
Israel fires missiles into the Gaza Strip, killing six Hamas militants. The attacks come in response to dozens of missiles fired from the Strip at Israeli targets, attacks that killed a 22-year-old woman.
July 12, 2005:
A suicide bomber blows himself up at a mall in Netanya, killing two others. Islamic Jihad claims responsibility for the attack. It is the second suicide bombing since the Israeli-Palestinian truce declared in February 2005.
June 29, 2005:
Settlers in the Gaza settlement of Gush Katif throw stones at Palestinians. Israeli soldiers fire their weapons into the air to disperse the crowd. Also, angry settlers and ultra-nationalists protest against the Israeli withdrawal in Jerusalem. Police use water cannon to scatter the protestors.
May 9, 2005:
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon delays the planned pullout from the Gaza Strip until mid-August so it will not coincide with the Jewish mourning period, Tisha B'av.
March 29, 2005:
The Israeli parliament approves the 2005 state budget, giving final approval to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw settlers from the Gaza Strip.
Feb. 20, 2005:
The Israeli cabinet approves by a large majority the plan for removal of Jewish settlements form the Gaza Strip and part of the West Bank. Starting July 20, all 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip and four of the 120 settlements in the West Bank will be dismantled. The cabinet has also voted to extend the barrier in the West Bank to fit closer to the 1967 border known as the Green Line.
Feb. 8, 2005:
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announce a truce to end more than four years of incessant fighting. Though the two sides do not sign an official ceasefire agreement in Egypt, both agree this is an important opportunity to advance the peace process. The White House has announced it will appoint a security co-ordinator to train and equip Palestinian forces and monitor progress on both sides.
Feb. 2, 2005:
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accept an invitation for a summit in Egypt the following week. Cautiously, the international community watches with renewed hope.
Jan. 9, 2005:
Mahmoud Abbas wins a majority in the Palestinian presidential election.
Dec. 27, 2004:
Israel frees 159 prisoners as part of an agreement with Egypt and as a goodwill gesture to the new Palestinian leadership.
Nov. 14, 2004:
Palestinian elections are set for Jan. 9, 2005. Mahmoud Abbas emerges as the favourite in the race to succeed Yasser Arafat.
Nov. 12, 2004:
World leaders gather in Cairo for the funeral of Yasser Arafat, which is closed to the public. The body is then flown to Ramallah to be buried. The Palestinian leader is laid to rest amid a chaotic scene, as tens of thousands of mourners mob his coffin and police fire their weapons into the air.
Nov. 11, 2004:
Yasser Arafat dies in hospital in France at the age of 75. The Palestinian leader had been taken to an army hospital in Paris after his doctors diagnosed him with a large gallstone 10 days earlier. He died after several days in a coma.
Oct. 18, 2004:
Israeli army pulls out of most of northern Gaza ending one of the deadliest incursions there in more than four years. More than 130 Palestinians over a third of them civilians have been killed.
Sept. 12, 2004:
Tens of thousands of Jewish settlers and their supporters demonstrate in Jerusalem against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to evacuate Gaza and West Bank settlements. Sharon accuses the protesters of inciting violence.
Sept. 6, 2004:
Israel agrees to alter the path of the West Bank barrier, adjusting its southern path closer to the "green line," which divided Israel and the West Bank before the 1967 war. This move complies with the ruling of the Israeli Supreme Court.
Sept. 4, 2004:
Few Palestinians are registering for the upcoming elections, to be held in approximately four months. The last elections were held in January 1996.
Sept. 2, 2004:
The Palestinian parliament strikes to pressure Yasser Arafat to tackle corruption, allow elections and relinquish some of his power particularly over the security forces.
Aug. 20, 2004:
Israel's Supreme Court orders government to justify defying the ruling of the international court against the security barrier.
Aug. 19, 2004:
Israel's governing Likud party votes against the prime minister's plan to form a coalition with the opposition Labour party. Sharon needs the support of Labour to push through his plan for unilateral withdrawal from Gaza.
Aug. 6, 2004:
The first of 1,500 Palestinians head home from Egypt as Israel reopens its border. It had been closed for three weeks due to reports of planned attacks. Egypt warned that a humanitarian crisis was looming on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing where hundreds of Palestinians were stranded in the desert without adequate food or shelter.
July 21, 2004:
Israel vows to continue building the security barrier across the West Bank despite a United Nations resolution demanding that the government comply with the International Court of Justice ruling. Canada abstained in the vote in the UN General Assembly.
July 18, 2004:
Ahmed Qureia attempts to resign as Palestinian prime minister amid the lawlessness that has caused the government to declare a state of emergency in Gaza. Yasser Arafat refuses to accept the resignation, which was spurred by the men's difference on the question of reforming security forces.
July 9, 2004:
The International Court of Justice rules that Israel's barrier in the West Bank violates international laws and infringes on the rights of the Palestinians. The court rules the barrier should be torn down, and the panel recommends that Israel compensate the Palestinians.
June 6, 2004:
The Israeli cabinet approves a watered down version of the Gaza withdrawal plan. Seventeen settlements will be dismantled in the Gaza Strip and four in the West Bank.
May 31, 2004:
Ariel Sharon presents a revised plan for withdrawal from Gaza to members of his Likud party. Earlier, he failed to get approval for the plan, which has the support of Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, U.S. President George W. Bush and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
April 6, 2004:
Ariel Sharon says that Yasser Arafat would be a legitimate target for assassination despite a three-year-old promise to the U.S. not to harm the Palestinian leader. Washington issues a blunt rebuttal.
Dec. 1, 2003:
The peace process stalls when Israel rejects Palestinian demands to stop the construction of the controversial security fence through the West Bank.
Nov. 13, 2003:
A new Palestinian cabinet is sworn in with Ahmed Qureia holding the prime minister's post. A meeting between Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers is set to take place in 10 days.
Oct. 10, 2003:
The Palestinian leadership is facing a serious crisis with the new Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia threatening to resign just two days after being sworn in. Qureia is reportedly indignant over Yasser Arafat's attempts to interfere on security issues. Israelis carry out more raids in the Gaza Strip.
Sept. 7, 2003:
U.S. administration says it's committed to the road map for peace despite the surprise resignation of Mahmoud Abbas.
Aug. 21, 2003:
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas threatens to resign unless Yasser Arafat approves a crackdown on Hamas. More violence and the dispute over the number of Palestinian prisoners to be released by Israel are obstructing the peace process.
July 9, 2003:
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas threatens to quit his post amid serious turmoil in government. Members of Fatah accuse him of being too moderate in negotiations with Israel. Ariel Sharon has refused to release thousands of Palestinian prisoners.
After a series of meetings, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas shake hands on the road map for peace plan. The agreement is jeopardized by another spate of Palestinian suicide bombings and Israeli military incursions into Palestinian areas.
April 30, 2003:
Copies of the road map for peace are presented to Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers.
April 29, 2003:
Mahmoud Abbas become prime minister of the Palestinian Authority by a majority parliamentary vote.
U.S. President Bush ties the unveiling of the internationally-backed road map for peace plan to the appointment of a Palestinian prime minister. Mahmoud Abbas, Yasser Arafat's nominee for prime minister, agrees to assume the post.
Dec. 21, 2002:
Yasser Arafat cancels elections for a Palestinian prime minister, blaming the Israeli military occupation.
Sept. 20, 2002:
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat pleads for international help as Israeli forces pound his Ramallah compound. The Israeli government blames Arafat for continuing terrorist attacks in Israel.
Aug. 13, 2002:
Israel's highest court blocks the expulsion of three relatives of suspected Palestinian terrorists. These expulsions were ordered as part of Israel's strategy to prevent suicide bombings.
Aug. 6, 2002:
Israel's Supreme Court upholds the army's right to demolish Palestinian homes of suspected militants without warning. Palestinian delegation meets with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.
July 25, 2002:
Facing international criticism for the latest Gaza bombing, Israel says it could withdraw troops from Hebron and Bethlehem if the Palestinians were willing to assume control. Israel announces it will hand over a portion of withheld tax revenues to the Palestinians and issue more work permits. Palestinians say that's not enough to ease the hardship of 700,000 people under curfew in the West Bank.
July 20, 2002:
Israel toughens its response to suicide bombings with a decision to destroy the attackers' homes. The government is contemplating expelling brothers and fathers of the attackers. Twenty-one relatives are detained and two homes and destroyed.
July 18, 2002:
Egyptian government offers to train Palestinian police under the condition the Israeli military withdraws from the West Bank.
July 17, 2002:
Israeli government calls off planned talks with Palestinian officials after a deadly attack in Tel Aviv that kills eight people. Israeli soldiers fan out across parts of the West Bank in search of the attackers. Three Palestinian militant groups claim responsibility.
July 12, 2002:
Arafat delivers a speech of mixed signals. He says he will not step down. Faced with growing U.S. pressure to resign, he also says he has not decided whether to run in the next election.
July 3, 2002:
Thousands of Palestinians take to the streets of Gaza City to demonstrate their support for Yasser Arafat. The Fatah-organized demonstration is meant to counter a recent protest against Arafat.
June 26, 2002:
Palestinian elections are announced for January 2003, and Arafat is expected to run for another term.
June 25, 2002:
Europe and the Arab world express apprehension over George Bush's call for the removal of Yasser Arafat. The far right in Israel calls the U.S. position a victory, but other voices express concern the plan will incite more violence.
June 24, 2002:
U.S. President George Bush delivers speech on Palestinian statehood, which he says will have U.S. support if the Palestinians oust Yasser Arafat. He adds that the Palestinians will have to rebuild existing legislative and judicial structures and join the war on terror.
June 22, 2002:
The Israeli military warns it will deliver a more crushing military response to a week of increased violence during which 30 Israelis die in suicide bombings and 16 Palestinians die in Israeli military strikes.
June 17, 2002:
Israel begins construction of the controversial security fence expected to keep out Palestinian suicide bombers. The fence will run from Salem Junction in northern Israel south to a point in northeast Tel Aviv. One proposal suggests the barrier will stretch over 640 km.
June 10, 2002:
U.S. President George Bush supports Israel's right to defend itself against terrorism, following Ariel Sharon's visit to Washington. Bush also calls for dramatic reform of the Palestinian authority, saying no one has trust in the present government.
June 9, 2002:
Caving in to domestic and U.S. pressure for reform, Yasser Arafat cuts his cabinet from 31 ministers to 21. Arafat does not name a prime minister, thereby retaining control of the government.
June 8, 2002:
U.S. President George Bush announces that setting a timetable for establishing a Palestinian state is premature. His comments follow two days of talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who, like other Arab leaders, is pushing for U.S. support of a Palestinian state.
June 6, 2002:
Israeli troops withdraw from Yasser Arafat's headquarters after a six-hour siege. One of Arafat's guards is killed in an exchange of fire with Israeli soldiers. Arafat emerges from the compound to declare victory in front of cheering crowds.
June 5, 2002:
Israeli military surrounds Yasser Arafat's Ramallah compound following a suicide bombing that kills 17 people. Israel's foreign minister blames the attack directly on Arafat. An Islamic Jihad group claims responsibility for the attack.
June 4, 2002:
Yasser Arafat presents a plan to CIA Director George Tenet proposing cutting Palestinian security forces in half. The Israeli government finalizes plans to build a 130-km fence along the frontier of the West Bank as a security measure.
June 3, 2002:
Israeli troops round up close to 400 Palestinian men for questioning in more raids. Militant groups refuse Yasser Arafat's offer of posts in a reorganized cabinet, rejecting the idea of negotiating with Israel.
May 31, 2002:
Israeli forces enter Nablus and surrounding refugee camps. Soldiers do house-to-house searches of suspected militants. CIA Director George Tenet is due to arrive to discuss the reconstruction of Palestinian security forces as a step toward a ceasefire. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns is scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
May 28, 2002:
Israel steps up raids in response to the latest suicide bombing that killed two people. Tanks enter Jenin and the West Bank town of Hebron. White House announces it will be sending an envoy to the region in an effort to restart peace talks.
May 17, 2002:
Palestinian officials say elections can take place within six months, provided that Israeli troops withdraw to positions they held 20 months ago, before the outbreak in violence.
May 15, 2002:
Yasser Arafat calls for elections and says reform is necessary for the peace process to move forward. His speech does not include any information on how or when the elections would take place. He accepts responsibility for not taking a tough enough stance against Israel.