Israel’s first war with neighboring Arab countries began on the same day the Jewish state was re-established on May 14, 1948. Jewish sovereignty ended 2,000 years earlier, in the year 70 A.D. at the hands of the Roman conquest. The first Jewish commonwealth dates back 3,000 years to the time of King David.
That war saw surrounding Arab nations – Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan and Iraq, (with additional forces sent by Saudi Arabia and Yemen) –attack the fledgling state. The war led to the displacement of some 750,000 Arabs. At the same time, Arab nations began expelling hundreds of thousands of their Jewish populations, many of whom would settle in Israel.
Today’s war in Gaza is a continuation of the many wars and conflicts that have ensued since. Here is a timeline of the Israeli-Arab conflict:
A majority of United Nations member states vote in the General Assembly on a partition plan to divide British Mandated Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state. While the Jews accepted the plan for two states, the Arabs rejected it.
Israel proclaimed independence, re-establishing the modern Jewish state and was immediately attacked by a coalition of Arab states, the first of a series of Arab-Israeli wars. Against all odds, the Israelis fight off the Arab armies in the War of Independence.
Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalizes the Suez Canal, which would result in Israeli, British and French military action. The French and Brits wanted to depose Nasser while Israel wanted to regain access through the Straits of Tiran. An agreement facilitated by the U.S. and Soviet Union resolved the conflict, but the canal remained closed until 1957 due to sunken ships. Nasser remained in power.
In 1964, some three years before Israel took over territory won in the 1967 war, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was formed, as well as additional smaller groups, calling for a return to what they consider their homeland. Their aim was the destruction of the State of Israel. Buoyed on by its leader Yasser Arafat, the PLO launched deadly terror attacks against Israel.
Egypt’s Nasser tells the United Nations that its peacekeeping force needs to leave the Sinai, with the aim of making it easier to attack Israel. Egypt once again blocks off the Straits of Tiran, which Israel viewed as an act of war.
Not wasting any time, the Israelis launched a surprise attack in what would be known as the Six-Day War.
As a result, Israel seizes control of the Gaza Strip, the Sinai, the West Bank, (known by Israelis as Judea and Samaria), the Golan Heights, and Jordanian-controlled East Jerusalem, thereby fulfilling the millennia-long Jewish dream of unifying the holy city as the capital of the Jewish state. Israel’s victory against the Arabs was hailed as one of the most significant victories in military history.
Following the Six-Day War, with no serious peace agreement reached between the warring parties, the fighting between Israel and Arab nations continued, evolving into a three-year War of Attrition.
The tension is underscored by the Three No’s declaration made by the Arab League in September 1967 in Khartoum, Sudan: No peace, No recognition, and No negotiations with Israel.
Arab nations, led by Egypt and Syria, launch a surprise attack on Israel on the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people, Yom Kippur. The initial Arab advance is met with a strong Israeli counteroffensive. The conflict resulted in heavy casualties on both sides, with Israel fighting back and winning a decisive victory. President Nixon ordered a mass airlift of tanks, ammunition and equipment that is credited with making a big difference in aiding Israel to win the war.
The Camp David Accords, brokered by U.S. President Jimmy Carter in 1978, laid the groundwork for a subsequent peace agreement between Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
Ayatollah Khomeini seizes power in Iran’s Islamic revolution, paving the way for a new hostile power. The regime holds 98 Americans hostage for 444 days after protesters stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran. The Iranian regime refers to the U.S. as the Great Satan and Israel the little Satan and starts a campaign of terror against U.S. and Israeli interests.
The first Lebanon war was launched by Israel to stop Palestinian terrorists attacking communities in northern Israel. The decision to invade Lebanon followed the attempted assassination of Israel’s ambassador in London by Palestinian terrorists. The war lasted more than three months, with Israeli troops reaching as far as the outskirts of Beirut, leading to the exodus of thousands of PLO members, including Arafat.
Despite the withdrawal of the PLO from Lebanon, Israeli troops continued to monitor activities in Lebanon. On Sept. 16, in coordination with the Israeli army, a Lebanese Christian militia group known as the Phalange enters two Palestinian refugee camps, Sabra and Shatila. The Phalange mission was to wipe out terrorists in the camps, but instead they killed many civilians in a notorious massacre.
Reports vary on the number of people killed, from 460 to 3,500. Israel held a commission of inquiry following outrage from the Israeli public and found that Israel was partly responsible for the massacre. It also resulted in the firing of the IDF chief of staff and led to the resignation of then Defense Minister Ariel Sharon.
A suicide bomber kills 241 U.S. servicemen, mostly Marines, after an Iran directed terror attack carried out by Hezbollah targeted the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut. The U.S. was there as part of a multinational peacekeeping force. Shortly after the attack, a French peacekeeping mission was also targeted, killing 58 French paratroopers.
Israel maintains its occupation zone in southern Lebanon after pulling back from a line further north, controlling the area with the help of the South Lebanon Army.
Palestinians launched a national uprising, known as the Intifada, against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. This leads to a heavy Israeli military crackdown, resulting in clashes and many casualties on both sides.
Hamas is founded around the same time of the first Intifada in 1987. According to The Associated Press, the acronym for Hamas in Arabic is ‘the Islamic Resistance Movement,’ in recognition of its ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. The terror group’s founding charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.
The Oslo Accords, consisting of two key agreements, were signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). These agreements lay the groundwork for limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, establishing the Palestinian Authority to manage administrative affairs in some areas. The PLO also agreed to renounce violence and recognize the Jewish state.
While the PLO gains recognition as a negotiating partner from Israel and the United States, critical issues like Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the status of Jerusalem, which Palestinians hope will become their future capital, remain unresolved.
On Nov. 4, as progress toward peace between Israelis and Palestinians continues, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated at a peace rally in Tel Aviv by ultranationalist Israeli Yigal Amir, who opposes the Oslo Accords.
Following increased rocket attacks on its civilian communities in the north by Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israel launched ‘Operation Grapes of Wrath,’ to deter the attacks.
The Clinton State Department proscribes Hamas as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO.) Other countries follow with their own designations of the group.
Israel completes its full withdrawal from Southern Lebanon.
In January 2005, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, overseeing a full disengagement from the Palestinian enclave in September of that year. The following year, Hamas wins legislative elections, creating political tensions with Fatah in the West Bank. Elections have not taken place since then.
Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah kidnaps two Israeli soldiers and kills an additional eight, sparking the Second Lebanon War. Hezbollah fires thousands of rockets and missiles into northern Israel, which responds with airstrikes and ground forces. Following hundreds of deaths and massive damage on both sides, hostilities come to an end with the passage of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701.
In 2007, Hamas forcefully took control of Gaza, overthrowing the Palestinian Authority in the strip. In response to Hamas rockets launched from Gaza, Israel imposed a partial blockade on the enclave by controlling goods and personnel coming in and out of the territory.
Israel launched ‘Operation Cast Lead’ aimed at stopping Hamas rocket and mortar fire from the territory into Israel.
Israel killed Hamas terror leader Ahmed Jabari, triggering a week-long period of rocket attacks from Gaza and retaliatory Israeli airstrikes. The conflict resulted in at least 150 Palestinians and six Israelis losing their lives.
The highly controversial chant that is seen as calling for Israel’s destruction, ‘From the river to the sea,’ is adopted by Hamas, according to The Associated Press. Kahled Mashaal, the group’s former leader, stated in a speech celebrating the terrorist group’s 25th anniversary that, ‘Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north… There will be no concession on any inch of the land.’ Other reports say the slogan originated in the 1960s and was used by the PLO.
Hamas terrorists kill three Israeli teenagers abducted in the vicinity of a Jewish settlement in the West Bank. As Israel attempted to save the teens, Hamas fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, leading to an incursion by Israeli forces into Gaza. The conflict, which Israelis refer to as Operation Protective Edge, lasted 50 days and resulted in more than 2,200 Palestinian fatalities in Gaza and 73 Israeli deaths.
Violent protests unfold along the Gaza-Israel border, as Gazans tried to break through the security fence in what they term as the ‘Great March of Return,’ endangering Israeli communities on the border. The IDF responds with sniper fire, killing some 190 protesters over the course of several months.
In November, Israel executes a raid into Gaza, resulting in the loss of at least seven Palestinian terrorists and a high-ranking Israeli army officer. In retaliation, hundreds of rockets are launched from Gaza into Israeli territory.
The Trump administration fulfills an election promise and recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and opens up its new embassy in the holy city.
President Trump said in a video statement, ‘For many years, we have failed to acknowledge the obvious, plain reality that the [Israeli] capital is Jerusalem. At my direction, the United States finally and officially recognized Jerusalem as the true capital of Israel.’
The UAE and Bahrain normalize ties with Israel in agreements known as the Abraham Accords. The historic Trump administration-brokered accords followed months of negotiations. Sudan and Morocco also sign normalization agreements with Israel. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas reject the accords.
Following weeks of heightened tension in Jerusalem, Israeli police responded to violence on the Temple Mount, the most sacred site to Jews, and the site of the al-Aqsa Mosque, one of Islam’s most revered sites. In response, Hamas launched thousands of rockets into Israel, triggering retaliation involving hundreds of airstrikes in the most intense conflict since at least 2014, with many deaths on both sides.
Israeli military units conduct anti-terror raids into the Palestinian city of Jenin, resulting in a deadly shootout that kills nine terrorists. The following day, a Palestinian terrorist opens fire at a Jerusalem synagogue during prayer, killing seven people, including children.
In May, Israel launched surprise airstrikes in Gaza, leading to a five-day conflict that caused casualties on both sides.
In June, Israeli forces conduct a significant raid into Jenin due to an increasing wave of terrorism coming from Iran-backed terror groups from within the Palestinian city.
Following lethal terror attacks on Israelis, extremist Jewish settlers clashed with Palestinians in their villages. Israel subsequently executes its first drone strike in the West Bank since 2006, targeting terrorist headquarters.
The following month, Israel initiated an air and ground offensive targeting terrorists within Jenin, marking the start of a prolonged ‘comprehensive counterterrorism effort.’
On Oct. 7, Hamas terrorists surprised Israel in a brutal attack by invading its communities along the Gaza border. Some 1,200 Israelis were savagely killed, with 240 Israelis and foreigners kidnapped and taken hostage in Gaza.
On Oct. 8, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu officially declared war on Hamas. The offensive occurs a day after the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
The Israeli Air Force commences attacks against Hamas targets in Gaza, responding to the infiltration by Hamas terrorists into Israeli territory from the Gaza Strip. Israel has responded with a significant series of airstrikes targeting terrorists in Gaza and a ground incursion into Gaza. The Hamas-controlled ministry of health has claimed 12,000 Palestinians have been killed as a result of Israeli attacks.
The United States and many other countries have expressed support for Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas terror.
Fox News’ Chris Massaro, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.