Mahmoud Abbas

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Posted by bender 02/26/2009 @ 23:01

Tags : mahmoud abbas, palestinian authority, middle east, world

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Fatah accuses Hamas of trying to block Nakba celebrations in Gaza - Xinhua
RAMALLAH, May 14 (Xinhua) -- A Fatah spokesman on Thursday accused the Islamic Hamas movement of trying to prevent supporters of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement from marking the annual anniversary of the Nakba, or catastrophe,...
Egypt partly opens Gaza borders for humanitarian cases - Ha'aretz
Since 2007, when Hamas routed security forces loyal to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and seized the coastal Strip, the border between Gaza and Egypt has only been intermittently open. The crossing is the Gaza Strip's only crossing that does not...
Abbas thanks pope for "understanding" Palestinian suffering (Extra) - Monsters and Critics.com
Bethlehem, West Bank - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas thanked Pope Benedict XVI Wednesday for the Vatican's position understanding the 'suffering of our people' and called for a peace agreement with Israel based on a two-state solution....
Abbas heads to Damascus for meeting with Assad - Jerusalem Post
COM STAFF Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was heading to Damascus on Thursday for a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad. The two were expected to discuss the Middle East peace process as well as efforts for reconciliation between...
Fickle Friends in the War On Terror - Newsweek
Obama's next stop was Istanbul, where he called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to cooperate ahead of an upcoming Mideast peace conference in Washington. But even if they wanted to—and it's...
'Abbas: New Gov't To Be Established Within 48 Hours - MEMRI
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud 'Abbas said yesterday that a new Palestinian government would be established within 48 hours, headed by Salam Fayyadh, because the internal Palestinian dialogue had not succeeded, and no agreement on a national...
Official: Abbas should form gov't if factions fail in talks - Xinhua
GAZA, May 6 (Xinhua) -- A Palestinian official on Wednesday expected that president Mahmoud Abbas will form a new government if his Fatah party and Hamas rivals failed to reach an agreement in an upcoming round of dialogue. If the dialogue, which will...
uprisingradio.org - Uprising
Pope Benedict met recently with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and pledged his support for Palestinian statehood, putting him at odds with the new Israeli Prime Minister. During his visit to Gaza the pope witnessed first hand the...
Hamas warns Abbas not to form new government alone - Jerusalem Post
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH After failing to reach agreement with Hamas over the formation of a Palestinian unity government, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is planning to form a new government that would not include representatives of the...
US plans to expand program for Abbas's forces - Reuters
By Mohammed Assadi TULKARM, West Bank (Reuters) - The United States plans to expand a program to bolster Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's security forces in the occupied West Bank, the general in charge of training and equipping them said Monday....

Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas (Arabic: محمود عباس‎ Maḥmūd ʾAbbās) (born 26 March 1935), also known by the kunya Abu Mazen (Arabic: ابو مازن‎), has been the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation since 11 November 2004 and became President of the Palestinian National Authority on 15 January 2005 on the Fatah (فتح Fataḥ) ticket. Elected to serve until 9 January 2009, he unilaterally extended his term for another year. Rival political party Hamas announced it would not recognise the extension. Abbas was chosen as the President of the "State of Palestine" by the Palestine Liberation Organisation's Central Council on 23 November 2008, a job he had held unofficially since 8 May 2005.

Abbas served as the first Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority from March to October 2003 when he resigned citing lack of support from Israel and the United States as well as "internal incitement" against his government. Before being named prime minister, Abbas led the PLO's Negotiations Affairs Department.

Mahmoud Ridha Abbas was born in 1935 in Safed, then part of the British Mandate of Palestine. His family became refugees during the war of 1948 and settled in Syria. In Syria he attended school and graduated from the University of Damascus before going to Egypt where he studied law.

Later in his life, Abbas entered graduate studies at the Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, where he earned a Candidate of Sciences degree (the Soviet equivalent of a PhD).

In the mid-1950s Abbas became heavily involved in underground Palestinian politics, joining a number of exiled Palestinians in Qatar, where he was Director of Personnel in the emirate's Civil Service. While there, he recruited a number of people who would become key figures in the Palestine Liberation Organization, and was one of the founding members of Fatah in 1957. Yasser Arafat was among the other key members.

At the same time he has performed diplomatic duties, presenting a moderating face for PLO policies. Abbas was the first PLO official to visit Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War in January 1993 to mend fences with the Gulf countries for the PLO's opposition to the US attack on Iraq during the crisis. At the 1993 peace accord with Israel, Abbas was the signatory for the PLO on 13 September 1993. He published a memoir, Through Secret Channels: The Road to Oslo (1995).

By early 2003, as both Israel and the United States had indicated their refusal to negotiate with Yasser Arafat, Abbas began to emerge as a candidate for a more visible leadership role. As one of the few remaining founding members of Fatah, he had some degree of credibility within the Palestinian cause, and his candidacy was bolstered by the fact that other high-profile Palestinians were for various reasons not suitable (the most notable, Marwan Bargouti, was under arrest in an Israeli jail). Abbas's reputation as a pragmatist garnered him favor with the West and certain elements of the Palestinian legislature, and pressure was soon brought on Arafat to appoint him prime minister. Arafat did so on 19 March 2003. Initially, Arafat attempted to undermine the post of prime minister, but was eventually forced to give Abbas some degree of power.

However, the rest of Abbas's term as prime minister continued to be characterised by numerous conflicts between him and Arafat over the distribution of power between the two. Abbas had often hinted he would resign if not given more control over the administration. In early September 2003, he confronted the Palestinian parliament over this issue. The United States and Israel accused Arafat of constantly undermining Abbas and his government.

In addition, Abbas came into conflict with Palestinian militant groups, notably the Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine and Hamas because his pragmatic policies were opposed to their hard-line approach. However, he made it perfectly clear that he was forced to abandon, for the moment, the use of arms against Israeli civilians inside the green line due to its ineffectiveness.

Initially he pledged not to use force against the militants, in the interest of avoiding a civil war, and instead attempted negotiation. This was partially successful, resulting in a pledge from the two groups to honor a unilateral Palestinian cease-fire. However, continuing violence and Israeli "target killings" of known leaders forced Abbas to pledge a crackdown in order to uphold the Palestinian Authority's side of the Road map for peace. This led to a power struggle with Arafat over control of the Palestinian security services; Arafat refused to release control to Abbas, thus preventing him from using them on the militants.

Abbas resigned as prime minister in October 2003, citing lack of support from Israel and the United States as well as "internal incitement" against his government.

After Yasser Arafat's death Mahmoud Abbas was seen, at least by Fatah, as his natural successor.

On 25 November 2004, Abbas was endorsed by Fatah's Revolutionary Council as its preferred candidate for the presidential election, scheduled for 9 January 2005.

On 14 December Abbas called for an end to violence in the Second Intifada and a return to peaceful resistance. Abbas told the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that "the use of arms has been damaging and should end". However, he refused to disarm Palestinian militants and use force against groups that Israel, the United States and the European Union designated as terrorist organisations.

With Israeli forces arresting and restricting the movement of other candidates, Hamas' boycott of the election, and his campaign being given 94% of Palestine electoral campaign coverage on TV, Abbas' election was virtually ensured, and on 9 January Abbas was elected with 62% of the vote as President of the Palestinian National Authority.

In his speech, he addressed a crowd of supporters chanting "a million shahids", stating: "I present this victory to the soul of Yasser Arafat and present it to our people, to our martyrs and to 11,000 prisoners". He also called for Palestinian groups to end the use of arms against Israelis.

Despite Abbas' call for a peaceful solution, attacks by militant groups continued after his election, in a direct challenge to his authority. The Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine launched a raid in Gaza on 12 January that killed one and wounded three military personnel in Gaza. On 13 January Palestinians from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, Hamas, and the Popular Resistance Committees launched a suicide attack on the Karni crossing, killing six Israelis. As a result, Israel shut down the damaged terminal and broke off relations with Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, stating that Abbas must now show a gesture of peace by attempting to stop such attacks.

Abbas was formally sworn in as the Chairman of the Palestinian National Authority in a ceremony held on 15 January in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

On 23 January 2005, Israeli radio reported that Abbas had secured a thirty-day ceasefire from Hamas and Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine. On 12 February lone Palestinians attacked Israel settlements and Abbas quickly fired some of his security officers for not stopping the attacks in a ceasefire.

On 9 April 2005, Abbas said that the killing of three Palestinians in southern Gaza by Israeli soldiers is a deliberate violation of the declared ceasefire deal. "This violation is made on purpose," Abbas said in a written statement sent to reporters in the West Bank capital of Ramallah. Abbas made the statement shortly after three Palestinian teenage boys were shot dead by Israeli troops in the southern Gaza town of Rafah. Israel claimed they thought the boys were attempting to smuggle weapons, while Palestinians claimed a group of boys were playing soccer and three of them went to retrieve the ball near the border fence.

In response to the teens' deaths, Abbas said, "The Palestinian National Authority will not turn a blind eye to the shedding of the blood of our people and our children. We can never accept opening fire at our children who pose no danger at all." Abbas said the Palestinian children "are as precious to their parents as the Israeli children to their parents." Condemning the Israeli shooting as "unjustified", Abbas urged Israel to take serious actions to show commitment to the truce.

In May 2005, Abbas travelled to the White House and met with his American counterpart, George W. Bush. Bush, in return for Abbas' crackdown on terrorists, pledged 50 million USD in aid to the Palestinian Authority and reiterated the US pledge for a free Palestinian state. It was the first direct aid the United States has given to them, as previous donations have gone through non-governmental organizations. The next day Prime Minister Paul Martin of Canada pledged 9.5 million CAD in new aid for judicial reform and housing projects, monitors for the coming Palestinian elections, border management and scholarships for Palestinian refugee women in Lebanon.

On 25 July 2005 he announced that he would move his office to Gaza until the complete withdrawal of Israeli troops. Also be coordinated the Palestinian side of the withdrawal to mediate between the different factions.

On 9 August 2005 he announced that legislative elections, originally scheduled for 17 July, would take place in January 2006. On 15 January 2006 he declared that despite unrest in Gaza, he would not change the set date of the elections (25 January), unless Israel decided to prevent Palestinians in East Jerusalem from voting. Hamas won a majority of votes in this vote.

On 16 January 2006, Abbas said that he would not run for office again at the end of his current term.

On 25 May, Abbas gave Hamas a ten-day deadline to accept the 1967 ceasefire lines.

On 2 June, Abbas again announced that if Hamas did not approve the prisoners' document—which calls for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict according to the 1967 borders—within two days, he would present the initiative as a referendum. This deadline was subsequently extended until 10 June 2006. Hamas spokesmen stated that a change in their stance would not occur, and that Abbas is not constitutionally permitted to call a referendum, especially so soon after the January elections.

Abbas warned Hamas on 8 October 2006 that he would call new legislative elections if it does not accept a coalition government. To recognize Israel was a condition he has presented for a coalition. But it was not clear if Abbas had the power to call new elections.

On 16 December 2006, Abbas called for new legislative elections, to bring an end to the parliamentary stalemate between Fatah and Hamas in forming a national coalition government.

On 17 March, 2007, a unity government was formed incorporating members of both Hamas and Fatah, with Ismail Haniyeh as Prime Minister and independent politicians taking many key portfolios.

On 14 June 2007, Abbas dissolved the Hamas-led unity government of Haniyeh, declared a state of emergency, and appointed Salam Fayyad in his place. This followed action by Hamas armed forces to take control of Palestinian Authority positions controlled by Fatah militias. The appointment of Fayyad to replace Haniyeh has been challenged as illegal, because under the Palestinian Basic Law, the president may dismiss a sitting prime minister, but may not appoint a replacement without the approval of the Palestinian Legislative Council. According to the law, until a new prime minister is thus appointed, the outgoing prime minister heads a caretaker government. Fayyad's appointment was never placed before, or approved by the Legislative Council. For this reason, Haniyeh the Hamas prime minister has continued to operate in Gaza, and is recognised as by a large number of Palestinians as the legitimate acting prime minister. Anis al-Qasem, a constitutional lawyer who drafted the Basic Law, is among those who publicly declared Abbas' appointment of Fayyad to be illegal.

On 18 June 2007, the European Union promised to resume direct aid to the Palestinian Authority, Abbas dissolved the National Security Council, a sticking point in the defunct unity government with Hamas. That same day, the United States decided to end its fifteen-month embargo on the Palestinian Authority and resume aid, attempting to strengthen Abbas's West Bank government. A day later, the Fatah Central Committee cut off all ties and dialogue with Hamas, pending the return of Gaza.

On 2 March 2008, Abbas stated he was suspending peace talks with Israel, while Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed to press on with the deadly military operations against militants who have been launching increasingly powerful rockets into southern Israel.

On 9 January 2009, Abbas term as president, at least as he was originally elected, ended. Abbas extended his term for another year, stating the Basic Law gave him the right to do so, so he could align the next presidential and parliamentary elections. Pointing to the Palestinian constitution, Hamas disputes the validity of this move, and considers Abbas' term to have ended, in which case Abdel Aziz Duwaik, Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (or, since Israel has detained the speaker, his deputy Ahmad Bahar) has become acting president.

Abbas' CandSc thesis, completed in 1982 at the Patrice Lumumba University, and defended at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, was entitled Relations between the Zionism and Nazism, 1933 – 1945 (Russian: "Связи между сионизмом и нацизмом. 1933 – 1945"), (other translation of the title: The Secret Connection between the Nazis and the Leaders of the Zionist Movement.) and discussed topics such as the Haavara Agreement. The institute's director at the time, Yevgeny Primakov, appointed a Soviet-Palestine scholar, Vladimir Ivanovich Kisilev (Russian: Владимир Иванович Киселёв) as Abbas's dissertation adviser; he communicated with his student mostly in English and Arabic.. In an interview with the Kommersant magazine twenty years later, Dr Kisilev remembers Abbas as well-prepared graduate student, who came to Moscow with an already chosen research topic and a large amount of already prepared material.

As Abbas was appointed prime minister, the Israel Defense Forces discreetly deleted quotes from their website, providing excerpts from the their new partner’s book, questioning the use of gas chambers and talking of less than one million victims, along with statements supporting terrorism. The English translation of the book was also withdrawn by the Simon Wiesenthal Center prior to the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, after a request from the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the American State Department, according to Member of the Knesset, Aryeh Eldad.

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Israel

Flag of Israel

Israel (Hebrew: יִשְׂרָאֵל‎, Yisra'el; Arabic: إِسْرَائِيلُ‎, Isrā'īl) officially the State of Israel ( מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל (help·info), Medinat Yisra'el; Arabic: دَوْلَةُ إِسْرَائِيلَ‎, Dawlat Isrā'īl), is a country in the Middle East located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. It borders Lebanon in the north, Syria in the northeast, Jordan in the east, and Egypt on the southwest, and contains geographically diverse features within its relatively small area. Also adjacent are the West Bank to the east and Gaza Strip to the southwest. Israel is the world's only Jewish state, with a population of about 7.37 million, of whom about 5.57 million are Jewish. It is also home to other ethnic groups, including most numerously Arab citizens of Israel, as well as many religious groups including Muslims, Christians, Druze, Samaritans and others.

The modern state of Israel has its roots in the Land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael), a concept central to Judaism since ancient times, and the heartland of the ancient Kingdom of Judah to which modern Jews are usually attributed. After World War I, the League of Nations approved the British Mandate of Palestine with the intent of creating a "national home for the Jewish people." In 1947, the United Nations approved the partition of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. On May 14, 1948 the state of Israel declared independence and this was followed by a war with the surrounding Arab states, which refused to accept the plan. The Israelis were subsequently victorious in a series of wars confirming their independence and expanding the borders of the Jewish state beyond those in the UN Partition Plan. Since then, Israel has been in conflict with many of the neighboring Arab countries, resulting in several major wars and decades of violence that continue to this day. Since its foundation, Israel's boundaries and the State's right to exist have been subject to dispute, especially among its Arab neighbors and their many Palestinian refugees. Israel has signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, though efforts for a long-lasting peace with the Palestinians have so far been unsuccessful.

Israel is a representative democracy with a parliamentary system and universal suffrage. The Prime Minister serves as head of government and the Knesset serves as Israel's legislative body. In terms of nominal gross domestic product, the nation's economy is estimated as being the 44th-largest in the world. Israel ranks highest among Middle Eastern countries on the bases of human development, freedom of the press, and economic competitiveness. Jerusalem is the country's capital, seat of government, and largest city, while Israel's main financial center is Tel Aviv.

Over the past three thousand years, the name "Israel" has meant in common and religious usage both the Land of Israel and the entire Jewish nation. According to the Bible, Jacob is renamed Israel after successfully wrestling with an angel of God.

The FUCK ISRAEL PALESTINE INDESTRUCTIBLEearliest archaeological artifact to mention "Israel" (other than as a personal name) is the Merneptah Stele of ancient Egypt (dated the late 13th century BCE), where it refers to the people of the land. The modern country was named Medinat Yisrael, or the State of Israel, after other proposed names, including Eretz Israel ("the Land of Israel"), Zion, and Judea, were rejected. In the early weeks of independence, the government chose the term "Israeli" to denote a citizen of Israel, with the formal announcement made by Minister of Foreign Affairs Moshe Sharett.

The Land of Israel, known in Hebrew as Eretz Yisrael, has been sacred to the Jewish people since Biblical times. According to the Torah, the Land of Israel was promised to the three Patriarchs of the Jewish people, by God, as their homeland; scholars have placed this period in the early 2nd millennium BCE. According to the traditional view, around the 11th century BCE, the first of a series of Israelite kingdoms and states established rule over the region; these Israelite kingdoms and states ruled intermittently for the following one thousand years. The sites holiest to Judaism are located within Israel.

Between the time of the Israelite kingdoms and the 7th-century Muslim conquests, the Land of Israel fell under Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Sassanian, and Byzantine rule. Jewish presence in the region dwindled after the failure of the Bar Kokhba revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 CE and the resultant large-scale expulsion of Jews. In 628/9, the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius conducted a massacre and expulsion of the Jews, at which point the Jewish population probably reached its lowest point. Nevertheless, a continuous Jewish presence in the Land of Israel remained. Although the main Jewish population shifted from the Judea region to the Galilee, the Mishnah and part of the Talmud, among Judaism's most important religious texts, were composed in Israel during this period. The Land of Israel was captured from the Byzantine Empire around 636 CE during the initial Muslim conquests. Control of the region transferred between the Umayyads, Abbasids, and Crusaders over the next six centuries, before falling in the hands of the Mamluk Sultanate, in 1260. In 1516, the Land of Israel became a part of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled the region until the 20th century.

Jews living in the Diaspora have long aspired to return to Zion and the Land of Israel. That hope and yearning was articulated in the Bible, and is a central theme in the Jewish prayer book. Beginning in the 12th century, Catholic persecution of Jews led to a steady stream leaving Europe to settle in the Holy Land, increasing in numbers after Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492. During the 16th century large communities struck roots in the Four Holy Cities, and in the second half of the 18th century, entire Hasidic communities from eastern Europe settled in the Holy Land.

The first large wave of modern immigration, known as the First Aliyah (Hebrew: עלייה), began in 1881, as Jews fled pogroms in Eastern Europe. While the Zionist movement already existed in theory, Theodor Herzl is credited with founding political Zionism, a movement which sought to establish a Jewish state in the Land of Israel, by elevating the Jewish Question to the international plane. In 1896, Herzl published Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), offering his vision of a future state; the following year he presided over the first World Zionist Congress.

The Second Aliyah (1904–1914), began after the Kishinev pogrom. Some 40,000 Jews settled in Palestine. Both the first and second waves of migrants were mainly Orthodox Jews, but those in the Second Aliyah included socialist pioneers who established the kibbutz movement. During World War I, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour issued what became known as the Balfour Declaration, which "view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people". At the request of Edwin Samuel Montagu and Lord Curzon, a line was also inserted stating "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". The Jewish Legion, a group of battalions composed primarily of Zionist volunteers, assisted in the British conquest of Palestine. Arab opposition to the plan led to the 1920 Palestine riots and the formation of the Jewish organization known as the Haganah (meaning "The Defense" in Hebrew), from which the Irgun and Lehi split off.

In 1922, the League of Nations granted the United Kingdom a mandate over Palestine under terms similar to the Balfour Declaration. The population of the area at this time was predominantly Muslim Arab, while the largest urban area in the region, Jerusalem, was predominantly Jewish.

The third (1919–1923) and Fourth Aliyah (1924–1929) brought 100,000 Jews to Palestine. From 1921 the British subjected Jewish immigration to quotas and most of the territory slated for the Jewish state was allocated to Transjordan.

The rise of Nazism in the 1930s led to the Fifth Aliyah, with an influx of a quarter of a million Jews. This caused the Arab revolt of 1936–1939 and led the British to cap immigration with the White Paper of 1939. With countries around the world turning away Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust, a clandestine movement known as Aliyah Bet was organized to bring Jews to Palestine. By the end of World War II, Jews accounted for 33% of the population of Palestine, up from 11% in 1922.

After 1945 the United Kingdom became embroiled in an increasingly violent conflict with the Jews. In 1947, the British government withdrew from commitment to the Mandate of Palestine, stating it was unable to arrive at a solution acceptable to both Arabs and Jews. The newly created United Nations approved the UN Partition Plan (United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181) on November 29, 1947, dividing the country into two states, one Arab and one Jewish. Jerusalem was to be designated an international city — a corpus separatum — administered by the UN to avoid conflict over its status. The Jewish community accepted the plan, but the Arab League and Arab Higher Committee rejected it. On December 1, 1947 the Arab Higher Committee proclaimed a 3-day strike, and Arab bands began attacking Jewish targets. Civil war began with the Jews initially on the defensive but gradually moving into offence. The Palestinian-Arab economy collapsed and 250,000 Palestinian-Arabs fled or were expelled.

On May 14, 1948, the day before the end of the British Mandate, the Jewish Agency proclaimed independence, naming the country Israel. The following day five Arab countries — Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq — invaded Israel, launching the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Morocco, Sudan, Yemen and Saudi Arabia also sent troops to assist the invaders. After a year of fighting, a ceasefire was declared and temporary borders, known as the Green Line, were established. Jordan annexed what became known as the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and Egypt took control of the Gaza Strip. Israel was admitted as a member of the United Nations on May 11, 1949. During the conflict 711,000 Arabs, according to UN estimates, or about 80% of the previous Arab population, fled the country. The fate of the Palestinian refugees today is a major point of contention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In the early years of the state, the Labor Zionist movement led by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion dominated Israeli politics. These years were marked by mass immigration of Holocaust survivors and an influx of Jews persecuted in Arab lands. The population of Israel rose from 800,000 to two million between 1948 and 1958. Most arrived as refugees with no possessions and were housed in temporary camps known as ma'abarot. By 1952, over 200,000 immigrants were living in these tent cities. The need to solve the crisis led Ben-Gurion to sign a reparations agreement with West Germany that triggered mass protests by Jews angered at the idea of Israel "doing business" with Germany.

During the 1950s, Israel was frequently attacked by Palestinian fedayeen, mainly from the Egyptian-occupied Gaza Strip. In 1956, Israel joined a secret alliance with The United Kingdom and France aimed at recapturing the Suez Canal, which the Egyptians had nationalized (see the Suez Crisis). Despite capturing the Sinai Peninsula, Israel was forced to retreat due to pressure from the United States and the Soviet Union in return for guarantees of Israeli shipping rights in the Red Sea and the Canal.

At the start of the following decade, Israel captured Adolf Eichmann, an architect of the Final Solution hiding in Argentina, and brought him to trial. The trial had a major impact on public awareness of the Holocaust, and to date Eichmann remains the only person executed by Israel, although John Demjanjuk was sentenced to die before his conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court of Israel.

Arab countries over the years refused to regard Israel as having a right to exist, and Arab nationalists led by Nasser called for the destruction of the state. In 1967, Egypt, Syria, and Jordan massed troops close to Israeli borders, expelled UN peacekeepers and blocked Israel's access to the Red Sea. Israel saw these actions as a casus belli for a pre-emptive strike that launched the Six-Day War, Israel achieved a decisive victory in which it captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights. The 1949 Green Line became the administrative boundary between Israel and the occupied territories. Jerusalem's boundaries were enlarged, incorporating East Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Law, passed in 1980, reaffirmed this measure and reignited international controversy over the status of Jerusalem.

The failure of the Arab states in the 1967 war led to the rise of Arab non-state actors in the conflict, most importantly the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) which was committed to what it called "armed struggle as the only way to liberate the homeland". In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Palestinian groups launched a wave of attacks against Israeli targets around the world, including a massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics. Israel responded with Operation Wrath of God, in which those responsible for the Munich massacre were tracked down and assassinated. From 1969 to 1970, Israel fought the War of Attrition against Egypt.

On October 6, 1973, Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, the Egyptian and Syrian armies launched a surprise attack against Israel. The war ended on October 26 with Israel successfully repelling Egyptian and Syrian forces but suffering great losses. An internal inquiry exonerated the government of responsibility for the war, but public anger forced Prime Minister Golda Meir to resign.

The 1977 Knesset elections marked a major turning point in Israeli political history as Menachem Begin's Likud party took control from the Labor Party. Later that year, Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat made a trip to Israel and spoke before the Knesset in what was the first recognition of Israel by an Arab head of state. In the two years that followed, Sadat and Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Accords and the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty. Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula and agreed to enter negotiations over an autonomy for Palestinians across the Green Line, a plan which was never implemented. Begin's government encouraged Israelis to settle in the West Bank, leading to friction with the Palestinians in those areas.

On June 7, 1981, Israel heavily bombed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in Operation Opera, disabling it. Israeli intelligence had suspected Iraq was intending to use it for weapons development. In 1982, Israel intervened in the Lebanese Civil War to destroy the bases from which the Palestine Liberation Organization launched attacks and missiles at northern Israel. That move developed into the First Lebanon War. Israel withdrew from most of Lebanon in 1986, but maintained a borderland buffer zone until 2000. The First Intifada, a Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule, broke out in 1987 with waves of violence occurring in the occupied territories. Over the following six years, more than a thousand people were killed in the ensuing violence, much of which was internal Palestinian violence. During the 1991 Gulf War, the PLO and many Palestinians supported Saddam Hussein and Iraqi missile attacks against Israel.

In 1992, Yitzhak Rabin became Prime Minister following an election in which his party promoted compromise with Israel's neighbors. The following year, Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas, on behalf of Israel and the PLO, signed the Oslo Accords, which gave the Palestinian National Authority the right to self-govern parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. A declared intent was recognition of Israel's right to exist and an end to terrorism. In 1994, the Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace was signed, making Jordan the second Arab country to normalize relations with Israel.

Arab public support for the Accords was damaged by the Cave of the Patriarchs massacre, continuation of settlements, and checkpoints, and the deterioration of economic conditions. Israeli public support for the Accords waned as Israel was struck by Palestinian suicide attacks. While leaving a peace rally in November 1995, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by a far-right-wing Jew who opposed the Accords. The country was shocked.

At the end of the 1990s, Israel, under the leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, withdrew from Hebron, and signed the Wye River Memorandum, giving greater control to the Palestinian National Authority.

Ehud Barak, elected Prime Minister in 1999, began the new millennium by withdrawing forces from Southern Lebanon and conducting negotiations with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and U.S. President Bill Clinton at the July 2000 Camp David Summit. During the summit, Barak offered a plan for the establishment of a Palestinian state, but Yasser Arafat rejected it. After the collapse of the talks, the Second Intifada began.

Ariel Sharon became the new prime minister in a 2001 special election. During his tenure, Sharon carried out his plan to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip and also spearheaded the construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier. In January 2006, after Ariel Sharon suffered a severe stroke which left him in a coma, the powers of office were transferred to Ehud Olmert.

In July 2006, a Hezbollah artillery assault on Israel's northern border communities and a cross border abduction of two Israeli soldiers sparked the Second Lebanon War. The clashes were brought to an end a month later by a ceasefire (United Nations Resolution 1701) brokered by the United Nations Security Council.

On November 27, 2007, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to negotiate on all issues and strive for an agreement by the end of 2008. On September 6, 2007, the Israeli Air Force launched Operation Orchard in Syria, bombing what it suspected to be a nuclear site. In April 2008, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad told a Qatari newspaper that Syria and Israel had been discussing a peace treaty for a year, with Turkey as a go-between. This was confirmed by Israel in May 2008.

In late December 2008, a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel collapsed after rockets were fired from the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip. Israel responded by launching Operation Cast Lead with a series of airstrikes. On 3 January 2009, Israeli Troops entered Gaza marking the start of a ground offensive. On Saturday, January 17, Israel announced a unilateral ceasefire, conditional on elimination of further rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza, and began withdrawing over the next several days. Hamas later announced its own ceasefire, with its own conditions of complete withdrawal and opening of border crossings. A reduced level of mortar fire originating in Gaza continues, though Israel has so far not taken this as a breach of the ceasefire.

Israel is located at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, bounded by Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan to the east, and Egypt to the southwest. The sovereign territory of Israel, excluding all territories captured by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War, is approximately 20,770 square kilometers (8,019 sq mi) in area, of which two percent is water. The total area under Israeli law, including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, is 22,072 square kilometers (8,522 sq mi).

The total area under Israeli control, including the military-controlled and partially Palestinian-governed territory of the West Bank, is 27,799 square kilometers (10,733 sq mi).

Despite its small size, Israel is home to a variety of geographic features, from the Negev desert in the south to the mountain ranges of the Galilee, Carmel, and the Golan in the north. The Israeli Coastal Plain on the shores of the Mediterranean is home to seventy percent of the nation's population.

East of the central highlands lies the Jordan Rift Valley, which forms a small part of the 6,500-kilometer (4,040-mi) Great Rift Valley. The Jordan River runs along the Jordan Rift Valley, from Mount Hermon through the Hulah Valley and the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the surface of the Earth. Further south is the Arabah, ending with the Gulf of Eilat, part of the Red Sea.

Unique to Israel and the Sinai Peninsula are makhteshim, or erosion cirques. The largest makhtesh in the world is Ramon Crater in the Negev, which measures 40 kilometers by 8 kilometers (25 mi by 5 mi). A report on the environmental status of the Mediterranean basin states that Israel has the largest number of plant species per square meter of all the countries in the basin.

Temperatures in Israel vary widely, especially during the winter. The more mountainous regions can be windy, cold, and sometimes snowy; Mount Hermon's peak is covered with snow most of the year and Jerusalem usually receives at least one snowfall each year. Meanwhile, coastal cities, such as Tel Aviv and Haifa, have a typical Mediterranean climate with cool, rainy winters and long, hot summers. The highest temperature in the continent of Asia (53.7 °C or 129 °F) was recorded in 1942 at Tirat Zvi kibbutz in the northern parts of the Jordan-valley. From May to September, rain in Israel is rare. With scarce water resources, Israel has developed various water-saving technologies, including drip irrigation. Israelis also take advantage of the considerable sunlight available for solar energy, making Israel the leading nation in solar energy use per capita.

Israel operates under a parliamentary system as a democratic country with universal suffrage. The President of Israel is the head of state, but his duties are largely ceremonial. A Parliament Member supported by a majority in parliament becomes the Prime Minister, usually the chairman of the largest party. The Prime Minister is the head of government and head of the Cabinet. Israel is governed by a 120-member parliament, known as the Knesset. Membership in the Knesset is based on proportional representation of political parties, with a 2% electoral threshold, which commonly results in coalition governments. Parliamentary elections are scheduled every four years, but unstable coalitions or a no-confidence vote by the Knesset often dissolves governments earlier. "The average life span of an Israeli government is 22 months. The peace process, the role of religion in the state, and political scandals have caused coalitions to break apart or produced early elections." The Basic Laws of Israel function as an unwritten constitution. In 2003, the Knesset began to draft an official constitution based on these laws.

Israel has a three-tier court system. At the lowest level are magistrate courts, situated in most cities across the country. Above them are district courts, serving both as appellate courts and courts of first instance; they are situated in five of Israel's six districts. The third and highest tier in Israel is the Supreme Court, seated in Jerusalem. It serves a dual role as the highest court of appeals and the High Court of Justice. In the latter role, the Supreme Court rules as a court of first instance, allowing individuals, both citizens and non-citizens, to petition against decisions of state authorities. Israel is not a member of the International Criminal Court as it fears the court would be biased against it due to political pressure. Israel's legal system combines English common law, civil law, and Jewish law. It is based on the principle of stare decisis (precedent) and is an adversarial system, where the parties in the suit bring evidence before the court. Court cases are decided by professional judges rather than juries. Marriage and divorce are under the jurisdiction of the religious courts: Jewish, Muslim, Druze, and Christian. A committee of Knesset members, Supreme Court justices, and Israeli Bar members carries out the election of judges.

Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty seeks to defend human rights and liberties in Israel. Israel is the only country in the region ranked "Free" by Freedom House based on the level of civil and political rights; the "Israeli Occupied Territories/Palestinian Authority" was ranked "Not Free." Similarly, Reporters Without Borders rated Israel 50th out of 168 countries in terms of freedom of the press and highest among Southwest Asian countries. Nevertheless, groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have often disapproved of Israel's human rights record in regards to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israel's civil liberties also allow for self-criticism, from groups such as B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization.

The State of Israel is divided into six main administrative districts, known as mehozot (מחוזות; singular: mahoz) – Center, Haifa, Jerusalem, North, Southern, and Tel Aviv Districts. Districts are further divided into fifteen sub-districts known as nafot (נפות; singular: nafa), which are themselves partitioned into fifty natural regions. For statistical purposes, the country is divided into three metropolitan areas: Tel Aviv and Gush Dan (population 3,150,000), Haifa (population 996,000), and Beersheba (population 531,600). Israel's largest city, both in population and area, is Jerusalem with 732,100 residents in an area of 126 square kilometers (49 sq mi). Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Rishon LeZion rank as Israel's next most populous cities, with populations of 384,600, 267,000, and 222,300 respectively.

The Israeli-occupied territories are the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza strip and the Golan Heights. They are areas Israel captured from Jordan, Egypt and Syria during the Six-Day War. The term was also used to describe the Sinai Peninsula, which was returned to Egypt as part of the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty.

Following Israel's capture of these territories, settlements consisting of Israeli citizens were established within each of them. Israel has applied civilian law to the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, incorporating them into its territory and offering their inhabitants Israeli citizenship. In contrast, the West Bank has remained under military occupation, and is widely seen — by Israel, the Palestinians, and the international community alike — as the site of a future Palestinian state. Most negotiations relating to the territories have been on the basis of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, which calls on Israel to withdraw from occupied territories in return for normalization of relations with Arab states, a principle known as "Land for peace".

The West Bank has a population consisting primarily of Arab Palestinians, including historic residents of the territories and refugees of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. From their occupation in 1967 until 1993, the Palestinians living in these territories were under Israeli military administration. Since the Israel-PLO letters of recognition, most of the Palestinian population and cities have been under the internal jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, and only partial Israeli military control, although Israel has on several occasions redeployed its troops and reinstated full military administration during periods of unrest. In response to increasing attacks as part of the Second Intifada, the Israeli government started to construct the Israeli West Bank barrier, which opponents note is partially built within the West Bank.

In the case of the Gaza strip, which was occupied by Egypt from 1948-1967 and by Israel since 1967, Israel removed all of its residents and forces in 2005 as part of its unilateral disengagement plan. Israel still controls Gaza's airspace and sea access. Israel also regulates Gaza's travel and trade with the rest of the world. Inner control of the area is in the hands of the Hamas government.

Israel maintains diplomatic relations with 161 countries and has 94 diplomatic missions around the world. Only three members of the Arab League have normalized relations with Israel; Egypt and Jordan signed peace treaties in 1979 and 1994, respectively, and Mauritania opted for full diplomatic relations with Israel in 1999. Two other members of the Arab League, Morocco and Tunisia, which had some diplomatic relations with Israel, severed them at the start of the Second Intifada in 2000. Since 2003, ties with Morocco have been on the upswing, and Israel's foreign minister has visited the country. Under Israeli law, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Yemen are enemy countries and Israeli citizens may not visit them without permission from the Ministry of the Interior. Since 1995, Israel has been a member of the Mediterranean Dialogue, which fosters cooperation between seven countries in the Mediterranean Basin and the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The United States, Turkey, Germany, the United Kingdom and India are among Israel's closest allies. The United States was the first country to recognize the State of Israel, followed by the Soviet Union. It may regard Israel as its primary ally in Southwest Asia, based on shared political and religious values. Although Turkey and Israel did not establish full diplomatic relations until 1991, Turkey has cooperated with the State since its recognition of Israel in 1949. Turkey's ties to the other Muslim-majority nations in the region have at times resulted in pressure from Arab states to temper its relationship with Israel. Germany's strong ties with Israel include cooperation on scientific and educational endeavors and the two states remain strong economic and military partners. India established full diplomatic ties with Israel in 1992 and has fostered a strong military and cultural partnership with the country since then. The UK has kept full diplomatic relations with Israel since its formation having had two visits from heads of state in 2007. It also has a strong trade relationship, Israel being the 23rd largest market. Relations between the two countries were also made stronger by former prime minister Tony Blair's efforts for a two state resolution. The UK is seen as having a "natural" relationship with Israel on account of the British Mandate of Palestine. Iran had diplomatic relations with Israel under the Pahlavi dynasty but withdrew its recognition of Israel during the Iranian Revolution.

The Israel Defense Forces consists of the Israeli Army, Israeli Air Force and Israeli Sea Corps. It was founded during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War out of paramilitary organizations – chiefly the Haganah – that preceded the establishment of the state. The IDF also draws upon the resources of the Military Intelligence Directorate (Aman), which works with the Mossad and Shabak. The involvement of the Israel Defense Forces in major wars and border conflicts has made it one of the most battle-trained armed forces in the world.

The majority of Israelis are drafted into the military at the age of eighteen. Men serve three years and women serve two years. Following compulsory service, Israeli men join the reserve forces and do several weeks of reserve duty every year until their forties. Most women are exempt from reserve duty. Arab citizens of Israel (except the Druze) and those engaged in full-time religious studies are exempt from military service, although the exemption of yeshiva students has been a source of contention in Israeli society for many years. An alternative for those who receive exemptions on various grounds is Sherut Leumi, or national service, which involves a program of service in hospitals, schools and other social welfare frameworks. As a result of its conscription program, the IDF maintains approximately 168,000 active troops and an additional 408,000 reservists.

The nation's military relies heavily on high-tech weapons systems designed and manufactured in Israel as well as some foreign imports. The United States is a particularly notable foreign contributor; they are expected to provide the country with $30 billion in military aid between 2008 and 2017. The Israeli- and U.S.-designed Arrow missile is one of the world's only operational anti-ballistic missile systems. Since the Yom Kippur War, Israel has developed a network of reconnaissance satellites. The success of the Ofeq program has made Israel one of seven countries capable of launching such satellites. The country has also developed its own main battle tank, the Merkava. Since its establishment, Israel has spent a significant portion of its gross domestic product on defense. In 1984, for example, the country spent 24% of its GDP on defense. Today, that figure has dropped to 7.3%.

Israel has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and maintains a policy of deliberate ambiguity toward its nuclear capabilities, though it is widely regarded as possessing nuclear weapons. After the Gulf War in 1991, when Israel was attacked by Iraqi Scud missiles, a law was passed requiring all apartments and homes in Israel to have a mamad, a reinforced security room impermeable to chemical and biological substances.

Israel is considered one of the most advanced countries in Southwest Asia in economic and industrial development. The country has been ranked highest in the region on the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index as well as in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report. It has the second-largest number of startup companies in the world (after the United States) and the largest number of NASDAQ-listed companies outside North America. In 2007, Israel had the 44th-highest gross domestic product and 22nd-highest gross domestic product per capita (at purchasing power parity) at US$232.7 billion and US$33,299, respectively. In 2007, Israel was invited to join the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which promotes cooperation between countries that adhere to democratic principles and operate free market economies.

Despite limited natural resources, intensive development of the agricultural and industrial sectors over the past decades has made Israel largely self-sufficient in food production, apart from grains and beef. Other major imports to Israel, totaling US$47.8 billion in 2006, include fossil fuels, raw materials, and military equipment. Leading exports include fruits, vegetables, pharmaceuticals, software, chemicals, military technology, and diamonds; in 2006, Israeli exports reached US$42.86 billion. Israel is a global leader in water conservation and geothermal energy, and its development of cutting-edge technologies in software, communications and the life sciences have evoked comparisons with Silicon Valley. Intel and Microsoft built their first overseas research and development centers in Israel, and other high-tech multi-national corporations, such as IBM, Cisco Systems, and Motorola, have opened facilities in the country. In July 2007, U.S. billionaire Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway bought an Israeli company Iscar, its first non-U.S. acquisition, for $4 billion. Since the 1970s, Israel has received economic aid from the United States, whose loans account for the bulk of Israel's external debt. In 2007, the United States approved another 30 Billion dollars in aid to Israel over the next ten years.

Tourism, especially religious tourism, is another important industry in Israel, with the country's temperate climate, beaches, archaeological and historical sites, and unique geography also drawing tourists. Israel's security problems have taken their toll on the industry, but the number of incoming tourists is on the rebound.

Israel has the highest school life expectancy in Southwest Asia, and is tied with Japan for second-highest school life expectancy on the Asian continent (after South Korea). Israel similarly has the highest literacy rate in Southwest Asia, according to the United Nations. The State Education Law, passed in 1953, established five types of schools: state secular, state religious, ultra orthodox, communal settlement schools, and Arab schools. The public secular is the largest school group, and is attended by the majority of Jewish and non-Arab pupils in Israel. Most Arabs send their children to schools where Arabic is the language of instruction.

Education is compulsory in Israel for children between the ages of three and eighteen. Schooling is divided into three tiers – primary school (grades 1–6), middle school (grades 7–9), and high school (grades 10–12) – culminating with Bagrut matriculation exams. Proficiency in core subjects such as mathematics, Bible, Hebrew language, Hebrew and general literature, English, history, and civics is necessary to receive a Bagrut certificate. In Arab, Christian and Druze schools, the exam on Biblical studies is replaced by an exam in Islam, Christianity or Druze heritage. In 2003, over half of all Israeli twelfth graders earned a matriculation certificate.

Israel's eight public universities are subsidized by the state. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel's oldest university, houses the Jewish National and University Library, the world's largest repository of books on Jewish subjects. In 2006, the Hebrew University was ranked 60th and 119th in two surveys of the world's top universities. Other major universities in the country include the Technion, the Weizmann Institute of Science, Tel Aviv University, Bar-Ilan University, the University of Haifa, and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Israel's seven research universities (excluding the Open University) have been ranked in the top 500 in the world. Israel ranks third in the world in the number of citizens who hold university degrees (20 percent of the population). During the 1990s, an influx of a million immigrants from the former Soviet Union (forty percent of whom were university graduates) helped boost Israel's high-tech sector. Israel has produced four Nobel Prize-winning scientists and publishes among the most scientific papers per capita of any country in the world. In 2003, Ilan Ramon became Israel's first astronaut, serving as payload specialist of STS-107, the fatal mission of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

Israel has embraced solar energy, its engineers are on the cutting edge of solar energy technology and its solar companies work on projects around the world. Over 90% of Israeli homes use solar energy for hot water, the highest per capita in the world. According to the Ministry of National Infrastructures, the country saves an estimated 2 million barrels of oil a year because of its solar energy use. The high annual incident solar irradiance at its geographic latitude creates ideal conditions for what is an internationally renowned solar research and development industry in the Negev Desert.

As of 2008, Israel's population is 7.28 million. Of those, over 260,000 Israeli citizens lived in the West Bank settlements such as Ma'ale Adumim and Ariel, and communities that predated the establishment of the State but were re-established after the Six-Day War, in cities such as Hebron and Gush Etzion. 18,000 Israelis live in the Golan Heights. In 2006, there were 250,000 Jews living in East Jerusalem. The total number of Israeli settlers is over 500,000 (6.5 % of the Israeli population). Approximately 7,800 Israelis lived in settlements in the Gaza Strip until they were evacuated by the government as part of its 2005 disengagement plan.

Israel has two official languages, Hebrew and Arabic. Hebrew is the primary language of the state and spoken by the majority of the population. Arabic is spoken by the Arab minority and Jews who immigrated to Israel from Arab lands. Most Israelis can communicate reasonably well in English, as many television programs are in English and many schools begin to teach English in the early grades. As a country of immigrants, dozens of languages can be heard on the streets of Israel. A large influx of people from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia have made Russian and Amharic widely spoken in Israel. Between 1990 and 1994, the immigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union increased Israel's population by twelve percent. Over the last decade, immigration flows have also included significant numbers of workers from countries such as Romania, Thailand, China, and a number of countries in Africa and South America; gauging precise numbers is difficult because of the presence of "undocumented" immigrants, but estimates run in the region of 200,000. Retention of Israel's population since 1948 is about even or greater, when compared to other countries with mass immigration. Emigration from Israel (yerida) to other countries, primarily the United States and Canada, is described by demographers as modest but is often cited by Israeli government ministries as a major threat to Israel's future.

Making up 16.2% of the population, Muslims constitute Israel's largest religious minority. About 2% of the population are Christian and 1.5% are Druze. Members of many other religious groups, including Buddhists and Hindus, maintain a presence in Israel, albeit in small numbers. The Christian population includes both Arab Christians and Messianic Jews.

The city of Jerusalem is of special importance to Jews, Muslims and Christians as it is the home of sites that are pivotal to their religious beliefs, such as the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Other landmarks of religious importance are located in the West Bank, among them the birthplace of Jesus and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem, and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.

The administrative center of the Bahá'í Faith and the Shrine of the Báb are located at the Bahá'í World Centre in Haifa and the leader of the faith is buried in Acre. Apart from maintenance staff, there is no Bahá'í community in Israel, although it is a destination for pilgrimages. Bahá'í staff in Israel do not teach their faith to Israelis following strict policy.

Israel's diverse culture stems from the diversity of the population: Jews from around the world have brought their cultural and religious traditions with them, creating a melting pot of Jewish customs and beliefs. Israel is the only country in the world where life revolves around the Hebrew calendar. Work and school holidays are determined by the Jewish holidays, and the official day of rest is Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath. Israel's substantial Arab minority has also left its imprint on Israeli culture in such spheres as architecture, music, and cuisine.

Israeli literature is primarily poetry and prose written in Hebrew, as part of the renaissance of Hebrew as a spoken language since the mid-19th century, although a small body of literature is published in other languages, such as Arabic and English. By law, two copies of all printed matter published in Israel must be deposited in the Jewish National and University Library at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 2001, the law was amended to include audio and video recordings, and other non-print media. In 2006, 85 percent of the 8,000 books transferred to the library were in Hebrew. The Hebrew Book Week (He: שבוע הספר) is held each June and features book fairs, public readings, and appearances by Israeli authors around the country. During the week, Israel's top literary award, the Sapir Prize, is presented. In 1966, Shmuel Yosef Agnon shared the Nobel Prize in Literature with German Jewish author Nelly Sachs.

Israeli music contains musical influences from all over the world; Yemenite music, Hasidic melodies, Arabic music, Greek music, jazz, and pop rock are all part of the music scene. The nation's canonical folk songs, known as "Songs of the Land of Israel," deal with the experiences of the pioneers in building the Jewish homeland. Among Israel's world-renowned orchestras is the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, which has been in operation for over seventy years and today performs more than two hundred concerts each year. Israel has also produced many musicians of note, some achieving international stardom. Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman and Ofra Haza are among the internationally acclaimed musicians born in Israel. Israel has participated in the Eurovision Song Contest nearly every year since 1973, winning the competition three times and hosting it twice. Eilat has hosted its own international music festival, the Red Sea Jazz Festival, every summer since 1987.

Continuing the strong theatrical traditions of the Yiddish theater in Eastern Europe, Israel maintains a vibrant theatre scene. Founded in 1918, Habima Theatre in Tel Aviv is Israel's oldest repertory theater company and national theater.

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem is one of Israel's most important cultural institutions and houses the Dead Sea scrolls, along with an extensive collection of Judaica and European art. Israel's national Holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, houses the world's largest archive of Holocaust-related information. Beth Hatefutsoth (the Diaspora Museum), on the campus of Tel Aviv University, is an interactive museum devoted to the history of Jewish communities around the world. Apart from the major museums in large cities, there are high-quality artspaces in many towns and kibbutzim. Mishkan Le'Omanut on Kibbutz Ein Harod Meuhad is the largest art museum in the north of the country.

Sports and physical fitness have not always been paramount in Jewish culture. Athletic prowess, which was prized by the ancient Greeks, was looked down upon as an unwelcome intrusion of Hellenistic values. Maimonides, who was both a rabbi and a physician, emphasized the importance of physical activity and keeping the body in shape. This approach received a boost in the 19th century from the physical culture campaign of Max Nordau, and in the early 20th century when the Chief Rabbi of Palestine, Abraham Isaac Kook, declared that "the body serves the soul, and only a healthy body can ensure a healthy soul".

The Maccabiah Games, an Olympic-style event for Jewish athletes, was inaugurated in the 1930s, and has been held every four years since then. The most popular spectator sports in Israel today are association football and basketball. In 1964 Israel hosted and won the Asian Nations Cup.

In the Seventies Israel was excluded from the 1978 Asian Games following the organizers' refusal to invite the country as a result of pressure by participating middle eastern countries. The exclusion led Israel to shift from Asia to Europe and cease competing in Asian competitions. In 1994, UEFA agreed to admit Israel and all Israeli sporting organizations now compete in Europe. Ligat ha'Al is the country's premier soccer league, and Ligat HaAl is the premier basketball league. Maccabi Tel Aviv B.C. has won the European championship in basketball five times.

Beersheba has become a national chess center and home to many chess champions from the former Soviet Union. The city hosted the World Team Chess Championship in 2005, and chess is taught in the city's kindergartens. In 2007, an Israeli tied for second place in the World Chess Championship.

To date, Israel has won seven Olympic medals since its first win in 1992, including a gold medal in windsurfing at the 2004 Summer Olympics. Israel has won over 100 gold medals in the Paralympic Games and is ranked about 15th in the all time medal count. The 1968 Summer Paralympics were hosted by Israel.

For dependent and other territories, see Dependent territory.

1 Partly or significantly in Europe.  2 The Republic of China (Taiwan) is not officially recognized by the United Nations; see Political status of Taiwan. 3 Partly or significantly in Africa.  4 Partly or wholly reckoned in Oceania.

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Yasser Arafat

Palestinian Authority honour guard at attention over Yasser Arafat's tombstone. 20 May, 2008

Mohammed Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini (Arabic: محمد عبد الرؤوف عرفات القدوة الحسيني‎) (August 4, 1929–November 11, 2004), popularly known as Yasser Arafat (ياسر عرفات) or by his kunya Abu Ammar (أبو عمار), was a Palestinian leader. He was Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, President of the Palestinian National Authority, and leader of the secular Fatah political party, which he founded in 1959. Arafat spent much of his life fighting against Israel in the name of Palestinian self-determination. Originally opposed to Israel's existence, he modified his position in 1988 when he accepted UN Security Council Resolution 242.

Arafat and his movement operated from several Arab countries. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Fatah faced off with Jordan in a brief civil war. Forced out of Jordan and into Lebanon, Arafat and Fatah were major targets of Israel's 1978 and 1982 invasions of that country. While the majority of the Palestinian people, regardless of political ideology or faction, viewed him as a freedom fighter who symbolized their national aspirations, some Israelis described him as a terrorist for the attacks his faction led against civilians.

Later in his career, Arafat engaged in a series of negotiations with the government of Israel to end the decades-long conflict between that country and the PLO. These included the Madrid Conference of 1991, the 1993 Oslo Accords and the 2000 Camp David Summit. His political rivals, including Islamists and several PLO leftists, often denounced him for being corrupt or too submissive in his concessions to the Israeli government. In 1994, Arafat received the Nobel Peace Prize, together with Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, for the negotiations at Oslo. During this time, Hamas and other militant organizations rose to power and shook the foundations of the authority Fatah under Arafat had established in the Palestinian territories.

In late 2004, after effectively being confined within his Ramallah compound for over two years by the Israeli army, Arafat became ill and fell into a coma. While the exact cause of his death remains unknown, doctors spoke of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura and cirrhosis, but no autopsy was performed. Arafat died on November 11, 2004 at the age of 75.

Yasser Arafat was born in Cairo to Palestinian parents. His father, Abdel Raouf al-Qudwa al-Husseini, was a Gazan; whose mother, Yasser's paternal grandmother, was Egyptian. Arafat's father worked as a textile merchant in Cairo's religiously mixed Sakakini District. Arafat was the second-youngest of seven children and was, along with his younger brother Fathi, the only offspring born in Cairo. His mother, Zahwa Abul Saud, was from a Jerusalem family. She died from a kidney ailment in 1933, when Arafat was four years of age.

Arafat's first visit to Jerusalem came when his father, unable to raise seven children alone, sent him and his brother Fathi to their mother's family in the Moroccan Quarter of the Old City. They lived there with their uncle Salim Abul Saud for four years. In 1937, their father recalled them to be taken care of by their older sister, Inam. Arafat had a deteriorating relationship with his father; when he died in 1952, Arafat did not attend the funeral, nor did he visit his father's grave upon his return to Gaza.

In 1944, Arafat enrolled in the University of King Fuad I and graduated in 1950. He later claimed to have sought a better understanding of Judaism and Zionism by engaging in discussions with Jews and reading publications by Theodor Herzl and other prominent Zionists. At the same time, he became an Arab nationalist and began procuring weapons to be smuggled into the former British Mandate of Palestine, for use by irregulars in the Arab Higher Committee and the Army of the Holy War militias. During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Arafat left the University and, along with other Arabs, sought to enter Palestine to join Arab forces fighting against Israeli troops. However, instead of joining the ranks of the Palestinian fedayeen, Arafat fought alongside the Muslim Brotherhood, although he did not join the organization. He took part in combat in the Gaza area (which was the main battleground of Egyptian forces during the conflict). In early 1949, the war was winding down in Israel's favor, and Arafat returned to Cairo from a lack of logistical support.

After returning to the University, Arafat studied civil engineering and served as president of the General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS) from 1952 to 1956. During his first year as president of the union, the University was renamed Cairo University after a coup was carried out by the Free Officers Movement overthrowing King Farouk I. By that time, Arafat had graduated with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering and was called to duty to fight with Egyptian forces during the Suez Crisis; however, he never actually fought on the battlefield. Later that year, at a conference in Prague, he donned a solid white keffiyeh–different from the checkered one he adopted later in Kuwait, which was to become his emblem.

Arafat's original full name was Mohammed Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini. Mohammed Abdel Rahman was his first name; Abdel Raouf was his father's name and Arafat his grandfather's. Al-Qudwa was the name of his tribe and al-Husseini was that of the clan to which the al-Qudwas belonged. It should be noted that Arafat's clan, al-Husseini was based in Gaza and should not be confused with the well-known, but unrelated, al-Husayni clan of Jerusalem.

Since Arafat was raised in Cairo, the tradition of dropping the Mohammed or Ahmad portion of one's first name was common; notable Egyptians such as Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak did so. However, Arafat dropped also the Abdel Rahman and Abdel Raouf parts of his name as well. During the early 1950s, Arafat adopted the name Yasser, and in the early years of Arafat's guerrilla career, he assumed the nom de guerre of Abu Ammar. Both names are related to Ammar ibn Yasir, one of Muhammad's early companions. Although he dropped most of his inherited names, he retained Arafat due to its significance in Islam.

Following the Suez Crisis in 1956, Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, a leader of the Free Officers Movement, agreed to allow the United Nations Emergency Force to establish itself in the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip, causing the expulsion of all guerrilla or "fedayeen" forces there–including Arafat. Arafat originally struggled to obtain a visa to Canada and later Saudi Arabia, but was unsuccessful in both attempts. In 1957, he applied for a visa to Kuwait (at the time a British protectorate) and was approved, based on his work in civil engineering. There he encountered two Palestinian friends: Salah Khalaf (Abu Iyad) and Khalil al-Wazir (Abu Jihad), both official members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Arafat had met Abu Iyad while attending Cairo University and Abu Jihad in Gaza. Both became Arafat's right-hand men in future politics. Abu Iyad traveled with Arafat to Kuwait in late in 1960; Abu Jihad, working as also a teacher, had been living there since 1959. After settling in Kuwait, Abu Iyad helped Arafat obtain a temporary job as a schoolteacher.

As Arafat began to develop friendships with other Palestinian refugees (some of whom he knew also from his Cairo days), he and the others gradually founded the group that became known as Fatah. The exact date for the establishment of Fatah is unknown. However, in 1959, the group's existence was attested in the pages of a Palestinian nationalist magazine, Filastununa Nida al-Hayat (Our Palestine, The Call of Life), which was written and edited by Abu Jihad. FaTaH is a reverse acronym of the Arabic name Harakat al-Tahrir al-Watani al-Filastini which translates into "The Palestinian National Liberation Movement". Fatah is also a word that was used in early Islamic times to refer to 'conquest'.

Fatah dedicated itself to the liberation of Palestine by an armed struggle carried out by the Palestinians themselves. This differed from other Palestinian political and guerrilla organizations, most of which firmly believed in a united Arab response. Arafat's organization never embraced the ideologies of major Arab national governments of the time, in contrast to other Palestinian factions, which often became satellites of nations such as Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and others.

In accordance with his ideology, Arafat generally refused to accept donations to his organization from major Arab governments, in order to act independently of them. However, he did not want to alienate them, and sought their undivided support by avoiding alliances with groups loyal to other ideologies. He worked hard in Kuwait, however, to establish the groundwork for Fatah's future financial support by enlisting contributions from the many wealthy Palestinians working there and other Gulf States, such as Qatar (where he met Mahmoud Abbas in 1961). These businessmen and oil workers contributed generously to the Fatah organization. Arafat continued this process in other Arab countries such as Libya and Syria.

In 1962, Arafat and his closest companions immigrated to Syria—a country sharing a border with Israel—which had recently seceded from its ephemeral union with Nasser's Egypt. Fatah had approximately three hundred members by this time, but none were fighters. In Syria, however, he managed to recruit members with a higher income to enable his armed struggle against Israel. Fatah's manpower was incremented further after Arafat decided to offer much higher salaries to members of the Palestine Liberation Army (PLA), the regular military force of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which was created by the Arab League in the summer of 1964. On December 31 of that same year, a squad from al-Assifa, the armed branch of Fatah at the time, attempted to infiltrate Israel, but they were intercepted and detained by Lebanese security forces. Several other raids with Fatah's poorly-trained and badly-equipped fighters followed this incident. Some were successful, others failed in their missions. Arafat often led these incursions personally.

Arafat and his top aide Abu Jihad, were detained in Syria when a pro-Syrian Palestinian leader, Yusuf Orabi was murdered. Hours before he was killed, Arafat was discussing with him ways to unite their factions and to request Orabi's support for Arafat against his rivals within the Fatah leadership. Shortly after Arafat left the meeting, Orabi was thrown out of the window of a three-story building and Syrian police loyal to Hafez al-Assad (Assad and Orabi were "close friends"), suspected Arafat was involved in the incident. Assad appointed a panel, which found Arafat and Abu Jihad guilty of the murder. Nonetheless, both were pardoned by Syrian President Salah Jadid. The incident, however, brought Assad and Arafat on unpleasant terms, which would show later when Assad became President of Syria.

On November 13, 1966, Israel launched a major raid against the Jordanian-administered West Bank town of as-Samu, in response to a Fatah-implemented roadside bomb attack, which had killed three members of the Israeli security forces near the southern Green Line border. In the resulting skirmish, scores of Jordanian security forces were killed and 125 homes razed. This raid was one of several factors that led to the 1967 Six Day War.

The Six Day war began when Israel launched a preemptive air strike against Egypt's air force on June 5, 1967. The war ended in Arab defeat and Israel's occupation of several Arab territories, including the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Although Nasser and his Arab allies had been defeated, Arafat and Fatah could claim a victory, in that the majority of Palestinians, who had up to that time tended to align and sympathize with individual Arab governments, now began to agree that a 'Palestinian' solution of their dilemma was indispensable. Many primarily Palestinian political parties, including George Habash's Arab Nationalist Movement, Hajj Amin al-Husseini's Arab Higher Committee, the Islamic Liberation Front and several Syrian-backed groups, virtually crumbled after their sponsor governments' defeat. Barely a week after the defeat, Arafat crossed the Jordan River in disguise and entered the West Bank, where he set up recruitment centers in Hebron, the Jerusalem area and Nablus, and began attracting both fighters and financiers for his cause.

At the same time, Nasser contacted Arafat through Mohammed Heikal (one of Nasser's advisers) and Arafat was declared by Nasser to be the 'leader of the Palestinians'. In December, Ahmad Shukeiri resigned his post as PLO Chairman. Yahya Hammuda took his place and invited Arafat to join the organization. Fatah was allocated 33 of 105 seats of the PLO Executive Committee while 57 seats were left for several other guerrilla factions.

Throughout 1968, Fatah and other Palestinian armed groups were the target of a major Israeli army operation in the Jordanian village of Karameh, where the Fatah headquarters—as well as a mid-sized Palestinian refugee camp—were located. The town's name is the Arabic word for 'dignity', which elevated its symbolic power in the eyes of the Arab people, especially after the Arab defeat in 1967. The operation came hard upon attacks, including rockets strikes from Fatah and other Palestinian militias, within the occupied West Bank. According to Said Aburish, the government of Jordan and a number of Fatah commandos informed Arafat that large-scale Israeli military preparations for an attack on the town were underway, prompting fedayeen groups, such as George Habash's newly formed group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Nayef Hawatmeh's breakaway organization the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), to withdraw their forces from the town. Though advised by a pro-Fatah Jordanian divisional commander to withdraw his men and headquarters to nearby hills, Arafat refused, stating, "We want to convince the world that there are those in the Arab world who will not withdraw or flee". Aburish writes that it was on Arafat's orders that Fatah remained, and that the Jordanian Army agreed to back them if heavy fighting ensued.

On the night of March 21, the IDF attacked Karameh with heavy weaponry, armored vehicles and fighter jets. Fatah held its ground, surprising the Israeli military. As Israel's forces intensified their campaign, the Jordanian Army became involved, causing the Israelis to retreat in order to avoid a full-scale war. By the end of the battle, nearly 150 Fatah militants had been killed, as well as twenty Jordanian soldiers and twenty-eight Israeli soldiers. Despite the higher Arab death toll, Fatah considered themselves victorious because of the Israeli army's rapid withdrawal. Arafat himself was on the battlefield, but the details of his involvement are unclear. However, his allies–as well as Israeli intelligence–confirm that he urged his men throughout the battle to hold their ground and continue fighting.

The battle was covered in detail by Time, and Arafat's face appeared on the cover of the December 13, 1968 issue, bringing his image to the world for the first time. Amid the post-war environment, the profiles of Arafat and Fatah were raised by this important turning point, and he came to be regarded as a national hero who dared to confront Israel. With mass applause from the Arab World, financial donations increased significantly, and Fatah's weaponry and equipment improved. The group's numbers swelled as many young Arabs, including thousands of non-Palestinians, joined the ranks of Fatah.

At the Palestinian National Council in Cairo on February 3, 1969, Yahya Hammuda stepped down from his chairmanship of the PLO, and Arafat took over. He became Commander-in-Chief of the Palestinian Revolutionary Forces two years later, and in 1973, became the head of the PLO's political department.

In the late 1960s, tensions between Palestinians and the Jordanian government increased greatly; heavily armed Arab resistance elements had created a virtual "state within a state" in Jordan, eventually controlling several strategic positions in that country. After their victory in the Battle of Karameh, Fatah and other Palestinian militias began taking control of civil life in Jordan. They set up roadblocks, publicly humiliated Jordanian police forces, molested women and levied illegal taxes—all of which Arafat either condoned or ignored. King Hussein considered this a growing threat to his kingdom's sovereignty and security, and attempted to disarm the militias. However, in order to avoid a military confrontation with opposition forces, Hussein dismissed several of his anti-PLO cabinet officials, including some of his own family members, and invited Arafat to become Prime Minister of Jordan. Arafat refused, citing his belief in the need for a Palestinian state with Palestinian leadership.

Despite Hussein's intervention, militant actions in Jordan continued. On September 15, 1970, the PFLP hijacked five planes and landed three of them at Dawson's Field, located 30 miles (48 km) east of Amman. After the passengers were moved to other locations, three of the planes were blown up. This tarnished Arafat's image in many western nations, including the United States, who held him responsible for controlling Palestinian factions that belonged to the PLO. Arafat, bowing to pressure from Arab governments, publicly condemned the hijackings and suspended the PFLP from any guerrilla actions for a few weeks. (He had taken the same action after the PFLP attacked Athens Airport.) The Jordanian government moved to regain control over its territory, and the next day, King Hussein declared martial law. On the same day, Arafat became supreme commander of the PLA.

As the conflict raged, other Arab governments attempted to negotiate a peaceful resolution. As part of this effort, Gamal Abdel Nasser led the first ever emergency Arab League summit in Cairo on September 21. Arafat's speech drew sympathy from attending Arab leaders. Other heads of state took sides against Hussein, among them Muammar al-Gaddafi, who mocked him and his schizophrenic father King Talal. The attempt to establish a peace agreement between the two sides failed. Nasser died of a massive heart attack hours after the summit.

By September 25, the Jordanian army achieved dominance, and two days later Arafat and Hussein agreed to a ceasefire in Amman. The Jordanian army inflicted heavy casualties on the Palestinians—including civilians—who suffered approximately 3,500 fatalities. After repeated violations of the ceasefire from both the PLO and the Jordanian Army, Arafat called for the King Hussein to be toppled. Responding to the threat, in June 1971, Hussein ordered his forces to oust all remaining Palestinian fighters in northern Jordan—which they accomplished. Arafat and a number of his forces, including two high-ranking commanders, Abu Iyad and Abu Jihad, were forced into the northern corner of Jordan. They relocated near the town of Jerash, near the border with Syria. With the help of Munib Masri, a pro-Palestinian Jordanian cabinet member, and Fahd al-Khomeimi, the Saudi ambassador to Jordan, Arafat managed to enter Syria with nearly two thousand of his fighters. However, due to the hostility of relations between Arafat and Syrian President Hafez al-Assad (who had previously ousted President Salah Jadid), the Palestinian fighters crossed the border into Lebanon to join PLO forces in that country, where they set up their new headquarters.

Because of Lebanon's weak central government, the PLO was able to operate virtually as an independent state. Unrelenting Israeli pressure on that territory was designed both to turn the Lebanese population against the PLO and compel the government to suppress the guerillas. During this time in the 1970s, numerous leftist PLO groups appeared on the armed front against Israel, carrying out attacks against civilian and military targets both within Israel and outside of it.

Two major incidents occurred in 1972. The Fatah subgroup Black September hijacked a Sabena flight en route to Vienna and forced it to land at the Ben Gurion International Airport in Lod, Israel. The PFLP and the Japanese Red Army carried out a shooting rampage at the same airport, killing twenty-four civilians. Israel later claimed that the assassination of PFLP spokesman Ghassan Kanafani was a response to the PFLP's involvement in masterminding the latter attack. Two days later, various PLO factions retaliated by bombing a bus station, killing eleven civilians.

At the Munich Olympic Games, Black September kidnapped and killed eleven Israeli athletes. A number of sources, including Mohammed Oudeh (Abu Daoud), one of the masterminds of the Munich massacre, and Benny Morris, a prominent Israeli historian, have stated that Black September was an armed branch of Fatah used for paramilitary operations. According to Abu Daoud's 1999 book, "Arafat was briefed on plans for the Munich hostage-taking." The killings were internationally condemned. In 1973–74, Arafat closed Black September down, ordering the PLO to withdraw from acts of violence outside Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In 1974, the PNC approved the Ten Point Program (drawn up by Arafat and his advisers), and proposed a compromise with the Israelis. It called for a Palestinian national authority over every part of "liberated Palestinian territory", which refers to areas captured by Arab forces in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War (present-day West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip). This caused discontent among several of the PLO factions; the PFLP, DFLP and other parties formed a breakaway organization, the Rejectionist Front.

Israel and the US have alleged also that Arafat was involved in the 1973 Khartoum diplomatic assassinations, in which five diplomats and five others were killed. A 1973 United States Department of State document, declassified in 2006, concluded "The Khartoum operation was planned and carried out with the full knowledge and personal approval of Yasser Arafat." Arafat denied any involvement in the operation and insisted it was carried out independently by the Black September group. Israel claimed that Arafat was in ultimate control over these organizations and therefore had not abandoned terrorism.

Also in 1974, the PLO was declared the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people" and admitted to full membership of the Arab League at a Rabat summit. Arafat became the first representative of a non-governmental organization to address a plenary session of the UN General Assembly. Arafat was also the first leader to address the UN while wearing a holster, although it did not contain a gun. In his United Nations address, Arafat condemned Zionism, but said, "Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter's gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand." His speech increased international sympathy for the Palestinian cause.

Although hesitant at first to take sides in the conflict, Arafat and Fatah played an important role in the Lebanese Civil War. Succumbing to pressure from PLO sub-groups such as the PFLP, DFLP and the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), Arafat aligned the PLO with the Communist and Nasserist Lebanese National Movement (LNM). The LNM was led by Kamal Jumblatt, who had a friendly relationship with Arafat and other PLO leaders. Although originally aligned with Fatah, Syrian President Hafez al-Assad feared a loss of influence in Lebanon and switched sides. He sent his army, along with the Syrian-backed Palestinian factions of as-Sa'iqa and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC) led by Ahmad Jibril to fight alongside the radical right-wing Christian forces against the PLO and the LNM. The primary components of the Christian front were the Maronite Phalangists loyal to Bachir Gemayel and the Tigers Militia—which was led by Dany Chamoun, a son of former President Camille Chamoun.

In February 1975, the Tigers shot an important pro-Palestinian Lebanese MP, Ma'arouf Sa'ad, founder of the Popular Nasserite Organization. His death, from his wounds, the following month, and the murder in April of that year of twenty-seven Palestinians and Lebanese travelling on bus from Sabra and Shatila to the Tel al-Zaatar refugee camp by Phalangist forces, precipitated the Lebanese Civil War. Arafat was reluctant to respond with force, but many other Fatah and PLO members felt otherwise. For example, the DFLP carried out several attacks against the Lebanese Army. In 1976, an alliance of Christian militias with the backing of the Lebanese and Syrian Army besieged Tel al-Zaatar camp in east Beirut. The PLO and LNM retaliated by attacking the town of Damour, a Phalangist stronghold. Over 330 people were killed and many more wounded. The Tel al-Zaatar camp fell to the Christians after a six-month siege, and a massacre followed in which thousands of Palestinians were killed. Arafat and Abu Jihad blamed themselves for not successfully organizing a rescue effort.

PLO cross-border raids against Israel grew somewhat during the late 1970s. One of the most severe—known as the Coastal Road massacre—occurred on March 11, 1978. A force of nearly a dozen Fatah fighters landed their boats near a major coastal road connecting the city of Haifa with Tel Aviv-Yafo. There they hijacked a bus and sprayed gunfire inside and at passing vehicles, killing thirty-seven civilians. In response, the IDF launched Operation Litani three days later, with the goal of taking control of Southern Lebanon up to the Litani River. The IDF achieved this goal, and Arafat withdrew PLO forces north into Beirut.

After Israel withdrew from Lebanon, cross-border hostilities between PLO forces and Israel continued, though from August 1981 to May 1982, the PLO adopted a unilateral policy of refraining from responding to provocations. The Israeli invasion of 1982 was designed, according to some sources, to crush Palestinian national aspirations by uprooting their forces from proximity to the West Bank. Beirut was soon besieged and bombarded by the IDF; Arafat declared the city to be the "Hanoi and Stalingrad of the Israeli army." The Civil War's first phase ended and Arafat—who was commanding Fatah forces at Tel al-Zaatar—narrowly escaped with assistance from Saudi and Kuwaiti diplomats. Towards the end the siege, the US and European governments brokered an agreement guaranteeing safe passage for Arafat and the PLO—guarded by a multinational force of eight hundred US Marines supported by the US Navy—to exile in Tunis.

Arafat returned to Lebanon a year after his eviction from Beirut, this time establishing himself in the northern city of Tripoli. This time Arafat was expelled by a fellow Palestinian working under Hafez al-Assad. Arafat did not return to Lebanon after his second expulsion, though many Fatah fighters did.

Arafat and Fatah's center for operations was based in Tunis, the capital of Tunisia, until 1993. In 1985 he narrowly survived an Israeli assassination attempt when Israeli Air Force F-15s bombed his headquarters there as part of Operation Wooden Leg, leaving 73 people dead. Arafat had gone out jogging that morning.

During the 1980s, Arafat received financial assistance from Libya, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which allowed him to reconstruct the badly-battered PLO. This was particularly useful during the First Intifada in December 1987, which began as an uprising of Palestinian youth against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The word Intifada in Arabic is literally translated as "tremor", however, it is generally defined as an uprising or revolt.

The first stage of the Intifada was a response to an incident at the Erez checkpoint where an Israeli military vehicle hit a group of Palestinian laborers, killing four of them. However, within weeks and partly upon consistent requests by Abu Jihad, Arafat attempted to direct the uprising, which lasted until 1992–93. Abu Jihad had previously been assigned the responsibility of the Palestinian territories within the PLO command and according to biographer Said Aburish, had "impressive knowledge of local conditions" in the Israeli-occupied territories. On April 16, 1988, as the Intifada was raging, Abu Jihad was assassinated in his Tunis household, allegedly by an Israeli hit squad. Arafat considered Abu Jihad a PLO counterweight to local Palestinian leadership, and led a funeral procession for him in Damascus.

The most common tactic used by Palestinians during the Intifada was throwing stones at IDF tanks, which became a symbol of the uprising. The local leadership in some West Bank towns commenced non-violent protests against Israeli occupation by engaging in tax resistance and other boycotts. Israel responded by confiscating large sums of money in house-to-house raids. As the Intifada came to a close, new armed Palestinian groups—in particular Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)—began targeting Israeli civilians with the new tactic of suicide bombing and internal fighting amongst the Palestinians increased dramatically.

On November 15, 1988, the PLO proclaimed the independent State of Palestine. In speeches on December 13 and December 14, Arafat accepted UN Security Council Resolution 242, Israel's right "to exist in peace and security" and repudiated 'terrorism in all its forms, including state terrorism'. Arafat's statements were greeted with approval by the US administration, which had long insisted on these statements as a necessary starting point for official discussions between the US and the PLO. These remarks from Arafat indicated a shift away from one of the PLO's primary aims—the destruction of Israel (as entailed in the Palestinian National Covenant)–and toward the establishment of two separate entities: an Israeli state within the 1949 armistice lines, and an Arab state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. On April 2, 1989, Arafat was elected by the Central Council of the Palestine National Council, the governing body of the PLO, to be the president of the proclaimed State of Palestine.

Prior to the Gulf War in 1990-91, when the Intifada's intensity began to wear down, Arafat supported Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait and opposed the US-led coalition attack on Iraq. He made this decision without the consent of other leading members of Fatah and the PLO. Arafat's top aide Abu Iyad vouched to stay neutral and opposed an alliance with Saddam; On January 17, 1991, Abu Iyad was assassinated by the pro-Iraqi Abu Nidal Organization. Arafat's decision also severed relations with Egypt and many of the oil-producing Arab states that supported the US-led coalition. Many in the US also used Arafat's position as a reason to disregard his claims to being a partner for peace. After the end of hostilities, many Arab states that backed the coalition cut off funds to the PLO and began providing financial support for the organization's rival Hamas as well as other Islamist groups.

In 1990, Arafat married Suha Tawil, a Palestinian Christian when he was 61 and Suha, 27. Before their marriage, she was working as a secretary for Arafat in Tunis after her mother introduced her to him in France. Prior to Arafat's marriage, he adopted fifty Palestinian war orphans.

Arafat narrowly escaped death again on April 7, 1992, when his aircraft crash-landed in the Libyan Desert during a sandstorm. Two pilots and an engineer were killed; Arafat was bruised and shaken.

In the early 1990s, Arafat and leading Fatah officials engaged the Israeli government in a series of secret talks and negotiations that led to the 1993 Oslo Accords. The agreement called for the implementation of Palestinian self-rule in portions of the West Bank and Gaza Strip over a five year period, along with an immediate halt to and gradual removal of Israeli settlements in those areas. The accords called for a Palestinian police force to be formed from local recruits and Palestinians abroad, to patrol areas of self-rule. Authority over the various fields of rule, including education and culture, social welfare, direct taxation and tourism, would be transferred to the Palestinian interim government. Both parties agreed also on forming a committee that would establish cooperation and coordination dealing with specific economic sectors, including utilities, industry, trade and communication.

Prior to signing the accords, Arafat—as Chairman of the PLO and its official representative—signed two letters renouncing violence and officially recognizing Israel. In return, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, on behalf of Israel, officially recognized the PLO.

The following year, Arafat and Rabin were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Shimon Peres. The Palestinian reaction was mixed. The Rejectionist Front of the PLO allied itself with Islamists in a common opposition against the agreements. It was rejected also by Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan as well as by many Palestinian intellectuals and the local leadership of the Palestinian territories. However, the inhabitants of the territories generally accepted the agreements and Arafat's promise for peace and economic well-being.

In accordance with the terms of the Oslo agreement, Arafat was required to implement PLO authority in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He insisted that financial support was imperative to establishing this authority and needed it to secure the acceptance of the agreements by the Palestinians living in those areas. However, the Gulf Arab States—Arafat's usual source for financial backing—still refused to provide him and the PLO with any major donations because of his sympathy for Iraq during the Gulf War, in 1991. Ahmed Qurei—a key Fatah negotiator during the negotiations in Oslo—openly announced that the PLO was bankrupt.

In 1994, Arafat moved to Gaza City, one of the territories controlled by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA)—the provisional entity created by the Oslo Accords. Arafat became the President and Prime Minister of the PNA, the Commander of the PLA and the Speaker of the PLC. In July, after the PNA was declared the official government of the Palestinians, the Basic Laws of the Palestinian National Authority was published, in three different versions by the PLO. Arafat proceeded with creating a structure for the PNA. He established an executive committee or cabinet composed of twenty members. Arafat also took the liberty to replace and assign mayors and city councils for major cities such as Gaza and Nablus. He began subordinating non-governmental organizations that dealt in education, health, and social affairs under his authority by replacing their elected leaders and directors with PNA officials loyal to him. He then appointed himself chairman of the Palestinian financial organization that was created by the World Bank to control most aid money towards helping the new Palestinian entity.

Arafat established a Palestinian police force, named the Preventive Security Service (PSS), that became active on May 13. It was mainly composed of PLA soldiers and foreign Palestinian volunteers. Arafat assigned Mohammed Dahlan and Jibril Rajoub to head the organization. Amnesty International accused Arafat and the PNA leadership for failing to adequately investigate abuses by the PSS (including torture and unlawful killings) of political opponents and dissidents as well as the arrests of human rights activists.

On July 24, 1995, Arafat's wife Suha gave birth to a daughter in Sorbonne, France. She was named Zahwa after Arafat's deceased mother.

Throughout November-December 1995, Arafat toured dozens of Palestinian cities and towns that were evacuated by Israeli forces including Jenin, Ramallah, al-Bireh, Nablus, Qalqilyah and Tulkarm, declaring them "liberated". The PNA also gained control of the West Bank's postal service during this period. On January 20, 1996, Arafat was elected president of the PNA, with an overwhelming 88.2% majority (the only other candidate was charity organizer Samiha Khalil). However, because Hamas, the DFLP and other popular opposition movements chose to boycott the presidential elections, the choices were limited. Arafat's landslide victory guaranteed Fatah 51 of the 88 seats in the PLC. After Arafat was elected to the post of President of the PNA, he was often referred to as the Ra'is, (literally president in Arabic), although he spoke of himself as "the general". In 1997, the PLC accused the executive branch of the PNA of financial mismanagement causing the resignation of four members of Arafat's cabinet. Arafat refused to resign his post.

In mid-1996, Benjamin Netanyahu was elected Prime Minister of Israel by a margin of just one percent. Palestinian-Israeli relations grew even more hostile as a result of continued conflict. Despite the Israel-PLO accord, Netanyahu opposed the idea of Palestinian statehood. In 1998, US President Bill Clinton persuaded the two leaders to meet. The resulting Wye River Memorandum detailed the steps to be taken by the Israeli government and PNA to complete the peace process.

Arafat continued negotiations with Netanyahu's successor, Ehud Barak, at the Camp David Summit in July 2000. Due partly to his own politics (Barak was from the leftist Labor Party, whereas Netanyahu was from the rightist Likud Party) and partly due to insistence for compromise by President Clinton, Barak offered Arafat a Palestinian state in 73% of the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian percentage of sovereignty would extend to 91% (94% excluding Jerusalem) over a ten to twenty-five year period. In exchange for the withheld areas of the West Bank where the main Israeli settlement blocks were situated, Barak offered the equivalent area in the Israeli Negev desert. Also included in the offer were the return of a small number of refugees and compensation for those not allowed to return. Arafat rejected Barak's offer and refused to make an immediate counter-offer. He stated to President Clinton that, "the Arab leader who would surrender Jerusalem is not born yet". The move was criticized even by a member of his own negotiating team and cabinet, Nabil Amr.

Negotiations continued at the Taba summit in January 2001; this time, Ehud Barak pulled out of the talks to campaign in the Israeli elections. In October and December 2001, suicide bombings by Palestinian militant groups increased and Israeli counter strikes intensified, causing the outbreak of the Second Intifada. Following the election of Ariel Sharon in February, the peace process took a steep downfall. Palestinian elections scheduled for January 2002 were postponed—the stated reason was an inability to campaign due to the emergency conditions imposed by the Intifada, as well as IDF incursions and restrictions on freedom of movement in the Palestinian territories. In the same month, Sharon ordered Arafat to be confined to his Mukata'a headquarters in Ramallah, following a suicide bombing in the Israeli city of Hadera; US President George W. Bush supported Sharon's action, claiming that Arafat was "an obstacle to the peace".

Arafat's long personal and political survival was taken by most Western commentators as a sign of his mastery of asymmetric warfare and his skill as a tactician, given the extremely dangerous nature of politics of the Middle East and the frequency of assassinations. Some commentators believe his survival was largely due to Israel's fear that he could become a martyr for the Palestinian cause if he were assassinated or even arrested by Israel. Others believe that Israel refrained from taking action against Arafat because it feared Arafat less than Hamas and the other Islamist movements gaining support over Fatah. The complex and fragile web of relations between the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab states contributed also to Arafat's longevity as the leader of the Palestinians.

Arafat's ability to adapt to new tactical and political situations was perhaps tested by the rise of the Hamas and PIJ organizations, Islamist groups espousing rejectionist opposition to Israel and employing new tactics such as bombing, often intentionally targeting non-military targets, such as malls and movie theaters, to increase the psychological damage and civilian casualties. In the 1990s, these groups seemed to threaten Arafat's capacity to hold together a unified secular nationalist organization with a goal of statehood. They appeared to be out of Arafat's influence and control, and were actively fighting with Fatah. Some allege that activities of these groups were tolerated by Arafat as a means of applying pressure on Israel.

In 2002, the Arab League made an offer to recognize Israel in exchange for an Israeli retreat from all territories captured in the Six-Day War and statehood for the Palestinians governed by Arafat's PNA. Shortly afterward, an attack carried out by Hamas militants killed twenty-nine Israeli civilians celebrating Passover including many senior citizens. In response, Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield, a major military offensive into major West Bank cities.

Some Israeli government officials opined in 2002 that the armed Fatah sub-group al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades commenced attacks towards Israel in order to compete with Hamas. On May 6, the Israeli government released a report, based in part on documents captured during the Israeli occupation of Arafat's Ramallah headquarters, which included copies of papers signed by Arafat authorizing funding for al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades' activities.

Persistent attempts by the Israeli government to identify another Palestinian leader to represent the Palestinian people failed. Arafat was enjoying the support of groups that, given his own history, would normally have been quite wary of dealing with or supporting him. Marwan Barghouti (a leader of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades) emerged as a possible replacement during the Second Intifada, but Israel had him arrested for being involved in the killing of twenty-six civilians and was sentenced to five life terms.

Arafat was finally allowed to leave his compound on May 3, after intense negotiations led to a settlement: six PFLP militants—including its secretary-general Ahmad Sa'adat—wanted by Israel, who had been holed up with Arafat in his compound, would not be turned over to Israel, but neither would they be held in custody by the PNA. Rather, a combination of British and American security personnel would ensure that the wanted men remained imprisoned in Jericho. (The men were later captured by Israel in an overnight raid on the prison in 2006. With that, and a promise that he would issue a call in Arabic to the Palestinians to halt attacks on Israelis, Arafat was released. He issued such a call on May 8, but as with previous attempts, it was largely ignored. In 2003, Arafat ceded his post as Prime Minister to Mahmoud Abbas amid pressures by the US.

In August 2002, the Israeli Military Intelligence Chief alleged that Arafat's personal wealth was in the range of USD $1.3 billion,. In 2003 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) conducted an audit of the PNA and stated that Arafat diverted $900 million in public funds to a special bank account controlled by Arafat and the PNA Chief Economic Financial adviser. However, the IMF did not claim that there were any improprieties, and it specifically stated that most of the funds had been used to invest in Palestinian assets, both internally and abroad.

Although Arafat lived a modest lifestyle, Dennis Ross, former Middle East negotiator for Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, stated that Arafat's "walking-around money" financed a vast patronage system known as neopatrimonialism. According to Salam Fayyad, - a former World Bank official whom Arafat appointed Finance Minister of the PNA in 2002—Arafat's commodity monopolies could accurately be seen as gouging his own people, "especially in Gaza which is poorer, which is something that is totally unacceptable and immoral." Fayyad claims that Arafat used $20 million from public funds to pay the leadership of the PNA security forces (the Preventive Security Service) alone.

An investigation by the European Union into claims that their funds were misused by the Palestinian Authority found no evidence that funds were diverted to finance terrorist activities. Fuad Shubaki, former financial aide to Arafat, told the Israeli security service Shin Bet that Arafat used several million dollars of aid money to buy weapons and support militant groups.

First reports of Arafat's treatment by his doctors for what his spokesman said was the "flu" came on October 25, 2004, after he vomited during a meeting. His condition deteriorated in the following days. Following visits by other doctors, including teams from Tunisia, Jordan, and Egypt—and agreement by Israel not to block his return—Arafat was taken on a French government jet to the Percy military hospital in Clamart, a suburb of Paris. According to one of his doctors, Arafat was suffering from Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), an immunologically-mediated decrease in the number of circulating platelets to abnormally low levels. On November 3, he lapsed into a gradually deepening coma. In the ensuing days, Arafat's health was the subject of some speculation, with suspicion that he was suffering from poisoning or AIDS. Various sources speculated that Arafat was comatose, in a "vegetative state" or dead, however, Palestinian authorities and Arafat's Jordanian doctor denied reports that Arafat was brain dead and had been kept on life support.

A controversy erupted between officials of the PNA and Suha Arafat when officials from the PNA traveled to France to see Yasser Arafat. Suha stated "They are trying to bury Abu Ammar alive". French law forbids physicians from discussing the condition of their patients with anybody with the exception, in case of grave prognosis, of close relatives. Accordingly, all communications concerning Arafat's health had to be authorized by his wife. Palestinian officials expressed regret that the news about Yasser Arafat was "filtered" by her.

The next day, chief surgeon Christian Estripeau of Percy reported that Arafat's condition had worsened, and that he had fallen into a deeper coma. Sheikh Taissir Tamimi, the head of the Islamic court of the Palestinian territories—who held a vigil at Arafat's bedside—visited Arafat and declared that it was out of the question to disconnect him from life support since, according to him, such an action is prohibited in Islam.

Arafat was pronounced dead at 3:30 am UTC on November 11 at the age of 75. The exact cause of his illness is unknown. Tamimi described it as "a very painful scene." When Arafat's death was announced, the Palestinian people went into a state of mourning, with Qur'anic mourning prayers emitted from mosque loudspeakers and tires burning in the street. One obituary at Socialist World said: "Many Palestinians will view the death of Yasser Arafat with a mixture of sadness and a wish that the Palestinian Authority he led, had done much more to end the poverty and oppression that blights their lives".

The Canard Enchaîné newspaper reported alleged leaks of information by unnamed medical sources at Percy hospital who had access to Arafat and his medical file. According to the newspaper, the doctors at Percy hospital suspected, from Arafat's arrival, grave lesions of the liver responsible for an alteration of the composition of the blood; Arafat was therefore placed in a hematology service. Leukemia was "soundly ruled out". According to the same source, the reason why this diagnosis of cirrhosis could not be made available was that, in the mind of the general public, cirrhosis is generally associated with the consequences of alcohol abuse. Even though the diagnosis was not of an alcoholic cirrhosis and Arafat was not known for consuming any alcohol, there was a likelihood of rumors. The source explained that Arafat's living conditions did little to improve the situation. Thus, according to the source, the probable causes of the disease were multiple; Arafat's coma was a consequence of the worsened cirrhosis. The French newspaper Le Monde quoted doctors as saying that he suffered from "an unusual blood disease and a liver problem".

After Arafat's death, the French Ministry of Defense said that Arafat's medical file would be transmitted to only his next of kin. It was determined that Arafat's nephew and PNA envoy to the UN, Nasser al-Qudwa, was a close enough relative, thus working around Suha Arafat's silence on her husband's illness. Nasser al-Qudwa was given a copy of Arafat's 558-page medical file by the French Ministry of Defense.

In September 2005, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that French experts could not determine the cause of Arafat's death. The paper quoted an Israeli AIDS expert who claimed that Arafat bore all the symptoms of AIDS, a hypothesis later rejected by The New York Times.

Ashraf al-Kurdi, a personal physician of Arafat for twenty years and who treated also the Hashemite kings of Jordan, later declared that nothing in Arafat's medical report mentioned the existence of such an infection. Another "senior Israeli physician" claimed in the article in Haaretz that it was "a classic case of food poisoning", probably caused by a meal eaten four hours before he fell ill that may have contained a toxin such as ricin, rather than a standard bacterial poisoning. However, in the same week as the report in Haaretz, The New York Times published a separate report, also based on access to Arafat's medical records, which claimed that it was highly unlikely that Arafat had AIDS or food poisoning. Both publications further speculated that the cause of death may have been an infection of an unknown nature or origin. However, rumors of Arafat's poisoning have remained popular around the world, and especially among the Arab populace. Al-Kurdi lamented the fact that Arafat's widow Suha had refused an autopsy, which would have answered many questions in the cause of death case. In 2005, al-Kurdi called for the creation of an independent commission to carry out investigations concerning Arafat's suspicious death, stating, "any doctor would tell you that these are the symptoms of a poisoning". He had previously told the Associated Press that Arafat had the AIDS virus and that "it was given to him to cover up the poison".

Paris deputy Claude Goasguen asked for a parliamentary inquiry commission on the death of Arafat in an attempt to quell rumors. The French government insisted that there was no evidence Arafat had been poisoned; otherwise, a criminal investigation would have necessarily been opened.

On November 11, the French military Honor Guard held a funeral for Arafat at a military airport near Paris. President Jacques Chirac stood alone beside Arafat's body for about ten minutes in a last show of respect for a leader he hailed as, "a man of courage". The next day, Arafat was flown to Egypt's capital Cairo for another brief military funeral there, before his burial in Ramallah, later that day. The funeral was attended by several heads of states, prime ministers and foreign ministers. Egypt's top Muslim cleric Sayed Tantawi led mourning prayers preceding the funeral procession.

Israel refused Arafat's wish to be buried near the al-Aqsa Mosque or anywhere in Jerusalem, citing widespread security concerns. Following his Cairo procession, Arafat was "temporarily" laid to rest within his former headquarters in Ramallah; the ceremony was watched by thousands of Palestinians. After Sheikh Taissir Tamimi discovered that Arafat was buried improperly and in a coffin–which is not in accordance with Islamic law–Arafat was reburied on the morning of November 13, at around 3:00 am. On November 10, 2007, prior to the third anniversary of Arafat's death, Abbas unveiled a mausoleum for Arafat near his temporary tomb in commemoration of him.

Upon Arafat's death, PLC Speaker Rawhi Fattouh succeeded Arafat as interim President of the PNA. PLO Secretary-General Mahmoud Abbas was selected Chairman of the PLO, and Farouk Kaddoumi became head of Fatah. The PNA and the leadership of Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon declared forty days of mourning for Arafat. Abbas won the January 2005 presidential election by a comfortable margin, solidifying himself as the successor to Arafat as leader of the Palestinians.

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Second Intifada

12-year-old Palestinian Muhammad al-Durrah became an icon of the Palestinian uprising in 2000 when he was killed on September 30, 2000 after being caught in a crossfire. Controversies continue over whether Palestinians or the Israeli Defense Forces killed him.

The Second Intifada, also known as the al-Aqsa Intifada (Arabic: انتفاضة الأقصى‎, Intifāḍat El Aqṣa; Hebrew: אינתיפאדת אל-אקצה‎, Intifādat El-Aqtzah) is the second Palestinian uprising, a period of intensified Palestinian-Israeli violence, which began in late September 2000. "Al-Aqsa" is the name of a prominent Muslim mosque, constructed in the 8th century CE at the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, a location considered the holiest site in Judaism and third holiest in Islam. "Intifada" (also transliterated Intifadah) is an Arabic word that literally translates into English as "shaking off". The death toll to date, including both military and civilian, is estimated to be almost 5,500 Palestinians and over 1,000 Israelis, as well as 64 foreign citizens.

The starting date of the Second Intifada is disputed. Some sources view the start of the uprising as September 27, 2000. Some view the start to be the September 28 2000 riots and injuries soon after Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount, an area known to Muslims as Al-Haram As-Sharif. Others believe it started a day later on Friday September 29, the day of prayers, when there was the introduction of police and military presence, and there were major clashes with deaths. Some Israelis believe that Yassir Arafat walked out on negotiations at the Camp David Summit in July 2000, and that the Second Intifada started then. They note that there were Israeli casualties as early as September 27; this is the Israeli "conventional wisdom", according to Dr. Jeremy Pressman, and the view expressed by the Israeli foreign ministry. Most mainstream media outlets have taken the view that the Sharon visit was the spark that triggered the rioting at the start of the Second Intifada. In the first five days after the visit, Israeli police and security forces killed 47 Palestinians and wounded 1885, while five Israelis were killed by Palestinians.

The Middle East Peace Summit at Camp David from July 11 to July 25, 2000 took place between United States President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. It failed with both sides blaming the other for the failure of the talks. There were four principal obstacles to agreement: territory, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, refugees and the 'right of return', and Israeli security concerns.

Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian parliament postponed the planned September 13, 2000 declaration of statehood for an independent Palestinian state.

On September 16 Palestinians commemorated the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre.

On September 27 Sergeant David Biri of the Israeli Defense Forces was critically injured in a bomb attack near Netzarim in the Gaza Strip. He died the next day.

Palestinians consider the Second Intifada to be a part of their ongoing struggle for national liberation, justice, and an end to Israeli occupation, whereas many Israelis consider it to be a "wave of Palestinian terrorism" instigated and pre-planned by then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Palestinian tactics have ranged from carrying out mass protests and general strikes, similar to the First Intifada, to armed attacks on settlers, civilians and security forces, suicide bombing attacks, and firing Qassam rockets into Israeli residential areas.

Israeli tactics have included paralysing Palestinians' movements through the setting up of checkpoints and the enforcement of strict curfews in certain areas, as a means of economic warfare. Infrastructural attacks against Palestinian Authority targets such as police and prisons was another Israeli method to force the Palestinian Authority to follow Israel's demand that it repress the anti-Israeli protests, and later, the attacks on Israeli targets, though in so doing Israel bombed the police it demanded do its bidding and the prisons to house those the Israelis wanted imprisoned. Aggressive riot control was designed to "restore deterrence" believed to be lost when Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon - more than 300 were killed in the first months of the uprising through this method alone, during a time when most Israeli civilian fatalities were Israeli Arabs.

It is also called the Oslo War (מלחמת אוסלו) by Israelis who consider it to be the result of concessions made by Israel following the Oslo Accords, and Arafat's War, after the late Palestinian leader whom some blame for starting it. Both Israelis and Palestinians have blamed each other for the failure of the Oslo peace process.

Under the Oslo Accords, Israel committed to the phased withdrawal of its forces from parts of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, and affirmed the Palestinian right to self-government within those areas through the creation of a Palestinian Authority. For their part, the Palestine Liberation Organization formally recognized Israel and committed to adopting responsibility for internal security in population centers in the areas evacuated. Palestinian self-rule was to last for a five-year interim period during which a permanent agreement would be negotiated. However, the realities on the ground left both sides deeply disappointed with the Oslo process.

In the five years immediately following the signing of the Oslo accords, 405 Palestinians were killed and 256 Israelis were killed, which for the latter represented a casualty count higher than that of the previous fifteen years combined (216, 172 of which were killed during the First Intifada).

In 1995, Shimon Peres took the place of Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated by Yigal Amir, a Jewish extremist opposed to the Oslo peace agreement. In the 1996 elections, Israelis elected a right-wing coalition led by the Likud candidate, Benjamin Netanyahu who was followed in 1999 by the Labor Party leader Ehud Barak.

While Rabin had limited settlement construction at the request of US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, Netanyahu continued construction within existing Israeli settlements, and put forward plans for the construction of a new neighborhood, Har Homa, in East Jerusalem. However, he fell far short of the Shamir government's 1991-92 level and refrained from building new settlements, although the Oslo agreements stipulated no such ban. Construction of Housing Units Before Oslo: 1991-92 13,960, After Oslo: 1994-95 3,840 1996-1997 3,570.

Barak courted moderate settler opinion, with the aim of marginalizing the more militant wing, securing agreement for the dismantlement of 12 new outposts that had been constructed since the Wye River Agreement of November 1998, but the continued expansion of existing settlements with plans for 3,000 new houses in the West Bank, drew strong condemnation from the Palestinian leadership. Though construction within existing settlements was permitted under the Oslo agreements, Palestinian supporters contend that any continued construction was contrary to its spirit, prejudiced the outcome of final status negotiations, and undermined confidence in Barak's desire for peace. The Palestinians not only built in areas A & B as well as State lands that Israel ceded, but throughout area C administered by Israel.

Some have claimed that Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority (PA) had pre-planned the Intifada. They often quote a speech made in December 2000 by Imad Falouji, the PA Communications Minister at the time, where he explains that the violence had been planned since Arafat's return from the Camp David Summit in July, far in advance of Sharon's visit (view video of the speech). He stated that the Intifada "was carefully planned since the return of (Palestinian President) Yasser Arafat from Camp David negotiations rejecting the U.S. conditions." David Samuels quotes Mamduh Nofal, former military commander of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who supplies more evidence of pre-September 28 military preparations. Nofal recounts that Arafat "told us, Now we are going to the fight, so we must be ready".

Starting as early as September 13, 2000, members of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement carried out a number of attacks on Israeli military and civilian targets, in violation of Oslo Accords. In addition, the Israeli agency Palestinian Media Watch alleged that the Palestinian official TV broadcasts became increasingly militant during the summer of 2000, as Camp David negotiations faltered.

From the perspective of the PLO, Israel responded to the disturbances with excessive and illegal use of deadly force against demonstrators; behavior which, in the PLO’s view, reflected Israel’s contempt for the lives and safety of Palestinians. For Palestinians, the widely seen images of Muhammad al-Durrah in Gaza on September 30, shot as he huddled behind his father, reinforced that perception.

The Sharon visit did not cause the "Al-Aqsa Intifada." But it was poorly timed and the provocative effect should have been foreseen; indeed it was foreseen by those who urged that the visit be prohibited.

We have no basis on which to conclude that there was a deliberate plan by the PA to initiate a campaign of violence at the first opportunity; or to conclude that there was a deliberate plan by the to respond with lethal force.

The Middle East Peace Summit at Camp David from July 11 to July 25, 2000 took place between United States President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. It failed with both sides blaming the other for the failure of the talks. There were four principal obstacles to agreement: territory, Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, refugees and the 'right of return', and Israeli security concerns. Some sources cite this failure as one of the main reasons for the level of frustration and tension felt by many Palestinians and Israelis.

On September 28, the Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon together with a Likud party delegation surrounded by hundreds of Israeli riot police, visited the Temple Mount compound which is widely considered the third holiest site in Islam. Although the compound is under Israeli sovereignty and is the holiest site in Judaism, Sharon was only permitted to enter the compound after the Israeli Interior Minister had received assurances from the Palestinian Authority's security chief that no problems would arise if he made the visit. Sharon did not actually go into the al-Aqsa Mosque, and went during normal tourist hours.

The stated purpose for Sharon's visit of the compound was to assert the right of all Israelis to visit the Temple Mount; however, according to Likud spokesman Ofir Akounis, the purpose was to "show that under a Likud government will remain under Israeli sovereignty." In response to accusations by Ariel Sharon of government readiness to concede "Israeli sovereignty" over the site to Palestinians, the Israeli government gave Sharon permission to visit the area. When alerted of his intentions, senior Palestinian figures, such as Yassir Arafat, Saeb Erekat, and Faisal Husseini all asked Sharon to call off his visit. The Palestinians, some 10 days earlier, had just observed their annual memorial day for the Sabra and Shatila massacre, conducted when Sharon was Defense Minister.

Shlomo Ben-Ami, the then acting Israeli foreign minister, has maintained, however, that he received Palestinian assurances that no violence would occur, provided that Ariel Sharon not enter one of the mosques.

On September 29, 2000, the day after Sharon's visit, following Friday prayers, large riots broke out around the Old City of Jerusalem. After Palestinians on the Temple Mount threw rocks over the Western Wall at Jewish worshipers and tourists below, wounding the district police commander, Israeli police stormed the Temple Mount and fired rubber-coated steel bullets at the rioters, killing four Palestinian youths and wounding as many as 200. Another three Palestinians were killed in the Old City and on the Mount of Olives. By the end of the day, 7 Palestinians lay dead, and some 300 had been wounded. 70 Israeli policemen were also injured in the clashes.

In the days that followed, demonstrations erupted all over the West Bank and Gaza, as violence escalated. In the first five days, at least 47 Palestinians were shot dead, and 1885 were wounded, as a result of both live fire and rubber-coated steel bullets used by the Israeli police. In the West Bank city of Qalqilyah, a Palestinian police officer working with Israeli police on a joint patrol opened fire and killed his Israeli counterpart Supt. Yosef Tabeja, an Israel Border Police officer. During the first few days of riots, the IDF fired approximately 1.3 million bullets.

According to the New York Times, many in the Arab world, including Egyptians, Palestinians, Lebanese and Jordanians, point to Sharon's visit as the beginning of the Second intifada and derailment of the peace process.

The 'October 2000 events' refers to several days of disturbances and clashes inside Israel, mostly between Arab citizens and Israel Police. 13 Arab citizens of Israel and a Palestinian from the Gaza Strip were killed by the Police, while a Jewish citizen was killed when his car was hit by a rock on the Tel-Aviv-Haifa freeway.

A general strike and demonstrations across northern Israel began on October 1 and continued for several days. In some cases, the demonstrations escalated into clashes with the Israeli Police involving rock-throwing, firebombing, and live-fire. Policemen used tear-gas and opened fire with rubber-coated bullets and later live ammunition in some instances, many times in contravention with police protocol governing riot-dispersion, which was directly linked with many of the deaths by the Or Commission.

On October 8, thousands of Jewish Israelis participated in violent acts in Nazareth and Tel Aviv, some throwing stones at Arabs, destroying Arab property and chanting "Death to Arabs".

Following the riots, there was a high degree of tension between Jewish and Arab citizens and distrust between the Arab citizens and police. An investigation committee, headed by Supreme Court Justice Theodor Or, reviewed the violent riots and found that the police were poorly prepared to handle such riots and charged major officers with bad conduct. The Or Commission reprimanded Prime Minister Ehud Barak and recommended Shlomo Ben-Ami (then the Internal Security Minister) not serve again as Minister of Public Security. The committee also blamed Arab leaders and Knesset members for contributing to inflaming the atmosphere and making the violence more severe.

On October 12, two Israeli reservists who entered Ramallah were arrested by the PA police. Believing them to be death squad operatives, an agitated Palestinian mob stormed the police station, beat the soldiers to death, and threw their mutilated bodies into the street from a second floor window. The killings were captured on video by an Italian TV crew and broadcast on TV; . The brutality of the killings shocked the Israeli public and were condemned by Palestinian leaders.

In response, Israel launched a series of retaliatory air strikes against the Palestinian Authority. This included police stations and prisons that the Authority was supposed to use to repress Israel's enemies. These attacks prompted the release of many prisoners, leading Israel to take further action against the Palestinians.

The Taba Summit between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, was held from January 21 to January 27, 2001 at Taba in the Sinai peninsula. Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat came closer to reaching a final settlement than any previous or subsequent peace talks yet ultimately failed to achieve its goals.

Ariel Sharon, at the time from the Likud party, ran against Ehud Barak from the Labour party. Sharon was elected Israeli Prime Minister February 6, 2001 in the 2001 special election to the Prime Ministership. Sharon refused to meet in person with Yasser Arafat.

Through the first few months of Sharon's term, a systematic campaign was waged against Palestinian Authority targets, in particular the police and the prisons. The joint security mechanism between Israel and the Preventative Security organisation was dissolved by Sharon's order - this mechanism that helped to restrain Hamas and Islamic Jihad suicide bombings. With more Hamas prisoners released and this cooperation finished, and with the police subject to a relentless military campaign, the suicide bombers quickly and predictably made their way into Israel.

On May 7, 2001, the IDF naval commandos captured the vessel Santorini, which sailed in international waters towards Palestinian Authority-controlled Gaza. The ship was laden with weaponry. The Israeli investigation that followed alleged that the shipment had been purchased by Ahmed Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC). The ship's value and that of its cargo was estimated at $10 million. The crew was reportedly planning to unload the cargo of weapons filled barrels — carefully sealed and waterproofed along with their contents — at a prearranged location off the Gaza coast, where the Palestinian Authority would recover them.

On May 18, 2001, Israel for the first time since 1967 used warplanes to attack targets in the territories. Prior to that, bombing had been carried out with helicopter gunships. 12 Palestinians were killed in these attacks on security forces-related targets.

On June 1, 2001, an Islamic Jihad suicide bomber detonated himself in the Tel Aviv coastline Dolphinarium dancing club. Twenty-one Israeli civilians, most of them high school students, were killed. The attack significantly hampered American attempts to negotiate cease-fire.

In January, 2002, the IDF Shayetet 13 naval commando captured the Karine A, a large boat carrying weapons from Iran towards Israel, believed to be intended for Palestinian militant use against Israel. It was discovered that top officials in the Palestinian Authority were involved in the smuggling with the Israelis pointing the finger towards Yasser Arafat as being also was involved.

A spate of suicide bombings and attacks, aimed mostly at civillians, was launched against Israel and elicited a military response. A suicide bombing dubbed the Passover Massacre (30 Israeli civilians were killed at Park hotel, Netanya) climaxed a bloody month of March 2002, in which more than 130 Israelis, mostly civilians, were killed in attacks. Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield. The operation led to the apprehension of many members of militant groups, as well as their weaponry and equipment.

The UN estimated that 497 Palestinians were killed and 1,447 wounded by the Israeli response(data from 1 March through 7 May) culminating with the recapturing of Palestinian Authority controlled areas.

Between April 2 and 11th, a siege and fierce fighting took place in Jenin, a Palestinian refugee camp. The Jenin battle became a flashpoint for both sides. During the IDF's operations in the camp, Palestinian sources alleged that a massacre of hundreds people had taken place. In the ensuing controversy, the United Nations issued a report that found no evidence of hundreds of deaths, and criticized both sides for placing Palestinian civilians at risk. However, based on their own investigations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch charged that IDF personnel in Jenin had committed war crimes. Both human rights organizations called for official inquiries; the IDF disputed the charges. After the battle, most sources, including the Palestinian Authority, placed the Palestinian death toll between 52 and 56. The IDF reported that 23 Israeli soldiers were killed.

In late April 2 to May 10, a stand-off developed between armed Fatah militants and the IDF at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Despite the code of conduct demanding respect for holy sites and Israel's controversial Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel, Section 3: Protection of Holy Places, the stand-off could not be resolved, and after significant delay, IDF snipers killed 7 people inside the church and wounded more than 40 people. The stand-off was resolved by the deportation of 13 Palestinian militants whom the IDF has identified as terrorists to Europe, and the IDF ended its 38 day stand-off with the militants inside the church.

Following an Israeli intelligence report stating that Yasir Arafat paid $20,000 to al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the United States demanded democratic reforms in the Palestinian Authority, as well the appointment of a prime minister independent of Arafat. On 13 March 2003, following U.S. pressure, Arafat appointed the moderate Mahmoud Abbas as Palestinian prime minister.

Following the appointment of Abbas, the U.S. administration promoted the Road map for peace — the Quartet's plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by disbanding militant organizations, halting settlement activity and establishing a democratic and peaceful Palestinian state. The first phase of the plan demanded that the Palestinian Authority suppress guerrilla and terrorist attacks and confiscate illegal weapons. Unable or unwilling to confront militant organizations and risk civil war, Abbas tried to reach a temporary cease-fire agreement with the militant factions and asked them to halt attacks on Israeli civilians.

On May 20, Israeli naval commandos intercepted another vessel, the Abu Hassan, on course to the Gaza Strip from Lebanon. It was loaded with rockets, weapons, and ammunition. Eight crew members on board were arrested including a senior Hezbollah member.

In June 2003, a so-called temporary armistice was unilaterally declared by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which declared a ceasefire and halt to all attacks against Israel for a period of 45 days. Violence decreased somewhat in the following month but suicide bombings against Israeli civilians continued as well as Israeli operations against militants.

Four Palestinians, three of them militants, were killed in gun battles during an IDF raid of Askar near Nablus involving tanks and Armoured personnel carriers (APCs); an Israeli soldier was killed by one of the militants. Nearby Palestinians claimed a squad of Israeli police disguised as Palestinian labourers opened fire on Abbedullah Qawasameh as he left a Hebron mosque. YAMAM, the Israeli counter-terrorism police unit which performed the operation stated that Qawasemah opened fire on them as they attempted to arrest him.

On August 19, Hamas coordinated a suicide attack on a crowded bus in Jerusalem killing 23 Israeli civilians, including 7 children. Hamas claimed it was a retaliation for the killing of five Palestinians (including Hamas leader Abbedullah Qawasameh) earlier in the week. U.S. and Israeli media outlets frequently referred to the bus bombing as shattering the quiet and bringing an end to the ceasefire.

Following the Hamas bus attack, Israeli Defence Forces were ordered to kill or capture all Hamas leaders in Hebron and the Gaza Strip. The plotters of the bus suicide bombing were all captured or killed and Hamas leadership in Hebron was badly damaged by the IDF. Strict curfews were enforced in Nablus, Jenin, and Tulkarem; the Nablus lockdown lasted for over 100 days. In Nazlet 'Issa, over 60 shops were destroyed by Israeli civil administration bulldozers. The Israeli civil administration explained that the shops were demolished because they were built without a permit. Palestinians consider Israeli military curfews and property destruction to constitute collective punishment against innocent Palestinians.

Unable to rule effectively under Arafat, Abbas resigned in September 2003. Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) was appointed to replace him. The Israeli government gave up hope for negotiated settlement to the conflict and pursued a unilateral policy of physically separating Israel from Palestinian communities by beginning construction on the Israeli West Bank barrier. Israel claims the barrier is necessary to prevent Palestinian attackers from entering Israeli cities. Palestinians claim the barrier separates Palestinian communities from each other and that the construction plan is a de facto annexation of Palestinian territory.

Following an October 4 suicide bombing in Maxim restaurant, Haifa, which claimed the lives of 21 Israelis, Israel claimed that Syria and Iran sponsored the Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, and were responsible for the terrorist attack. The day after the Maxim massacre, IAF warplanes bombed an alleged former terrorist training base at Ain Saheb, Syria (abandoned since the early 80s).

In response to a repeated shelling of Israeli communities with Qassam rockets and mortar shells from Gaza, the IDF operated mainly in Rafah — to search and destroy smuggling tunnels used by militants to obtain weapons, ammunition, fugitives, cigarettes, car parts, electrical goods, foreign currency, gold, drugs, and cloth from Egypt. Between September 2000 and May 2004, ninety tunnels connecting Egypt and the Gaza Strip were found and destroyed. Raids in Rafah left many families homeless. Israel's official stance is that their houses were captured by militants and were destroyed during battles with IDF forces. Many of these houses are abandoned due to Israeli incursions and later destroyed. According to Human Rights Watch, over 1,500 houses were destroyed to create a large buffer zone in the city, many "in the absence of military necessity", displacing around sixteen thousand people.

On 2 February 2004, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced his plan to transfer all the Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip. The Israeli opposition dismissed his announcement as "media spin" but the Israeli Labour Party said it would support such a move. Sharon's right-wing coalition partners National Religious Party and National Union rejected the plan and vowed to quit the government if it were implemented. Surprisingly, Yossi Beilin, peace advocate and architect of the Oslo Accords and the Geneva Accord, also rejected the proposed withdrawal plan. He claimed that withdrawing from the Gaza Strip without a peace agreement would reward terror.

Following the declaration of the disengagement plan by Ariel Sharon and as a response to suicide attacks on Erez crossing and Ashdod seaport (10 people were killed), the IDF launched a series of armored raids on the Gaza Strip (mainly Rafah and refugee camps around Gaza), killing about 70 Hamas militants. On March 22, 2004, an Israeli helicopter gunship killed Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and on April 17, after several failed attempts by Hamas to commit suicide bombings, his successor, Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi was killed by IDF helicopter gunship strike.

The fighting in Gaza Strip escalated severely in May 2004 after several failed attempts to attack Israeli checkpoints such as Erez crossing and Karni crossing. However, on May 11 and May 12, Palestinian militants destroyed two IDF M-113 APCs, killing 13 soldiers and mutilating their bodies. The IDF launched two raids to recover the bodies in which about 20-40 Palestinians were killed and great damage was caused to structures in the Zaitoun neighbourhood in Gaza and in south-west Rafah.

Subsequently, on May 18 the IDF launched Operation Rainbow with a stated aim of striking the terror infrastructure of Rafah, destroying smuggling tunnels, and stopping a shipment of SA-7 missiles and improved anti-tank weapons. The operation ended after the IDF killed 40 Palestinian militants and 12 civilians and demolished about 45-56 structures. The great destruction and killing of 10 protesters led to a worldwide outcry against the operation.

On September 29, after a Qassam rocket hit the Israeli town of Sderot and killed two Israeli children, the IDF launched Operation Days of Penitence in the north of the Gaza Strip. The operation's stated aim was to remove the threat of Qassam rockets from Sderot and kill the Hamas militants launching them. The operation ended on October 16, leaving widespread destruction and more than 100 Palestinians dead, at least 20 of whom were under the age of 16. Thirteen-year-old Iman Darweesh Al Hams was killed by the IDF; some reports claimed a commander had deliberately fired his automatic weapon at her dead body, but the soldier was cleared of all charges. According to Palestinian medics, Israeli forces killed at least 62 militants and 42 other Palestinians believed to be civilians. According to a count performed by Haaretz, 87 combatants and 42 non-combatants were killed. Palestinian refugee camps were heavily damaged by the Israeli assault. The IDF announced that at least 12 Qassam launchings had been thwarted and many terrorists hit during the operation. Three Israelis also were killed, including one civilian.

On October 21, the Israeli Air Force killed Adnan al-Ghoul, a senior Hamas bomb maker and the inventor of the Qassam rocket.

On November 11, Yasser Arafat died in Paris.

Escalation in Gaza began amid the visit of Mahmoud Abbas to Syria in order to achieve a Hudna between Palestinian factions and convince Hamas leadership to halt attacks against Israelis. Hamas vowed to continue the armed struggle sending numerous Qassam rockets into open fields near Nahal Oz, and hitting a kindergarten in Kfar Darom with an anti-tank missile.

On December 9 five weapon smugglers were killed and two were arrested in the border between Rafah and Egypt. Later that day, Jamal Abu Samhadana and two of his bodyguards were injured by a missile strike. In the first Israeli airstrike against militants in weeks, an unmanned Israeli drone plane launched one missile at Abu Samahdna's car as it traveled between Rafah and Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. It was the fourth attempt on Samhadana's life by Israel. Samhadana is one of two leaders of the Popular Resistance Committees and one of the main forces behind the smuggling tunnels. Samhadana is believed to be responsible for the blast against an American diplomatic convoy in Gaza that killed three Americans.

On December 10, in response to Hamas firing mortar rounds into the Neveh Dekalim settlement in the Gaza Strip and wounding four Israelis (including an 8 year old boy), Israeli soldiers fired at the Khan Younis refugee camp (the origin of the mortars) killing a 7-year-old girl. An IDF source confirmed troops opened fire at Khan Younis, but said they aimed at Hamas mortar crews. The IDF insisted that it does its utmost to avoid civilian casualties.

The largest attack since the death of Yasser Arafat claimed the lives of five Israeli soldiers on December 12, wounding ten others. Approximately 1.5 tons of explosives were detonated in a tunnel under an Israeli military-controlled border crossing on the Egyptian border with Gaza near Rafah, collapsing several structures and damaging others. The explosion destroyed part of the outpost and killed three soldiers. Two Palestinian militants then penetrated the outpost and killed two other Israeli soldiers with gunfire. It is believed that Hamas and a new Fatah faction, the "Fatah Hawks," conducted the highly organized and coordinated attack. A spokesman, "Abu Majad," claimed responsibility for the attack in the name of the Fatah Hawks claiming it was in retaliation for "the assassination" of Yasser Arafat, charging he was poisoned by Israel.

Palestinian presidential elections were held on January 9, and Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) was elected as the president of the PA. His platform was of a peaceful negotiation with Israel and non-violence to achieve Palestinian objectives. Although Abbas called on militants to halt attacks against Israel, he promised them protection from Israeli incursions and did not advocate disarmament by force.

Violence continued in the Gaza Strip, and Ariel Sharon froze all diplomatic and security contacts with the Palestinian National Authority. Spokesman Assaf Shariv declared that "Israel informed international leaders today that there will be no meetings with Abbas until he makes a real effort to stop the terror". The freezing of contacts came less than one week after Mahmoud Abbas was elected, and the day before his inauguration. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, confirming the news, declared "You cannot hold Mahmoud Abbas accountable when he hasn't even been inaugurated yet".

Following international pressure and Israeli threat of wide military operation in the Gaza Strip, Abbas ordered Palestinian police to deploy in the northern Gaza Strip to prevent Qassam rocket and mortar shelling over Israeli settlement. Although attacks on Israelis did not stop completely, they decreased sharply. On February 8, 2005, at the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit of 2005, Sharon and Abbas declared a mutual truce between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority. They shook hands at a four-way summit which also included Jordan and Egypt at Sharm al-Sheikh. However, Hamas and Islamic Jihad said the truce is not binding for their members. Israel has not withdrawn its demand to dismantle terrorist infrastructure before moving ahead in the Road map for peace.

Many warned that truce is fragile, and progress must be done slowly while observing that the truce and quiet are kept. On February 9-February 10 night, a barrage of 25-50 Qassam rockets and mortar shells hit Neve Dekalim settlement, and another barrage hit at noon. Hamas said it was in retaliation for an attack in which one Palestinian was killed near an Israeli settlement. As a response to the mortar attack, Abbas ordered the Palestinian security forces to stop such attacks in the future. He also fired senior commanders in the Palestinian security apparatus. On February 10, Israeli security forces arrested Maharan Omar Shucat Abu Hamis, a Palestinian resident of Nablus, who was about to launch a bus suicide attack in the French Hill in Jerusalem.

On February 13 2005, Abbas entered into talks with the leaders of the Islamic Jihad and the Hamas, for them to rally behind him and respect the truce. Ismail Haniyah, a senior leader of the group Hamas said that "its position regarding calm will continue unchanged and Israel will bear responsibility for any new violation or aggression".

In the middle of June, Palestinian factions intensified bombardment over the city of Sderot with improvised Qassam rockets. Palestinian attacks resulted in 2 Palestinians and 1 Chinese civilian killed by a Qassam, and 2 Israelis were killed. The wave of attacks lessened support for the disengagement plan among the Israeli public. Attacks on Israel by the Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades increased in July, and on July 12 a suicide bombing hit the coastal city of Netanya, killing 5 civilians. On July 14, Hamas started to shell Israeli settlements inside and outside the Gaza Strip with dozens of Qassam rockets, killing an Israeli woman. On July 15 Israel resumed its "targeted killing" policy, killing 7 Hamas militants and bombing about 4 Hamas facilities. The continuation of shelling rockets over Israeli settlements, and street battles between Hamas militants and Palestinian policemen, threatened to shatter the truce agreed in the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit of 2005. The Israeli Defence Force also started to build-up armored forces around the Gaza Strip in response to the shelling.

On January 25, 2006, the Palestinians held general elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council. The Islamist group Hamas won with an unexpected majority of 74 seats, compared to 45 seats for Fatah and 13 for other parties and independents. Hamas is officially declared as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union and its gaining control over the Palestinian Authority (such as by forming the government) would jeopardize international funds to the PA, by laws which forbid sponsoring of terrorist group.

On February 4 Israel launched a series of attacks against Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades Qassam rocket-launcher squads, killing 9 Palestinians. The air strikes came after Qassam rockets hit southern Ashkelon and Kibbutz Carmia, seriously wounding a 7-month-old baby.

On April 17 a suicide bomber struck in Tel Aviv killing 11 civilians and injuring 60.

On June 8, Jamal Abu Samhadana, the leader of the Popular Resistance Committees was assassinated along with three other PRC members in an Israeli air strike.

On June 9, seven members of the Ghalia family were killed on a Gaza beach. The cause of the explosion remains uncertain. Nevertheless, in response, Hamas declared an end to its commitment to a ceasefire declared in 2005 and announced the resumption of attacks on Israelis. Palestinians blame an Israeli artillery shelling of nearby locations in the northern Gaza Strip for the deaths, while an Israeli military inquiry cleared itself from the charges.

On June 25 a military outpost was attacked by Palestinian militants and a gunbattle followed that left 2 Israeli soldiers and 3 Palestinian militants dead. Corporal Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier, was captured and Israel warned of an imminent military response if the soldier was not returned unharmed. In the early hours of June 28 Israeli tanks, APCs and troops entered the Gaza strip just hours after the air force had taken out two main bridges and the only powerstation in the strip, effectively shutting down electricity and water.

On July 12 The Israeli Cabinet authorised "severe and harsh" retaliation on Lebanon due to the Hezbollah kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers, and the killing of three others.

An intensification of the Hamas-Israel conflict, the 2008–2009 Israel–Gaza conflict, occurred on 27 December 2008 (11:30 a.m. local time; 9:30 a.m. UTC) when Israel launched a military campaign codenamed Operation Cast Lead (Hebrew: מבצע עופרת יצוקה‎) targeting the members and infrastructure of Hamas in response to the numerous rocket attacks upon Israel from the Gaza Strip. The operation has been termed the Gaza Massacre (Arabic: مجزرة غزة‎) by Hamas leaders and much of the media in the Arab World.

The tactics of the two sides in the conflict are largely based upon their resources and goals.

Militant groups involved in violence include Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. They have waged a high-intensity campaign of guerrilla warfare and suicide bombings against Israel. Military equipment is mostly imported light arms and homemade weapons, such as hand grenades and explosive belts, assault rifles, and the Qassam rockets. They also have increased use of remote-controlled landmines, a tactic which has become increasingly popular among the poorly armed groups. Car bombs were often used against "lightly hardened" targets such as Israeli armored jeeps and checkpoints.

Palestinians also adopted the tactic of suicide bombing. Conducted as a single or double bombing, suicide bombings are generally conducted against "soft" targets (civilians) or "lightly hardened" targets (such as checkpoints) to try to raise the cost of the war to Israelis and demoralize the Israeli society. Most suicide bombing attacks (although not all) are targeted against civilians, and conducted on crowded places in Israeli cities, such as public transport, restaurants and markets.

One recent development is the use of suicide bombs carried by children. Unlike most suicide bombings, the use of these not only earned condemnation from the United States and from human rights groups such as Amnesty International, but also from many Palestinians and much of the Middle East press. The youngest Palestinian suicide bomber was 16-year-old Issa Bdeir, a high school student from the village of Al Doha, who shocked his friends and family when he blew himself up in a park in Rishon LeZion, killing a teenage boy and an elderly man. The youngest attempted suicide bombing was by a 14 year old captured by soldiers at the Huwwara checkpoint before managing to do any harm.

In May 2004, Israel Defence minister Shaul Mofaz claimed that United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East's ambulances were used to take the bodies of dead Israeli soldiers in order to prevent the Israel Defense Forces from recovering their dead. Reuters has provided video of healthy armed men entering ambulance with UN markings for transport. UNRWA initially denied that its ambulances carry militants but later reported that the driver was forced to comply with threats from armed men. UNRWA still denies that their ambulances carried body parts of dead Israeli soldiers.

In August 2004, Israel said that an advanced explosives-detection device employed by the IDF at the Hawara checkpoint near Nablus discovered a Palestinian ambulance had transported explosive material.

Some of the Palestinian reaction to Israeli policy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has consisted of non-violent protest. Groups such as the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement which works out of Beit Sahour formally encourage and organize non-violent resistance. Other groups, such as the International Solidarity Movement openly advocate for both violent and non-violent resistance. Some of these activities are done in cooperation with internationals and Israelis, such as the weekly protests against the Israeli West Bank Barrier carried out in villages like Bi'lin, Biddu and Budrus. This model of resistance has spread to other villages like Beit Sira, Hebron, Saffa, and Ni'lein. Even during the Israeli reinvasion of Jenin and Nablus, "A Call for a Non-violent Resistance Strategy in Palestine" was issued by two Palestinian Christians in May 2002.

Non-violent tactics have sometimes been met with Israeli military force. For example, Amnesty International notes that "10-year-old Walid Naji Abu Qamar, 11-year old Mubarak Salim al-Hashash and 13-year-old Mahmoud Tariq Mansour were among eight unarmed demonstrators killed in the early afternoon of 19 May 2004 in Rafah, in the Gaza Strip, when the Israeli army open fire on a non-violent demonstration with tank shells and a missile launched from a helicopter gunship. Dozens of other unarmed demonstrators were wounded in the attack.". According to Israeli army and government officials, the tanks shelled a nearby empty building and a helicopter fired a missile in a nearby open space in order to deter the demonstrators from proceeding towards Israeli army positions.

The IDF adopted tactics appropriate to the enclosed, urban environment in which the IDF is frequently fighting. The Israeli Defense Forces stress the safety of their troops, using such heavily armored equipment as the Merkava tank and various military aircraft including F-16s, drone aircraft and helicopter gunships that often lead to civilian casualties when used in urban areas. Sniper towers were used extensively in the Gaza Strip before the Israeli pullout and are being increasingly employed in the West Bank. Heavily armored IDF Caterpillar D9 bulldozers were routinely employed to detonate booby traps and IEDs, and clear houses along the border with Egypt used to fire at Israeli troops, in "buffer zones", and during military operations in the West Bank. Until February 2005, Israel had in place a policy to demolish the family homes of suicide bombers. Due to the considerable number of Palestinians living in single homes, the large quantity of homes destroyed, and collateral damage from house demolitions, it become an increasingly controversial tactic. Families have provided timely information to Israeli forces regarding suicide bombing activities in order to prevent the demolition of their houses, although families doing so risk being executed or otherwise punished for collaboration, either by the Palestinian Authority or extra-judicially by Palestinian militants. The IDF committee studying the issue recommended ending the practice because the policy was not effective enough to justify its costs to Israel's image internationally and the backlash it created among Palestinians.

With complete ground and air superiority, mass detentions are regularly conducted; at any given time, there are about 6,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, about half of them held temporarily without a final indictment, in accordance with Israeli law. Security Checkpoints divide most Palestinian cities and interconnections between cities. The Israeli position is that those checkpoints are necessary to stop militants and limit the ability to move weapons around, while Palestinians and Israeli and International observers and organizations perceive those checkpoints as excessive, humiliating, and a major cause of the severe humanitarian situation in the Occupied Territories. Transit across checkpoints can take several hours, depending on the current security situation in Israel. Palestinian metalworking shops and other business facilities suspected by Israel of being used to manufacture weapons are regularly destroyed by airstrikes. The tactic of military "curfew" - long-term lockdown of civilian areas - has been used routinely. Nablus was kept under curfew for over 100 consecutive days, with generally under two hours per day allowed for people to get food or conduct other business.

Although these tactics also have been condemned internationally, Israel insists they are vital for security reasons in order to thwart terrorist attacks. Some cite figures, such as those published in Haaretz newspaper, to prove the effectiveness of these methods (Graph 1: Thwarted attacks (yellow) vs successful attacks (red) - Graph 2: Suicide bombing within the "green line" per quarter). The Israeli secret services Shabak enable the Israeli Security Forces (IDF, Magav, police YAMAM and Mistaravim SF units) to thwart suicide bombings by providing real-time warnings and reliable intelligence reports.

Israel also pursues a policy of "targeted killings", the killing of militants and especially prominent leaders who are involved in perpetrating attacks against Israelis, to eliminate imminent threats and to deter others from following suit. This tactic has been condemned as extra-judicial assassination by some international human rights organizations and the United Nations, while others (such as the United States) see it as a legitimate measure of self-defense against terrorism. Many criticize the targeted killings for placing civilians at risk, though its supporters believe it reduces civilian casualties on both sides. Israel has been criticized for the use of helicopter gunship missiles in urban assassinations which often results in civilian casualties. Israel in turn has criticized what it describes as a practice of militant leaders hiding among civilians in densely populated areas, thus turning them into unwitting human shields. Regardless of the would be ethical problems, targeted assassinations have been extensively employed by the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia and some other armies in Chechnya, Afghanistan and Iraq since Israel has begun using this technique.

The international community has long taken an involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and this involvement has only increased during the al-Aqsa Intifada. Israel annually receives $1.2 billion in economic aid and $1.8 billion in military aid from the United States, excluding loan guarantees. To put this figure in a regional context, the U.S. gives Egypt about 2 billion dollars in foreign aid, each year, much of which is military aid. Much of this is as a result of the Camp David Accords and the associated peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. The Palestinian Authority generally receives about $100 million in economic aid from the United States, and the Palestinian territories are among the major humanitarian aid recipients.

Additionally, private groups have become increasingly involved in the conflict, such as the International Solidarity Movement on the side of the Palestinians, and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on the side of the Israelis.

Since the start of the al-Aqsa Intifada and its emphasis on suicide bombers deliberately targeting civilians riding public transportation (buses), the Oslo Accords are viewed with increasing disfavor by the Israeli public.

In May 2000, seven years after the Oslo Accords and five months before the start of the al-Aqsa Intifada, a survey by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at the Tel Aviv University found that 39% of all Israelis support the Accords and that 32% believe that the Accords will result in peace in the next few years. In contrast, the May 2004 survey found that 26% of all Israelis support the Accords and 18% believe that the Accords will result in peace in the next few years; decreases of 13% and 16% respectively. Furthermore, later survey found that 80% of all Israelis believe the Israel Defense Forces have succeeded in dealing with the al-Aqsa Intifada militarily.

A survey of Palestinian political attitudes conducted by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre in August 1998 found that over 60% of Palestinians either cautiously (50%+) or strongly (about 10%) supported the Oslo peace process. In 2006, 51.7% thought a government headed by Hamas should continue with the Oslo Agreement, while 42% said Hamas does not have to. When asked if a Hamas led government should continue with the political negotiations that the PA is committed to, 66.3% agreed and 29.6% disagreed.

The casualty data for the Second Intifada has been reported by a variety of sources and though there is general agreement regarding the overall number of dead, the statistical picture is blurred by disparities in how different types of casualties are counted and categorized.

The number of Israeli fatalities in the current conflict with the Palestinians exceeded 1,000 last week. Only two of the country's wars - the War of Independence and the Yom Kippur War - have claimed more Israeli lives than this intifada, which began on September 29, 2000. In the Six-Day War, 803 Israelis lost their lives, while the War of Attrition claimed 738 Israeli lives along the borders with Egypt, Syria and Lebanon.

There is little dispute as to the total number of Palestinians killed by Israelis. B'Tselem reports that through April 30, 2008, there were 4,745 Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces, and 44 Palestinians killed by Israeli civilians. B'Tselem also reports 577 Palestinians killed by Palestinians through April 30, 2008.

Between September 2000 and January 2005, 69 percent of Israeli fatalities were male, while over 95 percent of the Palestinian fatalities were male. "Remember These Children" reports that as of 1 February 2008, 119 Israeli children, age 17 and under, had been killed by Palestinians. Over the same time period, 982 Palestinian children, age 17 and under, were killed by Israelis.

Regarding the numbers of Israeli civilian versus combatant deaths, B'Tselem reports that through April 30, 2008 there were 719 Israeli civilians killed and 334 Israeli security force personnel killed. In other words, 31.7% of those killed were Israeli security force personnel, while 68.3% were civilians.

The number of noncombatant casualties among Palestinians is more difficult to determine, due to the different criteria applied by various institutes to determine who and who is not to be considered a civilian or non-combatant.

The Israeli International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism (IPICT), on the other hand, in a "Statistical Report Summary" for September 27, 2000 through January 1, 2005 indicates that 56% (1542) of the 2773 Palestinians killed by Israelis were combatants. According to their data, an additional 406 Palestinians were killed by actions of their own side. 22% (215) of the 988 Israelis killed by Palestinians were combatants. An additional 22 Israelis were killed by actions of their own side.

As a response to IDF statistics about Palestinian casualties in the West Bank, the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem reported that two thirds of the Palestinians killed in 2004 did not participate in the fighting.

Others argue that Palestinian National Authority has, throughout the Intifada, placed unarmed men, women, children and the elderly in the line of fire, and that announcing the time and place of anti-occupation demonstrations via television, radio, sermons, and calls from mosque loudspeaker systems is done for this purpose.

The violence continued on both sides throughout 2006. On December 27 the Israeli Human Rights Organization B'Tselem released its annual report on the Intifada. According to which, 660 Palestinians, a figure more than three times the number of Palestinians killed in 2005, and 23 Israelis, have been killed in 2006. From a December 28 Haaretz article: "According to the report, about half of the Palestinians killed, 322, did not take part in the hostilities at the time they were killed. 22 of those killed were targets of assassinations, and 141 were minors." 405 of 660 Palestinians were killed in the 2006 Israel-Gaza conflict, which lasted from 28 June till 26 November.

B'Tselem reports that through April 30, 2008 there were 577 Palestinians killed by Palestinians. Of those, 120 were "Palestinians killed by Palestinians for suspected collaboration with Israel." B'Tselem maintains a list of deaths of Palestinians killed by Palestinians with details about the circumstances of the deaths. Some of the many causes of death are crossfire, factional fighting, kidnappings, collaboration, etc..

Internal Palestinian violence has been called an ‘Intra’fada during this Intifada and the previous one.

The Israeli commerce has experienced much hardship, in particular because of the sharp drop in tourism. A representative of Israel's Chamber of Commerce has estimated the cumulative economic damage caused by the crisis at 150 to 200 billion Shekels, or 35 to 45 billion US $ - against an annual GDP of 122 billion dollars in 2002. Since the end of 2003 however, Israel has experienced a strong economic recovery.

Sixteen square kilometers of land in the Gaza Strip, most of it agricultural, was razed by Israeli military forces and more than 601 houses were completely destroyed. The Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories (UNSCO) estimates the damage done to the Palestinian economy at over 1.1 billion dollars in the first quarter of 2002, compared to an annual GDP of 4.5 billion dollars.

Sergio Catignani, Israeli Counter-Insurgency and the two Intifadas: Dilemmas of a Conventional Army (London: Routledge, 2008), ISBN 978-0-415-43388-4.

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