Fits And Starts

With the peace process taking baby-steps, uncertainty, doubt and mistrust remain the prevailing themes in the region.
June 10, 2000
Syrian President Hafez al-Assad dies after three decades of autocratic rule. A renewal of Syria-Israel peace talks hangs in uncertainty as Bashar Assad, the president's oldest surviving son and heir apparent, is handed the reins of leadership.
July 11, 2000
President Clinton convenes "Camp David II" and sequesters Barak and Arafat for nine days. The summit ends with no agreement; Barak and Arafat agree to press on with their talks.
Sept. 28, 2000
Israel's hard-line opposition leader, Ariel Sharon, visits a Jerusalem shrine holy to both Jews and Muslims. Jews call it the Temple Mount; Muslims call it the Noble Sanctuary. Palestinians angered by Sharon's visit riot. That violence is the beginning of what later will be called the new Palestinian intefadeh, which means "uprising," against Israel.
March 6, 2001
Sharon is sworn in as Israeli prime minister, saying Israel's "hand is extended in peace." The 73-year-old former general and war hero has said there can be no negotiations while the violence of the Palestinian uprising continues.
April 16-17, 2001
After Palestinian mortar bombs slam into the southern Israeli town of Sderot, Israeli forces launch a fierce naval, air and land assault on Palestinian targets, and retake land in Gaza ceded to the Palestinians under a 1994 peace agreement. The U.S. criticizes the raids as "excessive," and Israeli troops withdraw from Gaza within 24 hours. One person dies and 30 are wounded in the fighting.
Dec. 4, 2001
Following three Palestinian suicide bombings that kill 27 people, including the attackers, and injure more than 200, Sharon declares war on terror, and Israeli air strikes hit targets 50 yards from Arafat's office as he works inside.
Early March 2002
Israel intensifies its offensive against Palestinian militants with the largest military operation in 20 years, launching strikes on several refugee camps. Israeli troops round up nearly 2,000 Palestinians in hopes of tracking down suspected militants. More than 160 Palestinians and 60 Israelis are killed, making it the bloodiest period since fighting broke out in September 2000.
March - April 2002
Israeli tanks and troops, responding to Palestinian attacks, storm into a dozen West Bank cities, including Bethlehem and Ramallah. As Sharon brands Arafat "an enemy of Israel" and says his country "is at war," soldiers lay siege and storm the Palestinian leader's command compound in Ramallah on the first day and refuse to let him leave.
May 6, 2002
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon arrives in Washington for talks with President Bush. Sharon will present a 91-page booklet of documents that Israel claims prove Arafat is directly involved in funding terrorists. Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo labels the booklet "ridiculous" and says that all the documents "were forged."
June 18, 2002
Israel announces a dramatic change in policy, saying any new Palestinian attacks will be countered with reoccupation of Palestinian-ruled areas in the West Bank.
June 24, 2002
President Bush unveils his long-awaited initiative on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, outlining a vision of two states living side-by side in ''peace and security.'' He calls for the removal of Yasser Arafat in elections to be held by the end of the year, and demands that Israel withdraw to positions it held on the West Bank two years ago.
Aug. 6, 2002
Israel's Supreme Court upholds the military's right to knock down the homes of Palestinian attackers without warning. Relatives of terror suspects sought 48 hours notice to give them time to go to court to stop the demolitions, but Israel says this would put its soldiers at risk. Israel had only recently revived the controversial practice, which is opposed by human rights groups.
April 29, 2003
Mahmoud Abbas is confirmed as the Palestinians' first prime minister, clearing the way for the presentation of a new peace plan for the Mideast. The three-stage plan, drafted by the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union, envisions full Palestinian statehood within three years, with a provisional state even sooner.
June 4, 2003
The Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers promise to take real, if limited, steps toward ending their bloody conflict during a Mideast peace summit convened by President Bush. Both leaders commit to a "road map" peace plan that leads through three stages to the creation of a Palestinian state in 2005.
July 2, 2003
Israeli troops exit Bethlehem, which they'd occupied since a suicide bombing on Nov. 21, 2003. Israel was to remain in charge of security of Israelis, while Palestinian security forces would be responsible for preventing terror attacks in the area. A similar formula is in place in a portion of the northern Gaza Strip, where Israeli troops pulled out a few days earlier.
Feb. 2, 2004
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon tells stunned lawmakers from his Likud Party that he plans to dismantle the Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip, which are home to about 7,500 Israelis. The plan, which Sharon suggests would take some time, is met by widespread skepticism in Israel and the Palestinian areas.
Nov. 11, 2004
Yasser Arafat dies in Paris at age 75, marking the end of an era in modern Middle East history.
Jan. 9, 2005
Mahmoud Abbas, the longtime No. 2 man in the Palestinian Authority, is elected as his people's next president by a landslide. Israelis, Palestinians, and international observers all hail his victory as the beginning of a new era, but express caution, as Abbas will face the tough task of reining in powerful armed groups.
Feb. 8, 2005
In a sign of new life for the stalled peace process, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas announce a verbal cease-fire pledge during a summit in Egypt. Both men say they hope the deal will pave the way for implementation of the internationally crafted "road map" for peace that was first unveiled in June 2003 and calls for the creation of a Palestinian state by the end of 2005.
Aug. 23, 2005
Israel completes the country's historic evacuation of 25 settlements in the Gaza Strip and West Bank - the first time Israel has abandoned Jewish communities in lands the Palestinians claim for their future state. Despite the need to force thousands of holdouts to exit and occasionally fierce standoffs with young protesters, the entire operation, which had been scheduled to take four weeks, takes just one.
Sept. 12, 2005
Joyous Palestinians flooded into empty Jewish settlements, climbed ropes and clambered over walls into Egypt to join a chaotic celebration of the end of 38 years of Israeli military rule over the Gaza Strip. Militant groups hoisted flags, fired gunshots into the air & set abandoned synagogues ablaze, illustrating the weakness of the Palestinian security forces & concerns about their ability to control growing chaos in Gaza.
Nov. 1, 2005
Senior Israeli cabinet ministers approve a border crossing between Gaza and Egypt to allow Palestinians to come and go freely after the Israeli withdrawal from the strip. It would be the first time since Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967 that Palestinians would be allowed to enter and leave either territory without passing through Israeli controls.
Nov. 15, 2005
In marathon talks with Israelis and Palestinians, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice scores a rare breakthrough in Middle East diplomacy by brokering a deal which will open the Gaza Strip's gateway to the outside world, the land border crossing at Rafah, on Nov. 25.
Jan. 25, 2006
Palestinians cast ballots in their first parliamentary election in a decade -- a historic vote that could shape the future of the peace process with Israel. Both the ruling Fatah Party and its challenger, the Islamic militant Hamas, said they were confident of victory, while pollsters said the race was too close to call.
Jan. 26, 2006
Hamas won a huge majority in parliamentary elections as Palestinian voters rejected the longtime rule of the corruption-ridden Fatah Party. The triumph plunged the future of Mideast peacemaking into turmoil and triggered brief clashes between supporters of the two parties. President Bush said that Hamas cannot be a partner in peacemaking without renouncing violence, and said the U.S. will not deal with Palestinian leaders who do not recognize Israel's right to exist.
June 9, 2006
Hamas' military wing said it would no longer honor a truce with Israel following an Israeli artillery strike that killed seven civilians. Israel and the Palestinians declared the truce in February 2005. Hamas, which has killed scores of Israelis in suicide bombings, has largely abided by the cease-fire.
July 12, 2006
With tensions already increasing between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, the relative quiet along the Israel-Lebanon border was shattered when Hezbollah guerrillas launched a raid across the border and took two Israeli soldiers captive. Israeli forces countered with air strikes into southern Lebanon which intensified, with Israel imposing a naval blockade on the country and pounding its only international airport in Israel's heaviest air campaign against Lebanon in 24 years.
Aug. 14, 2006
A U.N. cease-fire halts fighting in the monthlong conflict between Israel and Hezbollah that had claimed more than 900 lives. Lebanese, Israeli and U.N. officers met on the border to discuss the withdrawal of Israeli forces from southern Lebanon and the deployment of the Lebanese army in the region.
Nov. 26, 2006
Israelis and Palestinians announce truce to apply to Gaza strip. Israeli incursions and arrests continue in West bank, as do Palestinian terror attempts. In Gaza, Israel holds to the truce, but rocket fire from Gaza continues.
Feb. 8, 2007
A Palestinian Unity Agreement is reached in Mecca. Hamas and Fatah agree to share power, based on vaguely worded agreement. Hamas officials reiterate that they will never recognize Israel. The U.S. and Israel insist that the new government must recognize right of Israel to exist, disarm terrorist groups and agree to end violence.
May 20, 2007
Violent confrontation in Lebanon Palestinian Refugee camp Naher el Bared between Lebanese security forces and Fatah al Islam (Al Qaeda) militants.
June 15, 2007
Hamas forces attack Fatah loyalists and drive them out of Gaza. President Mahmoud Abbas dissolves the unity government, but Prime Minister Haniyeh insists that the government is still in power. A summit in Sharm El Sheikh (June 25) attended by Egypt, Jordan, Egypt and Palestinians pledges support to the Abbas government, but Egypt calls for reunification with Hamas.
Sept. 2, 2007
The confrontation between Lebanese forces and Fateh al Islam in Lebanon's Nahr el Bared refugee camp ends. About 220 militants and over 40 civilians were killed in the fighting.
Sept. 6, 2007
Israel launches air raid on suspected Syrian nuclear structure. The structure is destroyed.
Nov. 26-28, 2007
A Middle East Summit is held in Annapolis Md. Israel and the Palestinians agree to implement roadmap under U.S. monitoring and to negotiate continuously with the aim of reaching a final status agreement by the end of 2008.
Jan. 23, 2008
Hamas blasts holes in Gaza/Rafah barrier, allowing hundreds of thousands of Gazans to enter Egypt. Border breach is partly closed by Egyptians a few days later, but reopened by Hamas and eventually resealed by Egypt.
Feb. 27 - March 3, 2008
Israel launches large scale raid in Gaza kills over 100.
June 19, 2008
Israel and Hamas agree to truce in Gaza.
Dec. 19, 2008
Hamas announces that "lull" has expired and that it will not be renewed. Rocket fire from Gaza increases.
Dec. 26, 2008
In response to stepped up rocket and mortar attacks by Hamas and associated groups from Gaza, Israel launches Operation Oferet Yetzuka ("Cast Lead") with continuous air strikes at rocket launching facilities, factories, smuggling tunnels, and Hamas command and control centers. Hamas broadens rocket strikes to include Israeli towns and cities as far away as Beersheba and Yavneh.
Jan. 18, 2009
Israel and Hamas announce ceasefire.
Feb. 10, 2009
In parliamentary elections, Tzipi Livni's Kadima party wins 28 seats to 27 for Benjamin Netayahu's Likud, leaving Livni and Netanyahu both demanding to be prime minister.
Feb. 20, 2009
Israeli President Shimon Peres invites Netanyahu to form a government, indicating there is greater support for the right.
March 31, 2009
Netanyahu begins second term as Israeli prime minister.