TIMELINE OF RECENT EVENTS
A brief summary of key events leading up to the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip on Dec 27th, 2008. A timeline of the Gaza offensive through Jan 16, 2009 can be found on BBC along with maps of the siege in Gaza.
May 1994: In accordance with Palestinian-Israeli agreements known as the Oslo Accords, there was a phased transfer to the Palestinians of governmental authority for the Gaza Strip (except for the settlement blocs and military areas), while Israel retained its military Occupation and settlements in the Gaza Strip.
September 27, 2000: The Second Intifada or Palestinian uprising starts, widely viewed to have been sparked by Ariel Sharon’s provocative visit to the Temple Mount (and the deteriorating conditions for Palestinians over the previous years, despite Oslo). This lead to clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops, which spread all over the West Bank and Gaza Strip, leading to hundreds of Palestinians killed and thousands injured through 2003.
September 12, 2005: Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon implements a unilateral disengagement plan and Israel pulls its troops and settlers (around 9000) out of the Gaza Strip after 38 years of occupation. However, in the ensuing years Israel greatly expands its settlements (with over 400,000 settlers) in the West Bank.
January 25, 2006: Hamas wins Palestinian general elections, defeating the secular Fatah party and strengthening their strong-hold in the Gaza Strip.
March 18, 2006: U.S., the European Union and Israel boycott the new Hamas government in Gaza, punishing the civilian population with a suspension of all economic ties and reduced humanitarian aid. The international donor community was asked to cease all funding to the Palestinian Authority and Israel withheld all tax revenue, putting tremendous pressure on the already devastated Palestinian economy.
March 15, 2007: Palestinians reach agreement on unity government between Hamas and Fatah, which is continually undermined by ongoing U.S. and Israeli actions.
June 15, 2007: Hamas crushes Fatah forces in Gaza after three days of fighting. Fatah loses all governing power in the Gaza Strip. In the West Bank, Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, dismisses a Hamas-led unity government. In these circumstances, Israel strengthens its enforcement of the Gaza blockade.
June 19, 2008: Hamas agrees to a ceasefire with Israel, in a truce brokered by Egypt. However, there were renewed clashes between Hamas and Israel as the truce reaches the six-month mark, and the Israeli blockade of Gaza continues.
November 4, 2008: The Israeli army enters the Gaza Strip to destroy a tunnel under-construction at the border which Israel said was used for abducting Israeli soldiers. The incursion killed at least six Hamas gunmen and one Islamic Jihad militant. In response to this ceasefire violation, Palestinian militants in Gaza fired dozens of Qassam rockets and mortar shells in the following days. Israel subsequently imposes a total blockade on the already besieged territory and closed all entry and exit points.
December 19, 2008: Hamas’s six-month ceasefire with Israel ends. Gaza militants stepped up rocket attacks on Israel, causing few casualties but sowing fear among Israelis living in rocket range. Both sides signaled they did not want any escalation. But Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he would not hesitate to use Israeli might to crush Hamas if the rockets did not stop.
December 27, 2008: The Israeli military launches massive airstrikes on dozens of targets in the Gaza Strip killing over 1,300 people and injuring over 5,300 more (with 70% estimated to be civilians), during the ensuing military phase of the 22-day siege through January 18th, 2009 — the highest death toll in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in decades.
Main Sources of Information: Reuters News, Wikipedia, Times Online