Middle East: Chronology
It started with a reconciliation that simultaneously ignited new discord. In April 2014, representatives of the two leading Palestinian organizations, Hamas and Fatah, met for talks in Gaza. The two groups wanted to end their conflict, which has been simmering since 2006 and repeatedly breaking out in armed clashes. Hamas took power in the Gaza Strip in June 2007, creating an opposing government to Fatah in the West Bank. While Israel accepts Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah as a negotiating partner, Hamas is regarded as a terrorist organization. Nonetheless, at their meeting in April Fatah and Hamas agreed to work together to set up a unity government, and a few months later, in June 2014, this began to take shape.
June 2, 2014
Hamas and Fatah form a unity government in the West Bank town of Ramallah. The new cabinet consists of 15 independent experts, who are to assume governmental responsibilities until a new parliament and president are elected. International reaction to the agreement is mixed. The Israeli government breaks off the US-brokered peace talks, but Europeans and Americans are cautiously optimistic.
June 8, 2014
Pope Francis meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres for a joint prayer service in the gardens of the Vatican. It's a conciliatory gathering, with all parties expressing a deep desire for peace. Peres speaks of "peace between equals." However, he is almost at the end of his presidential mandate.
June 10, 2014
The Knesset elects Reuven Rivlin as Shimon Peres's successor, the tenth President of Israel. Rivlin is a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's conservative Likud bloc. He is regarded as an opponent of the two-state solution in the Middle East. Rivlin is expected to take office on July 24, 2014.
June 12, 2014
Three Jewish seminary students – two 16-year-olds and a 19-year-old – are kidnapped late in the evening on their way home from school. One of the boys manages to send a call for help on his cellphone.
June 14, 2014
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu speaks to reporters about the kidnapping. "Our children were kidnapped by terrorists. That's a fact. There is no doubt about it," he says, despite a lack of evidence. Netanyahu also holds the Palestinian leadership under President Mahmoud Abbas partially responsible for the teenagers' abduction: He says it demonstrates that Hamas' involvement in the new Palestinian government will result in an increase in terrorism.
June 15, 2014
The Israeli army closes off the southern West Bank and moves additional troops to the region between Bethlehem and Hebron. Rather than conducting specific police investigations into the abduction, Israeli soldiers start searching hundreds of Palestinian homes. Within just a few hours, 150 Palestinians are arrested. Such action is not entirely new: The Israeli army frequently raids the houses of Palestinian families.
June 19, 2014
A Hamas spokesman declares that Israel has opened the "gates to hell" with its offensive in the West Bank. Netanyahu urges Abbas to break with Hamas. In the meantime, the Israeli army has arrested almost 300 Palestinians, mainly supporters of Hamas. Israeli fighter jets begin to launch air strikes on Gaza.
June 30, 2014
The bodies of the three missing youths are discovered under a pile of rocks in a field near Hebron. In Jerusalem, hundreds of protesters call for revenge for the killings. That night, the military launches massive air strikes on targets in the Gaza Strip. At the same time, Israel is bombarded with rockets from Gaza.
July 2, 2014
The body of a kidnapped 16-year-old Palestinian youth is found in a forest near Jerusalem. His family blames the murder on Israeli settlers. Israeli police do not rule out a criminal context. Massive rioting breaks out in East Jerusalem.
July 3, 2014
The Israeli army moves additional troops to the border of the Palestinian Territories after coming under continual rocket attack from Gaza. However, an army spokesman says that Israel is not interested in launching an offensive.
July 6, 2014
Israel arrests six suspects accused of being responsible for the assassination of the 16-year-old Arab. According to inquiries made by the Palestinian authorities, he was burned alive. The suspects are said to be Jewish extremists.
July 7, 2014
Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman withdraws his ultra-conservative party "Israel Our Home" from its alliance with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud bloc. At the same time, he wants his party to remain in government. The background is a dispute over future strategy against extremists in the Palestinian Gaza Strip.
July 8, 2014
The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians escalates. Within a few hours, dozens of rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory, some of them reaching targets north of Tel Aviv. Most of these rockets are intercepted in mid-air, and Israel reports no casualties or injuries.
However, more than 20 people are killed and hundreds injured during air attacks on Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu orders the army to prepare for a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip. 40,000 reservists are mobilized.
July 9, 2014
The air attacks on Gaza and the rocket attacks on Israel continue. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accuses Israel of "genocide." Netanyahu announces an intensification of the attacks on the Gaza Strip. Hamas "will pay an enormous price for firing rockets against Israeli civilians", he says.