Several cultures inhabited the Levant in the New Stone Age, including the Yarmukian (c. 8500–4300 BCE), Jerich IX (Lodian) and others. It was at this time that agriculture began in the area.
History began early in the Levant, as compared to numerous other parts of the world; some of the earliest civilizations were located nearby. The area's location at the center of routes linking three continents made it the meeting place for religious and cultural influences from Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Asia Minor. It was also the natural battleground for the great powers of the region and subject to domination by adjacent empires.
There is cultural continuity within the local Semitic-speaking culture from the previous Chalcolithic Period, but now also intermingling with outside influences. The settlement patterns of this Period are still a matter of "guesswork". Some archaeologists suggest a group from the Arabian Peninsula (who trade with Mesopotamia) settled among the indigenous peoples who had been there since the original Semitic emigration from Africa. Some archaeologists suggest a group from Syria. Other archaeologists suggest the cultural developments are indigenous, and the outside influences result from trade. Of course, with trade routes come at least some immigration.
Successive waves of migration brought other groups onto the scene. Around 1200 BCE the Hittite empire was conquered by allied tribes from the north. The Phoenicians of Lebanon, were temporarily displaced, but returned when the invading tribes showed no inclination to settle. The Egyptians called the horde that swept across Asia Minor and the Mediterranean Sea the Sea Peoples. The Philistines (whose traces disappear before the 5th century BCE) are presently considered to have been among them, giving the name Philistia to the region in which they settled, located in present-day Gaza. During this time, the Israelites emerged in the area.
The Israelites dwelt in tribes amongst the other local inhabitants until the installment of King Saul in 879 BCE. After this, according to the Bible, King David and King Solomon reigned and built the First Temple in Jerusalem.
The Bible says that with the death of King Solomon around 925 BCE, the Israelites fell into civil war, and the kingdom split into the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah. The northern kingdom was far more wealthy and politically influential, but its monarchy was unstable with frequent intrigue and dynastic changes. In the relative backwaters of the southern Kingdom of Judah, the Davidic Dynasty alone ruled Judah and its vicinities for centuries until the Persian Period, proving remarkably stable. Several factors contributed to the stability of the southern monarchy. Its kings made a frequent practice of ruling alongside a son in a period of coregency. Gradually, the kings centralized all religious authority to Jerusalem the capital city: to the Temple located next to the king's palace. Unlike El that was perceived as a universal deity in the north, YHWH was perceived in the south as a patron deity of the nation of Israel, thus worship of other gods equated to treason. Throughout the Davidic Dynasty of the Kingdom of Judah, religious loyalty and loyalty to the king consolidated.
In 722 BCE, the northern Kingdom of Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians, many of its inhabitants (mainly the elite amongst them) were deported (giving rise to the legend of "the Lost Tribes") and replaced by settlers from elsewhere in the Assyrian Empire. Many, however, probably fled to their southern Israelite sister kingdom of Judah, but others most likely stayed behind.
Philistine cities, because of their strategic location close to Egypt, were ruled directly by a governor appointed by the Assyrians. In Edom, a series of kings was founded under Assyrian patronage, to keep the Judean kingdom distracted to the south. A number of anti-Edomite passages in the Bible are dated to this period.
The Babylonian Empire under Nebuchadnezzar conquered the (southern) Kingdom of Judah in 597–586 BCE, and exiled the middle and upper classes of the Jews (that is, the citizens of the Kingdom of Judah, consisting mostly of the members of the tribe of Judah but also some members of the other tribes) to Babylonia, where they flourished. Most regard the collapse of the Israelite kingdoms as the beginning of the Jewish diaspora.
Cyrus II of Persia conquered the Babylonian Empire by 539 BCE and incorporated Judah and Israel into the Persian Empire. Cyrus organized the empire into provincial administrations called satrapies. The administrators of these provinces, called satraps, had considerable independence from the emperor. The Persians allowed Jews to return to the regions that the Bablyonians had exiled them from, rebuild the Temple and mint Yehud coins.
The exiled Jews who returned encountered the Jews that had remained, surrounded by a much larger non-Jewish majority. One group of note (that exists up until this day) were the Samaritans, who adhered to most features of the Jewish rite and claimed to be descendants of the Assyrian Jews; they were not recognized as Jews by the returning exiles for various reasons (at least some of which seem to be political). The return of the exiles from Babylon reinforced the Jewish population, which gradually became more dominant and expanded significantly.
The region was visited c 450 BCE by Herodotus whose writings give the first known usage of the name "Syria Palaestina," or Philistine Syria.
In the early 330s BCE, Alexander the Great conquered the region, beginning an important period of Hellenistic influence in the land later called Palestine by the Roman emperor Hadrian. After Alexander's death in 323 BCE, his empire was partitioned, and the armies of Ptolemaic Egypt and the Seleucid Empire of Syria battled for control of various portions of the eastern Mediterranean, in the areas of southern Syria, Lebanon and Israel of today. The Seleucid and Ptolemaic dynasties called that region Coele-Syria and Phoenicia. Antiochus the Great of Syria gained victory over Scopas in a decisive battle at Banias in 201-202 BCE. Scopas and his army fled to Sidon where the Seleucid forces held them under siege until they surrendered in 199 BCE. By 198 BCE, all of Coele-Syria and Phoenicia lay under the rule of Antiochus.
It was in the time of Alexander that Aristotle called the homeland of the Jews IOUDAIA, and their city Hierusaleme, as reported by Aristotle's disciple, Clearchos of Soli, in his work, On Sleep. The Greek name IOUDAIA became IVDAEA in Latin. However, the source for this name appears to be the Aramaic word Yehoudaya יהודאיא meaning The Jews. This is the opinion of the highly respected French scholar Felix Abel, of the Dominican Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem. Judea is simply the English version of IVDAEA, also given as Judaea. Under Seleucid rule after Antiochus' conquest, IOUDAIA was a division of Coele-Syria.
According to the Books of Maccabe which first appear in history in the Septuagint the Judeans were divided between the advanced Hellenists who supported the adoption of Greek culture, and those who believed in keeping to the traditions of the past, which resulted in the Maccabean revolt of the 2nd century BCE. The Kingdom of Judea controlled most of the region of present-day Israel (without the Negev but with the West Bank, Golan Heights, and parts of the Gaza Strip) and parts of western Jordan. Demetrius I Soter suppressed the revolt in 160 BC but Hasmonean dynasty continued under vassalage of Seleucid Empire until BC 64.
Following the Roman conquest of Syria in 63 BCE, parts of Israel — from 37 to 4 BCE a client kingdom of the Roman Empire under Herod I, then the Iudaea Prefecture of Syria Province-- revolted against Roman occupation (see Zealots and Jewish-Roman Wars). The Great Jewish Revolt began in 66 CE and resulted in the destruction of Jewish temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE.
This early part of the Late Roman Period (70–135 CE) is sometimes called Early Roman.
The Great Jewish Revolt in 66–73 resulted in the destruction of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem (70) and the sacking of the entire city by the Roman army led by Titus Flavius and the estimated death toll of 600,000 to 1,300,000 Jews (see Josephus Flavius).
Rabbi Yokhanan ben Zakai, a student of Hillel, fled during the siege of Jerusalem to negotiate with the Roman General Vespasian, who he predicted would soon become emperor. Yokhanan obtained permission to reestablish a Sanhedrin in the coastal city of Iamnia (modern Yavne) (see also Council of Jamnia). He founded a school of Torah there that would eventually evolve, through the Mishna in around 200 CE, into Rabbinic Judaism.
In 135 CE, the victory in Bar Kokhba's revolt by Hadrian resulted in 580,000 Jews killed (according to Cassius Dio) and destabilization of the region's Jewish population. The Romans renamed the new territory Syria Palaestina to complete the disassociation with Judaea. Jerusalem is re-established as the Roman military colony of Aelia Capitolina; a largely unsuccessful attempt is made to prevent Jews from living there. Many Jews left the country altogether for the Diaspora communities, and large numbers of prisoners of war are sold as slaves throughout the Empire.
The Romans destroyed the Jewish community of the Mother Church in Jerusalem, which had existed since the time of Jesus The line of Jewish bishops in Jerusalem, which started with Jesus's brother James the Righteous as its first bishop, ceased to exist, within the Empire. Hans Kung in "Islam :Past Present and Future", suggests that the Jewish Christians sought refuge in Arabia and he quotes with approval C. Clemen, T. Andrae and H.H. Schraeder, p. 342 "This produces the paradox of truly historic significance that while Jewish Christianity was swallowed up in the Christian church, it preserved itself in Islam, and some of its most powerful impulses extend down to the present day".
The use of Hebrew as the spoken language gradually declines in the aftermath of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, becoming negligible approximately 300 CE but surviving as a literary language.
During the Byzantine Period, the Jewish population in the north of Israel remained large for several centuries, particularly in Eastern Galilee. Western Galilee later began to take on a more Christian character ie. Syro-Arameans, Greeks and Romans from the 5th century onward. The coastal plain, central Judea and Southern Samaria had already become largely Pagan. Southern Judea remained mostly Jewish for some centuries and Northern Samaria remained Samaritan until the later stages the first period of Islamic imperial rule. Jewish tribes also settled as nomadic pastoralists in Arabia, particularly around Yathrib (later Medina), where they were to play an important role in the emergence of Islam.
The Land of Palestine became part of the Eastern Roman Empire ("Byzantium") after the division of the Roman Empire into east and west (a fitful process that was not finalized until 395 CE).
Around 390 CE, the Byzantines redrew the borders of the Land of Palestine. The various Roman provinces (Syria Palaestina, Samaria, Galilee, and Peraea) were reorganized into three diocese of Palaestina. According to historian H.H. Ben-Sasson, under Diocletian (284-305) the region was divided into Palaestina Prima which was Judea, Samaria, Idumea, Peraea and the coastal plain with Caesarea as capital, Palaestina Secunda which was Galilee, Decapolis, Golan with Beth-shean as capital, and Palaestina Tertia which was the Negev with Petra as capital.
In 351 CE, the Jews launched another revolt, provoking heavy retribution.
In 438 CE, Empress Eudocia allows Jews to return to Jerusalem to live.
The Nabateans roamed the Negev by the Roman Period, and by the Byzantine Period dominated the swath of sparsely populated deserts, from the Sinai to the Negev to the northwest coast of Arabia, the outlands that the Byzantines called the diocese of Palaestina Salutoris (meaning something like "near Palestine"). Its capital Petra was formally the capital of the Roman province of Arabia Petraea. The Nabateans also inhabited the outland of Jordan and southern Syria, improperly called the diocese of Arabia because its capital Bostra was within the northern extremity of the Roman province of Arabia Petrae. The origin of the Nabateans remains obscure, but they were Aramaic speakers, and the term "Nabatean" was the Arabic name for an Aramean of Syria and Iraq. By the third century during the Late Roman Period, the Nabateans stopped writing in Aramaic and began writing in Greek, and by the Byzantine Period they converted to Christianity.
The two diocese of Palaestina proper also became increasingly Christianized. The Christian monk, Bar-Şawmā, in the 5th century, records that Jews and heathens formed the majority of the population. The Jews and Samaritans who ruled the country persecuted Christians. Some areas, like Gaza, were well-known as pagan holdouts, and remained attached to the worship of Dagon and other deities as their ancestors had been for thousands of years.
Under Byzantine rule, the region became a center of Christianity, while retaining significant Jewish and Samaritan communities (although the Samaritans were greatly reduced following Julianus ben Sabar's revolt.)
In 613 CE, the Persian Sassanian Empire under Khosrau II invaded Palaestina. Jews under Benjamin of Tiberias assisted the conquering Persians, revolting against the Byzantine Empire under Heraclius in the hopes of controlling Jerusalem autonomously. In 614 CE, the Persians conquered Jerusalem, destroying most of the churches and expelling 37,000 Christians. The Jews of Jerusalem gained autonomy to some degree, but frustrated with its limitations and anticipating its loss offered to assist the Byzantines in return for amnesty for the revolt. In 617 CE, the Persians signed a peace treaty with Byzantines. At that time the Persians betrayed the agreements with the Jews and expelled the Jewish population from Jerusalem, forbidding them to live within 3 miles of it. In 625 CE, the Byzantinian army returned to the area, promising amnesty to Jews who had joined the Persians, and was greeted by Benjamin of Tiberias. In 629 CE, the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius marched into Jerusalem at the head of his army with the support of the Jewish population who had received amnesty. Nevertheless, upon entry, the Christian priests in Jerusalem convinced the emperor that God commanded him to kill Jews and therefore his amnesty was invalid, whereupon the Byzantines massacred the Jews in Jerusalem and put thousands of Jewish refugees to flight from Palaestina to Egypt.
In 634 CE, the Byzantine Empire lost control of the entire Mideast. The Arab Islamic Empire under Caliph Umar conquered Jerusalem along with the lands of Mesopotamia, Syria, Palaestina, and Egypt.
In 638 CE, the Christians of Jerusalem surrendered to the conquering armies of the Caliphate (Islamic Empire) under Caliph (Emperor) Umar, the second of the initial four Rashideen Caliphs. Umar entered captured Jerusalem on foot.
Umar allowed seventy families from Tiberias in Galilee to move to Jerusalem to live. Christians, who were expelled from Arabia by Umar also moved to Palestine.
In Arabic, the area approximating the Byzantine Diocese of Palaestina I in the south (roughly Judea, Philistia, and southern Jordan) was called Jund Filastin (meaning "the military district of Palestine", as a tax administrative area), and the Diocese of Palaestina II in the north (roughly Samaria, Galilee, Golan, and northern Jordan) Jund al-Urdunn.
After the Arabs conquered the area, waves of Bedouin garrisons began to settle there.
The Abbasids overthrew the Umayyads in 750.
In the 900s, the Fatimids, a self-proclaimed Shia caliphate, took control and appointed a Jewish governor. In the next century, Seljuk Turks invaded large portions of West Asia, including Asia Minor and Palestine.
After the fall of Jerusalem in 1187 CE, the Crusader Kingdom survived throughout the Ayyubid Period until 1291 CE well into the Mamluk Period.
The proximate cause of the Crusades, following 1095, by the Christian European powers was the desire to reconquer the birth place of Christianity, which had been lost to the Islamic Arab invasion of the Eastern Roman Empire in the 7th century. The Christian forces established the Kingdom of Jerusalem, which lasted from 1099 until 1291, though Saladin reconquered the city of Jerusalem in 1187.
After the Mongols decimated Baghdad and Damascus in the mid-1200s, the center of Islamic power moved to Cairo, under the Egyptian slave warriors, the Mamluks. They destroyed all towns on the flat coastal plains in order to rid the land of the Crusader presence and make sure it never returned. The main exceptions were Jaffa, Gaza, Lydda and Ramle. The last major Crusader stronghold, Acre fell in 1291, at the Siege of Acre. As a result of this, most trade with the west was curtailed.
In the late 1200s, Palestine and Syria were the primary front for battles between the Egyptian Mamluks and the Mongol Empire. The pivotal battle was the Battle of Ain Jalut in 1260, when the Mamluks, after having brokered a cautious neutrality with the Crusaders (who regarded the Mongols as a greater threat), were able to advance northwards and achieve a decisive victory over the Mongols at Ain Jalut, near Galilee. The Mongols were, however, able to engage into some brief Mongol raids into Palestine in 1260 and 1300, reaching as far as Gaza.
Due to the many earthquakes, the religious extremism and the black plague that hit during this era, the population dwindled to around 200,000. It is during this period that the land began to have a Levantine Muslim majority and even in the traditional Jewish stronghold of Eastern Galilee, a new Jewish-Muslim culture began to develop.
In 1516 the Ottoman Turks occupied Palestine. The country became part of the Ottoman Empire. Constantinople appointed local governors. Public works, including the city walls, were rebuilt in Jerusalem by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1537. An area around Tiberias was given to Don Joseph HaNasi for a Jewish enclave. Following the expulsions from Spain, the Jewish population of Palestine rose to around 25% (includes non-Ottoman citizens, excludes Bedouin) and regained its former stronghold of Eastern Galilee. That ended in 1660 when they were massacred at Safed and Jerusalem. During the reign of Dahar al Omar, Pasha of the Galilee, Jews from Ukraine began to resettle Tiberias.
Napoleon of France briefly waged war against the Ottoman Empire (allied then with Great Britain). His forces conquered and occupied cities in Palestine, but they were finally defeated and driven out by 1801. In 1799 Napoleon announced a plan to re-establish a Jewish State in Palestine which was mostly to curry favour with Haim Farkhi the Jewish finance minister and adviser to the Pasha of Syria/Palestine. He was later assassinated and his brothers formed an army with Ottoman permission to conquer the Galilee. Turkish rule lasted until World War I.
Jewish immigration to Palestine, particularly to the "four sacred cities" (Jerusalem, Safed, Tiberias and Hebron) which already had significant Jewish communities, increased particularly towards the end of Ottoman rule; Jews of European origin lived mostly on charity while many Sephardic Jews found themselves a trade. Many Circassians and Bosnian Muslims were settled in the north of Palestine by the Ottomans in the early 19th Century. In the 1830s Egypt conquered Palestine and many Egyptians soldiers settled there. In 1838 Palestine was given back to the Turks. However, with the advent of early Zionism, just prior to the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the Jews had become a small majority in the central Judea region. Many were not Ottoman citizens and were expelled to Egypt at the time that war was declared.
The rise of Zionism, the national movement of the Jewish people started in Europe in the 19th century seeking to recreate a Jewish state in Palestine, and return the original homeland of the Jewish people. By 1920, the Jewish population of Palestine had reached 8% of the population.(Ottoman citizens only, including Bedouin and Transjordan) 
In World War I, Turkey sided with Germany. As a result, it was embroiled in a conflict with Great Britain, leading to the British capture of Palestine in a series of battles led by General Allenby. Allenby dismounted from his horse when he entered captured Jerusalem as a mark of respect for the Holy City. He was greeted by the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic leaders of the city with great honor.
At the subsequent 1919 Paris Peace Conference and Treaty of Versailles, Turkey's loss of its Middle East empire was formalized. The British had in the interim made two agreements. In the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence there was an undertaking to form an Arab state in exchange for the Great Arab Revolt and in the Balfour Declaration in 1917 to "favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people while respecting the rights of existing non-Jewish communities". The Faisal-Weizmann Agreement of the same epoch declared the compatibility of Jewish and Arab nationalist aspirations.
McMahon's promises could have been seen by Arab nationalists as a pledge of immediate Arab independence, an undertaking violated by the region's subsequent partition into British and French League of Nations mandates under the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement of May 1916 which became the real cornerstone of the geopolitics structuring the entire region. The Balfour Declaration, likewise, was seen by Jewish nationalists as the cornerstone of a future Jewish homeland on both sides of the Jordan River. Prior to the conference Emir Faisal, British ally and son of the king of the Hijaz, had agreed in the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement to support the immigration of Jews into Palestine and the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, while creating a large Arab state based in Syria. When the conference did not produce that Arab state, and under pressure from Islamists, Faisal called instead for Palestine to become part of his new Arab Syrian kingdom.
In 1920, the Allied Supreme Council meeting at San Remo offered a Mandate for Palestine to Great Britain, but the borders and terms under which the mandate was to be held were not finalised until September 1922. Article 25 of the mandate specified that the eastern area (then known as Transjordan or Transjordania) did not have to be subject to all parts of the Mandate, notably the provisions regarding a Jewish national home. This was used by the British as one rationale to establish an Arab state, which it saw as at least partially fulfilling the undertakings in the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence. On 11 April 1921 the British passed administration of the eastern region to the Hashemite Arab dynasty from the Hejaz what later became part of Saudi Arabia as the Emirate of Transjordan and on 15 May 1923 recognized it as a state, thereby eliminating Jewish national aspirations on that part of Palestine.
Under the Mandate, Jewish immigration to Palestine increased substantially with a rise in Jewish nationalism, which encouraged Zionism, a return to the ancient land of the Jews.
Arab leaders, particularly the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem (Haj Muhammed Amin al-Husseini), strongly opposed Jewish immigration and employed anti-Semitic demagogery claiming that Jews threatened the Haram. The result was, in 1920, 1922 and 1929, the 1920 Palestine riots. In 1936, the British Peel Commission advised that the western part of Palestine be divided between Arabs and Jews. The Arabs then launched the Great Uprising against British rule in an effort to end the immigration. The Jews organized militia groups like the Irgun and Lehi to fight the British and the Haganah and Palmach to fight the Arabs. By the time order was restored in March 1939, more than 5,000 Arabs, 400 Jews, and 200 Britons had been killed.
Soon after World War II, the British decided to leave Palestine. The United Nations attempted to solve the dispute by putting forward the 1947 UN Partition Plan, which divided the British Mandate of Palestine between the Arab and Jewish populations. On November 29, 1947, the Jewish Agency, including the Palestinian Jews, accepted the plan as it would help lead to the establishment of a new Zion, while the Arab states rejected it in protest of the establishment of any independent homeland for Jewish residents of the Middle East because the whole mid east was seen by the Arab world as rightfully belonging to the Arabic people, and to followers of Muhammad and Islam, the Palestinians refused an independent Arab state in an all-or-nothing campaign. On May 14, 1948, the Jewish population declared independence as the State of Israel. A war, called the War of Independence by Israelis and the Nakba by Palestinians, began. The armies of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria declared war on the newly formed state of Israel and invaded, but did not succeed in conquering Israel. (For a more detailed account, see 1948 Arab-Israeli War). During the fighting, additional Arabs fled and in some locations were expelled.
What remained of the territories allotted to the Arab state in Israel was annexed by Jordan (Judea and Samaria/the West Bank) or occupied by Egypt (the Gaza Strip) from 1948 to 1967. During this time, Jordan and Egypt did not normalize living conditions or establish an independent state for Palestinian Arabs.
Following military threats by Egypt and Syria, including Egyptian president Nasser's demand of the UN to remove its peace-keeping troops from the Egyptian-Israeli border, in June 1967 Israeli forces went to action against Egypt and Syria, and, after failing to persuade it to stay out of the conflict, Jordan, in what has come to be known as the Six-Day War. As a result of that war, the Israel Defense Forces conquered Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula bringing them under military rule. Israel also pushed Arab forces back from East Jerusalem, which Jews had not been permitted to visit during the prior Jordanian rule. East Jerusalem was allegedly annexed by Israel as part of its capital, though this action has not been recognized internationally. The United Nation's Security Council passed Resolution 242, promoting the "land for peace" formula, which called for Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied in 1967, in return for the end of all states of belligerency by the aforementioned Arab League nations. Since that time, Israel continued to build settlements over Palestinian land, demolishing homes and expelling families by force. Palestinians started to make their armed groups similar to the Haganah forces to attack these settlements. They continued longstanding demands for the destruction of Israel or made a new demand for self-determination in a separate independent Arab state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip similar to but smaller than the original Partition area which Palestinians and the Arab League had rejected for statehood in 1947. In the course of 1973 Yom Kippur War, military forces of Egypt have crossed the Suez canal and Syria to regain the Golan heights. The attacking military forces of Syria were pushed back. President Sadat Anwar Sadat after cease fire started a peace talks with the US and Israel. Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt as part of the 1978 Camp David Peace Accords between Egypt and Israel in hopes of establishing a genuine peace.
After the First Intifada, attempts at the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were made at the Madrid Conference of 1991. As the process progressed, in 1993 the Israelis allowed Chairman and President of the Palestine Liberation Organization Yassir Arafat to return to the region.
Following the historic 1993 Oslo Peace Accords between Palestinians and Israel (the "Oslo Accords"), which gave the Palestinian Arabs limited self-rule in some parts of the Disputed Territories through the Palestinian Authority, and other detailed negotiations, proposals for a Palestinian state gained momentum. They were soon followed in 1994 by the Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace. To date, efforts to resolve the conflict have ended in deadlock, and the people of the region, Jews and Arabs, are engaged in a bloody conflict, called variously the "Arab-Israeli conflict" or "Israeli-Palestinian conflict".
From 1987 to 1993, the First Palestinian Intifada against Israel took place. After few years of on-and-off negotiations, the Palestinian militant groups have launched an orchestrated attack against Israel. This was known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada. The events were highlighted by Palestinian suicide bombing in Israel that killed many civilians, and by Israeli Security Forces full fledged invasions into civilian areas along with some targeted killings of Palestinian militant leaders and organizers. Israel began building a complex security barrier to block suicide bombers invading into Israel from the West Bank in 2002.
Also in 2002, the Road map for peace calling for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was proposed by a "quartet": the United States, European Union, Russia, and United Nations. U.S. President George W. Bush in a speech on June 24, 2002 called for an independent Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace. Bush was the first U.S. President to explicitly call for such a Palestinian state.
According to Israel's unilateral disengagement plan of 2004, it withdrew all settlers and most of the military presence from the Gaza strip, but maintained control of the air space and coast. Israel also dismantled four settlements in northern West Bank in September 2005. Following Israel's withdrawal, some Palestinian groups failed to abide by a 'calming' (de facto ceasefire) negotiated with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Palestinian militia groups fired Qassam rockets into Israel and attempted to smuggle additional weapons and ammunition into Gaza from Egypt. After 2 Israeli soldiers were killed and one was kidnapped by Palestinian militants in the 6th of June 2006, Israel launched a military operation and reentered some parts of the Gaza Strip. Amidst severe criticism, they built the Israeli West Bank barrier, cutting through Palestinian farmland, separating families, and trying to ensure that non-Jewish civilians intent on violence do not leave the enclosed area (and thus causing inconvenience to nonviolent non-Jewish civilians).
Following the January 2006 election of the Hamas government, U.S. officials spoke of a "hard coup" against the newly elected government and allegedly wanted to sow the seeds of civil war to oust the Hamas governnment. Over the 2006 and 2007, the United States supplied guns, ammunition, and training to Palestinian Fatah activists to take on Hamas in the streets of Gaza and the West Bank in a U.S. effort that cost tens of millions of dollars. A large number of Fatah activists were trained and "graduated" from West Bank camps.