Israel war: Tracking the history of Palestine-Israel conflict

Israel war: Tracking the history of Palestine-Israel conflict

1947–1949 Palestine war

The 1948 Palestine War, also known as the War of Independence to Israelis (people from Israel), was a war between the new state of Israel, the east Israelian Arabs, and the other states around Israel. The war began in 1947 after the announcement (tell information) of the end of the British Mandate in Palestine (the British control of the region) and the separation of the land into two countries of the same size. By the end of the war in 1949, Israel had expanded (made bigger) its land beyond its given borders. The Arab state created in the UN Partition Plan (UN Separation Plan) never came into existence as its two largest parts of land, the Gaza Strip (small piece of land south of Palestine on the coast) and the West Bank (region east of Jerusalem and west of the Jordan River), went into the control of Egypt and Jordan one by one. The war continues to be an issue in the Middle East today. For Israelis, it shows the change from the Yishuv (the Jewish group in Palestine) to the state of Israel (even though the War of Independence took place). Other countries had to deal with the idea of loss and the difficulties of local diplomacy (arguments) caused by the creation of a special Jewish State in a highly Arab region. Palestinians remember the war as The Nakba (lit. Catastrophe (bad event), Arabic: النكبة, al-Nakba), or the war that broke up a growing nation and pushed its people away.[1]

Jewish settlement

Beginning in 1881, European Jews began to move to Palestine in large numbers. These new immigrants mainly settled in the region under the banner of Jewish nationalism, known as Zionism.[2] The goal of this nationalist movement was the creation of a Jewish state. Although at first friendly, relations between Arabs in Palestine and Jews from Europe became more bitter as the number of Jews moving grew.[3]

Palestinian Nationalism and the Great Revolt

During World War One, Arabs and Jews were under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. To weaken the Empire, her enemies (Britain and France), began to offer land to peoples in sections of the Empire for launching resistance to the Ottomans. This included offering Palestine to various Arab leaders (including the Husayn family of Saudi Arabia).[4] At the same time, the British offered control of Palestine to a Jewish state that didn’t yet exist.[5] Although this action led to nothing, it still encouraged greater movement of Jews to Palestine as well as a fear of losing regional control for the Palestinians. In 1936, responding to the growing Jewish population, Palestinian Arabs led an armed revolt against the British and Jews in Palestine. The revolt, led by the mufti and head of the Arab Higher Committee Hajj Amin al-Husayni, was the first large-scale expression of a sense of Palestinian nationalism. Though it ended with the British and Jews putting down the revolt, the resulting White Paper of 1939 proved it had been an influential piece of resistance. Under the 1939 White Paper, Jews could only send a further 75,000 immigrants over 5 years and the goal of giving over Israel to Palestine.[6] This situation, two cultures competing against each other for Palestine, continued to be the case throughout World War Two. At the end of that conflict, the British Mandate in Palestine was near ending and the peoples of the region wanted a solution to the issue.[7]

UN Resolution

In 1947, the British gave the issue of competing peoples within Palestine to the United Nations. The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine was tasked with fixing the issue of violence between the two groups and treating each side with fairness in the giving-out of land. On November 29, 1947, the Partition Plan was announced. Palestine would be divided into separate Jewish and Arab states of roughly equal size. Jerusalem would remain an independent city run by the UN. Finally, the British would leave the Mandate of Palestine by May 1948.[8] At first, most of the international community supported the plan (including both the US and USSR) as well as the Yishuv.[9] Palestinian Arabs, as well as the nations of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Transjordan (now Jordan) argued against the plan and pushed for a new one with an Arab state and a recognized Jewish minority.[10] When that was not accepted, these nations moved for war by raising armies to fight the new state of Israel.

Armed forces

Jewish Community (Israel after May 15, 1948)

Given its recent status as a state, the Yishuv actually had one of the most well-organized and well-armed military forces in the region. This force fell under the control of the Haganah, a single state army and the army that would become the modern Israeli Defense Force (IDF)(the switch was made in late May 1948). By mid-May, the state of Israel had called up an army of 35,000. As the war continued into July, that number trended up to 65,000. At the end of the war, Israel had successfully brought up and armed 96,441 men to fight against the Palestinians and Arab nations.[11] Additionally, Israel was unique for having a developed strategic plan and a simple command system. Under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion, the minister of defense, the state of Israel could count on a force with unified leadership and a plan.[12]

Palestinian Forces

Unlike the Yishuv, the Palestinians had no unified force before the war began in late 1947. There were several paramilitary groups, but no single leader, structure or plan.[13] Al-Husayni and the Arab Higher Committee tried to give the fighters a system. Yet, many disliked his leadership and did not think of the committee as the voice of Palestinians.[10] Still, al-Husayni successfully created a rag-tag force known as the Holy War Army made up of new volunteers and paramilitary forces. This army and the other Palestinian fighters, however, lacked modern weapons and supplies. Though al-Husayni pushed the Arab League (a collection of majority Arab nations) for greater support and control to direct the course of the war, the League blocked him.[14]

Arab League Forces

The nations of the Arab League that joined in the war against Israel were Egypt, Transjordan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria (there was a smaller force from Saudi Arabia and Yemen under Egyptian command). Despite having the League to bind them, at the start of the war there was no single League commander. Each country mobilized its own force for its own goals. The force was thus not one League force but a collection of forces.[11] The final force from the Arab League, the Arab Liberation Army, was a force of 4,000 volunteers from across the Middle East which worked out of Syria.[11] While the nations of the Arab League surrounded Israel, they did so as different countries.


Yishuv/Israel[change | change source]

Israel’s objectives for the war were originally based on the Haganah’s 1946 Plan and run by David Ben-Gurion.[15] The plan called for the rapid build-up of forces to fight against what the army saw as the greatest threat: invasion from the many Arab states. By using the 1946 Plan, Ben-Gurion hoped to secure the land given to Israel in the UN Partition Plan. As the war went on, the goals changed slightly with the introduction in March 1948 of Plan Dalet (Plan D).[16] Instead of simply holding the lands given to Israel, the plan now commanded Israel’s forces to work remove Arabs from Jewish-controlled land, defend Jewish settlements in Arab Palestine, and to take Arab land at particular positions for a strategic advantage. A possible reason for the change is given by historian David Tal, who points out that it was probably a response to the stiffer resistance from Palestinians and a general desire to put Israeli forces in the most defensible positions.[17] Yet, as Tal also points out, this strategic plan has never been without some controversy, particularly the part of the plan which forced Palestinian movement.[17]


The principal objective for the Palestinians, as expressed by the Arab Higher Committee, was the creation of a single Arab state in Palestine.[10]


While Transjordan outwardly agreed with the rest of the Arab League in creating an Arab state in Palestine, that seems to have not been Transjordan’s ultimate goal. According to the records of Transjordan, King Abdullah, Transjordan’s Hashemite (royal family) monarch, was interested in using the war as an excuse to put Palestinian Arabs under Jordanian control.[18] This would then put him into a position to seize Syria and create a Greater Syria. This means that Transjordan’s objectives were seemingly in opposition to those Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and the Palestinians themselves.[19]

Syria and Egypt

Like Transjordan, both Syria and Egypt supported creating a single Arab state in Palestine. Their reasoning, however, was more about stopping the spread of Jordanan, who both nations feared (should Transjordan take the region).[19]

Course of the War

Phase 1: The Civil War[change | change source]

The first part of the conflict pitted the Yishuv’s forces against those of the Palestinian’s Arab Higher Committee. The civil war began with three days of strikes on November 30, 1947. It then changed into a guerrilla campaign against Jewish supply trucks. In January 1948, the Arab Liberation Army entered Palestine.[19] This stiff resistance caused the Israelis to adapt their plan and to introduce Plan Dalet. On April 5th, the Haganah launched Operation Nahshon, a fifteen-day operation to secure routes to Jerusalem by seizing hills along the main roads. After the success of Operation Nahshon and smaller Jewish offensives, Palestinian resistance began to fall apart.[20]

Phase 2: The Arab League countries invade[change | change source]

The second part of the war began with the invasion of Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan, Lebanon, and Syria in May 1948. Each invasion force basically entered Palestine on the nearest border. Fighting in the West Bank and around Jerusalem dominated this phase of the war. Jewish forces moved into Jerusalem to secure the western section of the city.[11] To shore up this position, Israeli forces also tried to take Latrun, a hill to the north of Jerusalem. This proved unsuccessful. In other areas, the Israelis found greater success. Two Egyptian forces, one moving along the coast and the other across the Negev towards Jerusalem, were both halted. The Iraqi force was pushed back. Though Syrian and Lebanese forces made an advance into Israeli territories, Israelis made counter advances into Syrian and Lebanese territory. Fighting was brought to an end by a UN truce on June 11.[11]

Phase 3: Israeli Push Against Transjordans[change | change source]

On July 9th, the Israelis launched a new series of operations against the Jordanians in the West Bank. The hope was to end the conflict in this front against what Israelis considered to be the most well-trained and armed Arab army, Transjordan’s Arab Legion.[11] The offensives were largely a success and although other Arab nations tried to take advantage of Israel’s focus on the West Bank, their advances were small. This phase of the war ended with another truce on July 18, 1948.[11]

Phase 4: Israeli push against Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon[change | change source]

With the Jordanians stuck in the West Bank, Israelis launched two more offensives on October 15th.[11] These forced Egyptian forces out of the Negev Desert and pushed back Syrian and Lebanese forces into their own countries. Following these last offensives, the military part of the war ended. Still, it would take until January 7, 1949 for Israel to complete signing treaties with each warring nation.[11]

Results[change | change source]

Through the war, Israel gained a large amount of land. While the original separation lines gave about equal land to Jewish and Arab states, the treaty lines of 1949 gave Israel a much larger state, limiting Arab-controlled land to the small Gaza strip and a smaller West Bank (than in 1947. Yet, these were not controlled by any Palestinian government. Instead, Egypt controlled the small Gaza Strip while Jordan controlled the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem.[21] An additional aspect to the aftermath of the war was the Palestinian refugee crisis. By the end of the war, there were approximately 720,000 refugees living in camps in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. Although much of this can be attributed to war-time fear, some historians, like James Gelvin, assert that Israeli policy in Plan Dalet partially contributed to this crisis. The policy, which encouraged Israeli forces to seize Arab property in Jewish territory, exacerbated the refugee issue.[22] As of 2015, the right of these refugees to return to their former homes or to receive reparations remains uncertain.


Israel war: Tracking the history of Palestine-Israel conflict

by Rachel Schilke

 October 14, 2023

Hamas‘s attack on Israel is the latest event in a long history of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The terrorist attacks, which occurred last weekend, are the largest assault on Jews since the Holocaust, with terrorists killing hundreds of people and kidnapping soldiers and civilians.

Israel declared war against the terrorist group on Sunday, the first time the nation has done so since 1973. So far, the war has claimed nearly 2,700 lives between the two sides, according to Health Ministry officials.

Here’s a look at the recent history of conflict between the two sides.


The conflict between the Palestinian territories and Israel spans two centuries and dates back to well before the state of Israel was created.

In 1917, the British government issued the Balfour Declaration that announced the country’s promise to establish a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. It appeased the Zionist movement, which believes in a Jewish right to the land of Jerusalem.

Britain’s promise led tens of thousands of Jewish civilians to migrate to Palestine in the 1920s and ’30s.

In 1947, the United Nations split Palestine into two independent states: the “Jewish State” and the “Arab State,” with Jerusalem under U.N. trusteeship, according to a resolution. Palestinians refused to recognize the resolution, and violent conflict began.

Pictures of the Week Global Photo Gallery
Palestinians wave their national flag and celebrate by a destroyed Israeli tank at the southern Gaza Strip fence east of Khan Younis Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023.

The Arab-Israeli War of 1948

Israel declared independence in 1948, beginning the Israeli-Arab War. Five Arab states fought against the creation of Israel. Palestinians were forced off their lands or fled in large swarms. The exodus led to a decades long battle between Palestine and Israel, according to the U.N.

Fighting began with attacks by irregular bands of Palestinian Arabs attached to local units of the Arab Liberation Army composed of volunteers from Palestine and neighboring Arab countries, according to the State Department. On the Jewish side, fighters were composed of the Hagenah, an underground militia of Jews in Palestine, the Irgun, and LEHI.

The Arabs hoped to block the U.N. resolution creating the two states, and the Jews hoped to receive the territory allocated to them in the resolution. The fighting between the groups continued until 1949, when agreements to armistice lines were made between Israel and neighboring states Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria.

The territory of Palestine was divided into three parts: Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. Egypt had control of the Gaza Strip, and Jordan had control of the West Bank until 1967.

1956 Suez War

The Suez War began in October 1956, when Israeli forces invaded Egypt through the Sinai Peninsula after Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser announced he planned to nationalize the Suez Canal Company. France and Britain, which had both been outraged by Nasser’s announcement, held secret conversations with Israel that resulted in the plan to try and overthrow Nasser.

British and French forces entered the conflict themselves a few days later under the guise of protecting the Canal, which each country had an economic stake in, from Egypt and Israel’s fighting.

The intervention in the Middle East soured relationships with the U.S., as President Dwight Eisenhower had condemned the Soviet Union for meddling in Hungary earlier that same week. Eisenhower feared Western involvement was likely to bring the Soviet Union into the fight, sparking a larger conflict..

Egypt eventually proved victorious — Israel withdrew from the country but maintained control over the Gaza Strip.

The war was the first use of the U.N. peacekeeping force.

Israel Palestinians Weapons
Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system fires to intercept a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, near Ashkelon, Israel, Thursday, May 11, 2023.

The Six-Day War in 1967

Despite many years of calm following the Suez War, peace between the two groups remained on a razor-thin wire. Arab leaders of Palestinian territory continued to feel anger toward Israel for military losses and the hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees displaced following the 1948 war.

The Six-Day War was spurred on by a series of border disputes. By the 1960s, Syrian-backed Palestinian guerrillas were attacking along the Israeli border, leading to counter-raids from the Israel Defense Forces.

The war started on June 5, 1967, after Israel launched Operation Focus, a coordinated aerial attack on Egypt. Nearly 200 aircraft took off from Israel, assaulting 18 different airfields and eliminating nearly 90% of the Egyptian air force. Israeli pilots had won full control of the skies over the Middle East by the end of the day on June 5.

Israeli troops captured the Old City of Jerusalem. They celebrated victory on June 10 after the U.N. brokered a ceasefire between the two nations and the war came to an end. Nearly 20,000 Arabs and 800 Israelis had died in just 132 hours of fighting.

Yom Kippur War 1973

Egyptian and Syrian forces led Arab states in invading Israel on Yom Kippur on Oct. 6, 1973. It was an attempt to topple the country and to retrieve territory lost during the third war in 1967.

Egyptian forces took the IDF by surprise by attacking the Sinai Peninsula, and Syrian forces struggled to throw the IDF out of the Golan Heights. A U.S. airlift of arms aided Israel’s cause, but President Richard Nixon delayed the emergency military aid for a week as a tacit signal of U.S. sympathy for Egypt.

Nearly 2,700 Israeli soldiers died during the 19-day war, and a ceasefire was eventually secured by the U.N. In April 1974, the nation’s prime minister, Golda Meir, stepped down following criticisms of a lack of preparedness from the Israeli government.

Israel Palestinians Weapons
Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system fires interceptors at rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, in Ashkelon, southern Israel. Thursday, May 11, 2023.

First Intifada 1987

“Intifada” is Arabic, and it translates to “shaking off.” It refers to the uprisings of the Palestinian people aimed at ending Israel’s occupation of the territories.

In 1987, Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza started the first intifada against Israel, and Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group, was founded by Sheik Ahmed Yassin.

The first intifada occurred in December 1987 and ended in September 1993. Most of the Palestinian rioting took place during the intifada’s first year, after which the Palestinians shifted from throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli targets to attacking them with rifles, hand grenades, and explosives, according to Britannica.

In 1988, the Palestinian Liberation Organization agreed to the U.S.’s conditions for opening dialogue and recognizing Israel’s right to exist. A new Israeli government was elected in 1992 with a mandate to negotiate for peace.

Hamas first employed suicide bombing in April 1993, five months before PLO leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed the Oslo Accords. It established limited self-governance in parts of Gaza and the West Bank under the governance of the Palestinian Authority. Hamas condemned the accords and the recognition of Israel.

Second Intifada 2000

The U.S. declared Hamas a foreign terrorist organization in 1997. Hamas’s movement led to the second intifada in the early 2000s, with Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Tanzim militia engaging in violence against Israelis.

The second intifada was much more violent than the first. More than 4,300 people died, and the ratio of Palestinian to Israeli deaths was slightly more than 3 to 1.

Israeli forces began building a separation barrier in the West Bank similar to the barrier erected in Gaza in 1996. Israel also orchestrated 200 assassinations of Palestinian military operatives and political leaders, according to Britannica.

The war ended in 2005 but left relations between the two groups tenser than ever. Israeli settlement in the West Bank continued, and the loss of the war led to a loss in confidence in the Palestinian Authority, pushing Palestinians to look to Hamas. The group took power of the Gaza Strip by force in 2007.

Israel Palestinians
Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023.

Conflict in the 2000s

In 2008, Israel launched an attack on Hamas targets in response to rocket fire from Gaza. A ground war between the two ended in 1,200 Palestinian and 13 Israeli deaths. Israel and Palestinian groups agreed to unilateral ceasefires in January 2009, with Israel withdrawing from Gaza.

Roughly 6,400 Palestinians and 300 Israelis had been killed in the violence since 2008, not counting recent fatalities, the U.N. reported.

Since then, the two groups have exchanged gunfire and kidnapped or killed soldiers and civilians. An Israeli raid on Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem in 2021 set off an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas, killing 200 Palestinians and more than 10 Israelis.


In January 2023, a Palestinian man killed seven people outside a synagogue in east Jerusalem.

On Oct. 7, Hamas launched thousands of rockets into Israel, and almost 1,000 Palestinian fighters entered the country by land, sea, and air. At least 130 civilians and soldiers have been taken hostage, according to Israeli officials.

The Israeli government ordered a “total siege” of Gaza, cutting off its population of nearly 2 million from access to electricity, food, and fuel on Monday.

The White House announced Thursday that 27 Americans were killed in the attacks and that 14 are still missing.


Israel war: Tracking the history of Palestine-Israel conflict

Hamas’s attack on Israel is the latest event in a long history of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The terrorist attacks, which occurred last weekend, are the largest assault on Jews since the Holocaust, with terrorists killing hundreds of people and kidnapping soldiers and civilians.

Israel declared war against the terrorist group on Sunday, the first time the nation has done so since 1973. So far, the war has claimed nearly 2,700 lives between the two sides, according to Health Ministry officials.
The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, or the 1947 UN Partition Plan, was a plan to split the former British colony of Mandatory Palestine into two different countries adopted on 29 November 1947. It would have been split into six different regions, three belonging to the Palestinians and three to the Israelis, and Jerusalem would have been an international city shared by both countries. The Israelis accepted the plan, but the Palestinians rejected it. The plan was never put into place and this led to the 1947-1949 Palestine War.
On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was formally established by the Israeli Declaration of Independence 1. The next day, on May 15, 1948, Israel applied for membership in the United Nations (UN) 2. After a year of deliberation, on May 11, 1949, Israel was admitted to the UN as a full member state 1. As of December 2020, Israel has received diplomatic recognition from 165 (or 85%) of the 193 total UN member states 

The United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, adopted on November 29, 1947, recommended the creation of independent Arab and Jewish states and a Special International Regime for the city of Jerusalem 1. The partition plan provided for the termination of the British Mandate, the progressive withdrawal of British armed forces, and the delineation of boundaries between the two states and Jerusalem 1. The plan was voted on by the UN Ad Hoc Committee and was accepted with 33 votes in favor, 13 against, and 10 abstentions 1.

The Partition Plan is considered to have been pro-Zionist by its detractors, with 62% of the land allocated to the Jewish state despite the Palestinian Arab population numbering twice the Jewish population. The plan did not allocate specific percentages of land to either side On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was formally established by the Israeli Declaration of Independence. The declaration was proclaimed by David Ben-Gurion, the Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization and Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, in Tel Aviv 2. The declaration was made on behalf of the Provisional Government of Israel, and it declared the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel 2. The same day, Israel was recognized by the United States as an independent nation.

The Arab-Israeli conflict has a long and complex history. The first Arab-Israeli war began on May 15, 1948, the day after Israel declared its independence. The war was fought between the newly established State of Israel and a military coalition of Arab states, including Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Since then, there have been several other wars and conflicts between Israel and Arab countries. Here is a brief timeline of some of the major conflicts:

1956 Suez Crisis: A military conflict between Israel, France, and the United Kingdom on one side and Egypt on the other 2.
1967 Six-Day War: A war fought between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, and Syria 2.
1973 Yom Kippur War: A war fought between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria 2.
1982 Lebanon War: A conflict between Israel and Lebanon 2.
2006 Lebanon War: A conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon 2.
2008-2009 Gaza War: A conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip 2.
2014 Gaza War: Another conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip 2.
Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of all conflicts in the region.

2: 3: 1:


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Writer and Journalist living in Canada since 1987. Tamil activist.

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