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The Arab-Israeli conflict is a struggle between the Jewish state of Israel and the Arabs of the Middle East. It has continued for many decades and there has been no peaceful solution so far. Many religions look upon the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea as their homeland. This historic land is called Palestine. Before the birth of Christ, the Jews also lived here. Later on, the Romans invaded the area and made it Christian. The Jews were driven away and had to live in other parts of the world. Muslims also think of Palestine as a holy place. In the Middle Ages the land was ruled by the Turks of the Ottoman Empire and more and more Arabs came to Palestine. In the middle of the 19th century, Jews started to think about coming back to Palestine. This idea was called Zionism. By the beginning of the 20th century, more and more Jews came back to Palestine and started a new life there. At the end of World War I the Turks were defeated and Great Britain ruled Palestine. The British helped the Jews and wanted to create a new country for them. During the Second World War about 6 million Jews were murdered by German Nazis in the Holocaust. Those who survived had no place to go. In 1947, the United Nations decided to divide Palestine into two states : Israel for the Jews and Palestine for the Arabs. The Jews accepted the plan but the Arabs didn't want the Jews to take over their country. When the British left Palestine in 1948, Israel declared its independence. At once, Arab countries started to attack the new state but Israel fought back and won. It also expanded its territory and occupied more land than the UN gave it. Other Arab countries—Egypt, Syria and Jordan—took over the Arab part of Palestine. Over 700,000 Palestinians became refugees. Most of them fled to Israel's neighbours . Since the war of 1948, Israel has had to fight three more wars against its Arab neighbours. In 1956 Egypt took control of the Suez Canal from Great Britain and France. Together with Israel, these two countries attacked Egypt and, for a short time, Israel took control of the Sinai peninsula. In May 1967, Egypt's president Nasser prepared for another attack on Israel. He closed Israel's only route to the sea and soldiers from all the Arab countries marched to Israel's border. However, Israel attacked first and surprised its enemies. In a war that lasted only six days, Israel defeated the Arabs and took over some of their land: The fourth and last war took place in October 1973. It surprised Israel because Egypt and Syria attacked on Yom Kippur, one of Israel's holiest days. Israel fought back and defeated the Arabs once again. They took control of the Sinai Peninsula, but gave it back to Egypt two years later. In the late 1970s Egypt saw that it could not win a war against Israel, so it became the first Arab country to make peace with the Jewish state. In 1982 Israel invaded Lebanon, its northern neighbour. The PLO, an organisation thought fought for the rights of the Palestinians, continued to attack Israel from southern Lebanon. Israel's soldiers stayed in Lebanon until 2000. Towards the end of the 1980's Palestinians in the occupied lands started to protest against Israel's rule. This was known as the first Intifada. There were demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Arabs stopped working for Israelis and some towns stopped paying taxes to the Israeli government. Israel had to use more and more force to get these territories under control. At the beginning of the 1990s, the PLO realized that its only hope was to make peace with Israel. In 1993 an agreement was signed between the PLO and Israel. The PLO recognised Israel's right to exist and Israel promised to give back some of the land that it took away in 1967. It also agreed to talks on a Palestinian state. By the end of the century, more and more land was given back to the Palestinians and they also set up their own government in these areas. But when the peace talks slowed down in 2000, the second Intifada began. Palestinian suicide bombers started blowing themselves up in Israeli towns, killing many Israelis . In return, Israel's army took control of most parts of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Today, lasting peace is farther away than ever before, because there are extremists on both sides who don't want to live together peacefully. During the second Intifada Israel sent soldiers to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. They started building a fence around the occupied territories. In 2006 Hezbollah, an extremist group, took control of Lebanon, Israeli soldiers were kidnapped and rocket attacks were launched against northern Israel. As retaliation Israel invaded Lebanon to stop the attacks. In the Gaza Strip Hamas, another paramilitary organization has become more powerful and today controls the Gaza Strip. It started launching attacks against Israel. Israel reacted by sending more troops into the area. The Palestine Liberation Organisation is a political group that fights for the rights of the Arab people in Palestine. Its main goal is to create an independent state for these people. Today there are more than 4 million people who live in the lands that are occupied by Israel. The PLO is made up of people from all social classes—doctors, lawyers, teachers and, of course, people from the working classes. There are also radical members, who hate the Israelis and don't want to live in peace with them. The PLO was founded in 1964 . Yassir Arafat was their leader for over 35 years. He died in 2004. The organisation has never had a real home. Over the years they have been in Jordan and Lebanon, but they are not very welcome anywhere. Today, the PLO controls some parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, where they also have their own government. In the past few years Arafat's successor Mahmoud Abbas has had problems controlling groups that want to destroy Israel. Radical Palestinians put bombs on their bodies and blow themselves up in crowded areas.
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