*The Palestinians have long claimed East Jerusalem as their capital, a portion of the city designated by the United Nations as part of the Israeli - Occupied Territory of the West Bank
Headquarters of the Hamas Political Bureau
5.2 million Palestinians (approximately)
This figure includes:
West Bank - 2,930,000 Palestinians (400,000 settlers)
Gaza - 2.1 million (inc. 1.8 million Palestinians)
Israel and Occupied East Jerusalem - 250,000
Government of the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem)
The Palestinian Authority
President of the Palestinian Authority (West Bank)
President Mahmoud Abbas
Government of Gaza
The Hamas Political Bureau
Chairman of the Hamas Political Bureau
Head of Palestinian Mission to the UK
H.E Dr Husam Zomlot
State of Palestine Mission to London, 5 Galena Rd, Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom, W6 0LT
British Consul-General in Jerusalem
Ms Diane Corner OBE
British Consulate General Jerusalem, 15 Nashashibi Street, Sheikh Jarrah Quarter, Jerusalem, East Jerusalem 97200, P O Box 19690, The Occupied Palestinian Territories
The Occupied West Bank comprises about 5,860 square kilometres. To its north, south and west it borders the State of Israel, on borders that correspond to ones defined after the end of the 1967 war. To the east of the Occupied West Bank, lies the border with Jordan which falls along the River Jordan. In the southeast of the country the border runs through the Dead Sea.
The climate of the area is temperate with almost half the territory designated as agricultural land. Although more fertile than many parts of the Middle East, droughts are known to occur and access to fresh water continues to be an issue, often a political one.
Population in the West Bank
The population of the Occupied West Bank stands at around 2.9 million people. There is also an Israeli settler population in the OWB and Occupied East Jerusalem, which is deemed illegal under most interpretations of international law. The Median age in the OWB is almost 22 years old and the population is growing at a rate of 1.77% a year (Gaza and West Bank). Most Palestinians live in the centre of the West Bank.
The literacy rate is around 97.2% and unemployment stands at around 27% with the highest rates in Gaza at around 43%.
Of course, Palestine is not just the West Bank. Approximately 750,000 Palestinians live in Gaza, the strip of territory running 25 miles along the Mediterranean coast from its southern border with Egypt towards the north of Israel. Gaza is only 7 miles at its widest point and is separated from Israel to its east by a significant security zone.
Unlike the West Bank, there are no longer any Israeli settlements in Gaza. The Strip has often experienced conflict, as recently as May 2021. Israel launched airstrikes against the Strip in retaliation for Gaza rocket attacks on Israel. One of the casus belli for this recent conflict was the eviction of six Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem.
Egypt occupied Gaza during the 1948 war that followed Israel's declaration of independence. However, in 1967, during the Six Day War, when Egypt was defeated alongside other Arab nations by Israel, its forces were pushed out of Gaza and it became officially and Israeli-occupied territory.
East Jerusalem - status and critical importance
Another important aspect of the Occupied West Bank’s geography is the status of Jerusalem, which before the 1967 War was split between Israel and Jordan. During the 1948 war with Israel, Jordan occupied the West Bank as well as East Jerusalem and the Old City. In 1967, Israel defeated Jordan and pushed it out of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including the Old City.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) was established in 1964. Over the years, it has become the main representative of Palestinians. It is recognised by the UN and the Arab League as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”.
In 1993, the Palestinian Authority (PA) was created. Its role was to act as a governing institution in the West Bank and Gaza. It is the PA which is, in theory, subordinate to the older PLO. The leader of Fatah, the largest Palestinian political faction, will be the statesman that is both chair of the PLO and president of the PA. The role is currently held by Mahmoud Abbas who succeeded Yasser Arafat to the role in October 2004.
Real problems began in the PA in 2006 when Hamas secured a victory in elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council. The resulting internal power struggle and open conflict between led to Fatah's eviction from Gaza in 2007, and the Strip's rule by Hamas ever since.
Structure of the Palestine Liberation Organisation
The PLO is made up of three bodies:
The Palestinian National Council (PNC), a legislative which is elected by Palestinians.
The Central Council, a body whose members are elected the PNC. Its role is to make policy decisions when the PNC is not in session.
A further (and smaller) Executive Committee, with members elected by bothorgasniations above. It appoints the chairman of the PLO.
Structure of the Palestinian Authority
The Palestinian Authority comprises the President, a prime minister and ministers. The PA also contains the justice system for the territories it governs.
The PA holds a degree of power over some of the areas of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Area A, where it has security and civil control and Area B with only civil control. Israel has full control of Area C.
Inhabited since at least the 15th century B.C., the West Bank has been dominated by many different peoples throughout its history; it was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire in the early 16th century. The West Bank fell to British forces during World War I, becoming part of the British Mandate of Palestine. Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the West Bank was captured by Transjordan (later renamed Jordan), which annexed the West Bank in 1950; it was captured by Israel in the Six-Day War in 1967.
Under a series of agreements known as the Oslo accords signed between 1993 and 1999, Israel transferred to the newly created Palestinian Authority (PA) security and civilian responsibility for many Palestinian-populated areas of the West Bank as well as the Gaza Strip. In 2000, a violent intifada or uprising began, and in 2001 negotiations to determine the permanent status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip stalled. Subsequent attempts to re-start direct negotiations have not resulted in progress toward determining final status of the area.
Why is Palestine now separated into entities - West Bank and Gaza?
Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni militant group that has controlled Gaza since 2006-2007. Hamas is an acronym of Harakat-al Muqawamah al-Ismaiyyah meaning Islamic Resistant Movement and began originally as an off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood during 1988 during the First Intifada.
In January 2006, Hamas defeated Fatah in the legislative elections held in the Palestinian Territories. Hamas took control of the Strip and removed Fatah officials from office. In 2007, conflict broke out between the 2 groups and eventually Hamas gained complete control of Gaza and ejected Fatah.
The battle ended the Unity Government and led to the de facto division of the 2 Palestinian Territories into 2 separate governing entities.
Roughly 60% of the West Bank, remains under Israeli civil and military control. Since 2007, the PA has administered parts of the West Bank under its control, mainly the major Palestinian population centres and areas immediately surrounding them. Fatah and Hamas have made several attempts at reconciliation, but the factions have been unable to implement agreements including the latest agreement signed in October 2017. In December 2018, the Palestinian Constitutional Court dissolved the PLC. In 2019, PA President Abbas renewed his calls for PLC elections.
The majority of Palestinians are Sunni Muslim. There is a sizeable Palestinian Christian minority, who are mostly affiliated with the Greek Orthodox Church. Israel/Palestine contains many of the major sights of all three Abrahamic faiths, which a particularly concentrated in Jerusalem. The huge significance of the city across all Abrahamic faiths is the reason why Jerusalem remains such a controversial and difficult to solve aspect of the Peace Process
But it is important to remember that religious tension does not just show itself between the different faiths. Many of the city’s most historic tensions happen within different sects in each religion. A notable example of this is in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in which it is common to see multiple different masses being held by different denominations, alongside each other. The opening and closing of the church has historically been outsourced to Jerusalemite Muslim family, that has been handing down the key through generations for hundreds of years.
Al-Aqsa Mosque, the most important location for Muslims in Jerusalem and considered the third holiest mosque by Muslims after Mecca and Medina, is currently administered by the Islamic Waqf. In recent years it has been the scene for a number of tense standoffs and protests, including in 2021.
Al-Aqsa and the famous Dome of the Rock islamic shrine near it occupy a site in the Old City called Harem esh-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) to Muslims. Jews know the site as Temple Mount because it provided the foundations of the Second Temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. As a result, the Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and a flashpoint between the Palestinians and Jews.
The Western Wall is the key site for Jews in the Old City and gets its significance from the fact that is believed to be a retaining wall for the Second Temple. It is customary for religious Jews to pray by the wall, often contemplating the tragedy of the fall of the Second Temple for the Jewish faith.
The word Palestine comes from the Greek ‘Palaestina’ meaning the land of the Philistines. As such, records of people who identify with Palestine are plenty. But with the uniquely contentious land which Palestinians call home, it is inevitable that borders have shifted throughout the ages, having constant cultural effect. This is also true of the present moment, when the most affluent Palestinians live in diasporas across the West and when the poorest live in refugee camps, often in countries that are outside the Palestinian territories.
There is a number of mainstays of the Palestinian culture which adds distinguishing features interwoven with general Arab cultural and the social norms that inform Palestinian life. Notable examples include its literary tradition, with poets such as Mahmoud Darwish and his widely-acclaimed work on the impact of occupation on his people. Occupation has also given rise to a rich tradition of political cartoons, with Naji Salim Hussain al-Ali creating probably the most recognised cartoons across the entire Arab world with his figure Handala, which grew into a prominent national symbol of the Palestinians.
The economy of the Palestinian Territories remains fragile. Unemployment is a consistent problem. Israel maintains a high degree of control over the economy, deciding the terms on which Palestinian workers and imports and exports enter and leave the Territories. Much of the money that funds the PA comes from donors, a notable example of this being the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, UNRWA. It primarily focuses on supporting Palestinian refugee communities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in those Middle Eastern countries that have sizeable Palestinian refugee populations such as Jordan and Lebanon.
The estimated GDP per capita of the West Bank and Gaza stands at around $4,300. Industries that operate in the territories include farming, particularly of olives fruit, tourism and small-scale manufacturing.
The UK seizes Palestine from a crumbling Ottoman Empire in World War 1 and issues Balfour Declaration pledging support for "a home for the Jewish people"
Emergence of first significant Palestinian Arab groups - including the Damascus-based Nadi-al-Arabi
SAN REMO: International post-war conference grants Palestine to the British Empire as a mandate, to prepare Palestine for eventual self-rule
NEBI MUSA RIOTS: Arabs riot in Jerusalem amid rising tensions between Jews and Palestinians and anger over the Balfour Declaration
Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammed Amin al-Huseini, rallies Arab and Muslims against further concussion to the Jews
Arab rioters kill 200 Jews in Jerusalem's Old City and Hebron. British troops kill 116 Arabs suppressing the riots
British Royal Commission recommends limiting Jewish immigration into Palestine
1936 - 1939
ARAB REVOLT: More than 5000 Arabs die in the suppression of a revolt against British rule. Grand Mufti escapes to France-run Syria. UK declares Martial Law
HOLOCAUST: Approximately six million Jews die in systematic Nazi genocide. Post war, many European Jews immigrate to Palestine
PARTITION PROPOSALS: The UN recommends partition of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem coming under international control. Arab High Commission rejects the plan
DEIR YASSIN MASSACRE: Irregular Jewish troops kill 107 Palestinians in the village of Deir Yassin near Jerusalem. Albert Einstein is among those to condemn the massacre, as is Haganah, the main Zionist paramilitary unit
1945 - 1948
EMIGRATION: Approximately 700,000 Jews emigrate to Palestine - Israel from Europe and elsewhere in the Middle East - further fuelling tensions with the Palestinians
KFAR ETZION MASSACRE: Palestinian militia kills 129 Jewish settlers, many after they surrender, at the Kfar Etzion bloc Kibbutz, not far from Jerusalem
No' 1947 - May 1948
Inter-communal civil war breaks out between Jewish and Palestinian militias following rejection of UN plan
ISRAEL DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE: Israeli Prime minister David Ben Gurion declares Israeli independence, sparking war with Arab neighbours. Joseph Stalin and US president Harry S. Truman are among the world leaders to recognise Israel's independence
May 15th is the official date for the end of the British mandate, one dat after the declaration of independence
May - March 1949
FIRST ARAB ISRAELI WAR: Israel defeats Arab nations including Egypt, Syria and Iraq. But the Egyptians seize Gaza and Transjordan annexes the West Bank and East Jerusalem
May - March 1949
The "NAKBA": Approximately 750,000 Palestinians become refugees during the war,. Palestinians refer to this period as the "Nakba", or catastrophe
1949 - 1960
EMIGRATION: The 50s is a time of unprecedented immigration into Israel. Around a million refugees from Muslim-majority countries, plus another 250,000 Holocaust survivors, settle Ian Israel
ENTER ARAFAT: Yasser Arafat forms Fatah fighting group in Egypt
PLO ESTABLISHED: The Arab League sets up the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Palestinian Liberation Army under Ahmed Shukeiri
SIX DAY WAR: Israel defeats Egypt, Syria and Jordanian 6 days and occupies all the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Sinai. The Golan Heights are seized from Syria
Yasser Arafat assumes PLO leadership and asserts group's control from Egypt
BLACK SEPTEMBER: Increasing tension over the strength of the PLO in Jordan leads to fighting with Jordanian forces, leading to the expulsion of the PLO from Jordan and into southern Lebanon
1970s - 1980s
The PLO and other Palestinian groups carry out airline hijackings and and attacks on civilians, military and officials in Israel and oversees to highlight their cause
TERROR AT MUNICH: Palestinian "Black September" gunmen take the Israeli team hostage at the Munich Olympics. 2 of the athletes are murdered in the village and 9 others die in a botched rescue attempt by German authorities
TOM KIPPUR WAR: Egypt and Syria fail to take back land lost in the Six Day war six years previously. Israel raids PLO bases in Beirut and southern Lebanon during the conflict
April - May 1974
Hardline Palestinian militants kill 43 civilians during a raid on Maalot in northern Israel
Arab League recognises the PLO as "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people" and admits it to full League membership
Yasser Arafat becomes first non-state leader to address the United Nations General Assembly
ENTEBBE RAID: A hardline militant Palestinian group and members of a far-left German group kidnap an Air France plan and divert it to Entebbe, Uganda. Israeli commandos kills hijackers and rescue most passengers
LIKUD VICTORY: The right wing Likud party wins surprise election victory and encourages settlements in West Bank and Gaza
PEACE WITH EGYPT: Egyptian President Anwar Sadat visit Jerusalem and begins the process that leads two Israel's withdrawal from Sinai
LEBANON INCURSION: Israel carries out first major incursion into southern Lebanon to drive out PLO forces following a PLO attack that killed 38 Israeli citizens in Israel
CAMP DAVID ACCORDS: Israel pledges to expand Palestinian self-government in the West Bank and Gaza during negotiations with Egypt at Camp David
JERUSALEM LAW: The Knesset passes law, proclaiming that "Jerusalem, complete and unified, is the capital of Israel" . The Israeli Supreme Court interprets this as the annexation of East Jerusalem, which is still recognised as occupied territory
Israeli Air Force destroys nuclear reactor at Osirak in Iraq
ISRAEL INVASION OF LEBANON: Israel invades Lebanon again to expel PLO from Beirut following assassination attempt by a Palestinian faction on Israel's ambassador to London
SABRA AND SHATILA MASSACRES: Up to 3,500 Palestinians are massacred at Shabra and Shatila refugee camps by Christian Phalangist allies of Israel. PLO leadership moves to Tunisia
ACHILLE LAURO ATTACK: Palestinian Liberal Front faction hijacks Achille Lauro cruise ships and demands release of 50 Palestinians from prison. The hijackers murder an elderly American wheelchair user
IST PALESTINIAN INTIFADA: First Palestinian uprising - intifada - begins in Palestinian Territories. Muslin Brotherhoodl in Gaza forms Hamas movement and turns to violence against Israel
Jordan abandons claim to West Bank, ceding it to PLO. Palestinian National Council in Algiers proclaims the state of Palestine
GULF WAR: The PLO supports Iraq's annexation of Kuwait, which severs ties with the OPLO and expels about 400,000 Palestinians
US-Soviet sponsored conference in Madrid brings Israeli and Palestinian representatives together for the first time since 1949
Israeli prime Yitzhak Rabin and his Labour government pledge to halt settlement expansion programme and starts secret talks wit the PLO
OSLO ACCORDS: Yitzhak Rabin, and PLO negotiator Mahmoud Abbas sign Oslo Declaration to establish Palestinian self government and formally end First Intifada
Baruch Goldstein of the extremist Jewish Kach movement kills 29 Palestinians at prayer at the Cave of the Patriachs shrine at Hebron in the West Bank
Signing of interim agreement setting out route for transfer of further power and territory to Palestinian National Authority
RABIN ASSASSINATION: Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is assassinated by a Jewish ultranationalist in Tel Aviv at a rally organised to celebrate the Oslo Peace Accords
Talks between Labour PM Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat break down over extend and timing of Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank
2ND INTIFADA: Second Intifada starts a day after Ariel Sharon from Likud pays what is viewed as a highly provocative visit to the holy site in Jerusalem known as Haram esh-Sharif to Muslims and Temple Mount to Jews
Sept' 2000 - 2005
Second Intifada takes place. It lasts 4 years and 4 months, and results in the deaths of an estimated 3,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis
2001 - 2004
There is a spate of attacks by Palestinian militants within Israel, including dozens of suicide bombings
A suicide bombing at the Dolphinarium discotheque in Tele Aviv kills 21 people, including 16 teenagers
Hamas carry out a suicide bombing at the park Hotel in Netanya, killing 30 people. It is the deadliest attack of the Second intifada
Israeli Defence Forces launches Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank and begins to build the security barrier to prevent armed Palestinians entering Israel. The building of the barrier proves intensely controversial
The Arab League offers to recognise the state of Israel in return from all territories occupied since 1967 and agree to a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital
Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, says occupation of Palestinian Territories cannot be indefinite
Arab League meeting expresses support for " road map" proposed by the EU, US, Russia and UN and accepted by Israel and the Palestinian National Authority for a Palestinian state and a stop to settlements
Mahmoud Abbas resigns as Prime Minister citing US and Israeli intransigence as well as internal opposition to his plans
Israeli forces kill Sheikh Yassin, the founder and leader of Hamas, as well as his successor a month later
ARAFAT DIES: Yasser Arafat dies in France
ABBAS TAKES OVER: Mahmoud Abbas is elected as Arafat's successor as head of the Palestinian National Authority
GAZA WITHDRAWAL: Israel withdraws all Jewish settlements and military personnel from Gaza, but retains control over airspace, ports and border crossings
HAMAS ELECTION VICTORY: Hamas wins election and its leader, Ismail Haniyeh,goes on to form a government. Immediately removes Fatah officials from posts
SHALIT ABDUCTION: Hamas militants from Gaza seize Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and keep him hostage for 5 years. Israel imposes further restrictions on Gaza
Fighting breaks out between Hamas and Fatah supporters in Gaza amid growing power struggle between the 2 groups
Hamas and Fatah form a unity government to end months of clashes but the uneasy peace doesn't last
Unity government founders and Hamas expels Fatah from Gaza. Israel tightens blockade after receiving rockets attacks from the Strip
June - Sept' 2007
Hamas refuses to recognise Abbas's choice for prime minister and 2 rival governments emerge in West Bank and Gaza
US- hosted Annapolis Conference for the first time establishes the "2-state solution" as basis for future talks between Israel and the PA
March - Nov' 2008
Talks in Yemen and Cairo fail to resolve the differences between Hamas and Fatah
Israel incursion into Gaza over Hamas ceasefire violation
Israel launches 1 month invasion of Gaza to prevent Hamas and other military groups attacking Israel with rockets
Talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority run aground on issue of settlements
9 Turkish pro-Palestinian activists killed while trying to break Israel's maritime blockade of Gaza
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, accepts Palestine as member, but the United Nations declines application
Elections in the West Bank - boycotted by Hamas- are no triumph for Fatah. It wins only 40% of seats while Fatah rebels win 4 out of 11 main towns and cities
The UN upgrades Palestinian representation to that of "non-member observer state" allowing it to take part in debates of the General Assembly
US- sponsored talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials founder on disagreements over East Jerusalem and attacks by militants
The fall of Mohamed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood government in Cairo is a blow for Hamas and dashes their hopes for the lifting of their southern border with Egypt
WATER: Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority sign water-sharing agreement to reverse the drying out of the Dead Sea and provide drinking water to the region
Egypt bans Hamas activities and seizes assets due to the group's links to Egypt's now banned Muslim Brotherhood
Fatah and Hamas agree to form unity government. Fatah complains that Hamas cabinet retain control over Gaza
July - Aug' 2014
Israel launches air and land campaign in Gaza to knock out Hamas launching sites and tunnels
Hamas signs a rec onilciation deal intended to transfer authority for the control of Gaza over to the Palestinian Authority, but again disputes cause negotiations to hit the rocks
US President Donald Trump recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announced that the US embassy would move to Jerusalem from Tel Avi, upsetting the Arab world and Western allies
July- Aug 2018
UN and Egypt try to broker a long-term ceasefire between and Israel and Hamas but talks fail amid upsurge of violence on Gaza border
Trump White House says it no longer considers Israeli settlements to be illegal, again a provocative act and contrary to a series of UN resolutions over the years on settlements
Mahmoud Abbas announces that he is postponing rare parliamentary elections amid a dispute over voting rights, saying they could only be held if Israel allowed Palestinians in East Jerusalem to participate
SHEIKH JARRAR: Property disputes between Palestinians and Israeli settlers in the Sheikh Jarrar neighbourhood of East Jerusalem become world wide news. 6 Palestinian families await ruling by Israel's Supreme Court
AL-AQSA CLASHES: More than 200 Palestinians and 17 police officers are wounded in violent clashes at the holy site of Haram esh Sharif/.Temple Mount
GAZA CONFLICT: Rising tensions over Sheikh Jarrar and Al Aqsa conflict breaks out between Hamas and Israel. Israel launches land and sea operation against Gaza after receiving rocket attacks. At least 256 Palestinians die
April - May 2021
RAMADAN DISTURBANCES: There is a number of clashes and disputes between Palestinians and Israelis in and around the Old City of Jerusalem during the Holy Month of Ramadan
NIZAR BANAT DEATH: Nizar Banat, a prominent critic of the Palestinian Authority, dies in police custody following his violent arrest in Hebron in the West Bank, leading to international condemnation of the PA and protests by Palestinians
Naftali Bennet of the Yamina Party becomes Prime Minister of Israel, ending Benjamin Netanyahu's 12 year period in office. He is described as "ultra-nationalist" who has opposed the creation of a separate Palestinian state