Middle East Conflicts

Middle East Conflicts

Although the Middle East is home to many identities, Muslim Arabs make up the majority of its people. After World War I, European empires that had power in the region collapsed, and the Arabs regained control.

But soon after World War II, Jews were granted the state of Israel in Palestine. Age-old tensions, Arab-Israeli conflict, and intervention by the West, have combined to make the Middle East a volatile region.


From the 1890s, a political campaign known as Zionism called for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. In the Balfour Declaration of 1917, Britain pledged to help create this nation of Jews. However, Muslim Arabs had lived in Palestine for centuries. After the horrors inflicted on the Jewish people during the Holocaust, the United Nations (UN) decided that Arabs and Jews would share Palestine, fueling Arab anger.

Israel is created (May 14, 1948)

The UN divides Palestine between Jews and Arabs by creating a new Jewish state called Israel. A war immediately breaks out between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The conflict ultimately leads to Israel gaining more land.

Palestinian displacement (1948 - 1960s)

In the year following the creation of Israel, more than 750,000 Palestinians flee or are expelled from their homes, becoming refugees. Both sides blame each other. Over the next decade, Jewish immigrants from Muslim countries and 250,000 Holocaust survivors settle in Israel.

Six-Day War (June 5-10, 1967)

Arab forces from Egypt, Jordan, and Syria attack Israel, but Israel emerges victorious, capturing swathes of Arab territory. The Palestinian areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip become known as the "occupied territories."

Yom Kippur War (October 6-26, 1973)

Attacks on Israel by its Arab neighbors Egypt and Syria on Yom Kippur, a Jewish holy day, take Israel by surprise. However, Israel strikes back and its troops enter Syria. The conflict ends when the UN calls for a ceasefire.

Iranian Revolution (January 1978 - February 1979)

The monarch of Iran, Mohammad Reza Shah, is overthrown and forced to leave the country in the Iranian Revolution, also known as the Islamic Revolution. The nonreligious way of life he promoted is replaced by a new regime based on strict Islamic law, headed by Muslim leader Ayatollah Khomeini.

Israel and Egypt peace deal (March 26, 1979)

Hosted in the US by President Carter, the leaders of Israel and Egypt attend peace talks. They sign a deal in which Israel returns Egyptian land it captured in the Six-Day War of 1967.

Iran - Iraq War (September 22, 1980 - August 20, 1988)

Fearing an uprising in his own country following the Iranian Revolution, Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq, invades Iran. A brutal eight-year war begins, and tensions increase across the region.

Israel invades Lebanon (June 6, 1982)

In an attempt to attack Palestinian rebel forces in Lebanon, Israel invades the country. The Palestinians, led by Yasser Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), flee to Tunisia.

The First Intifada (December 9, 1987 - September 13, 1993)

The Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza launch an intifada (popular uprising) against Israeli occupation. Israeli soldiers sent to stop the rebellion kill more than 300 civilians within its first year.

Independence for Palestine (November 15, 1988)

The PLO issues a declaration of independence for a Palestinian state. Within days, more than 25 countries around the world offer their support to the unofficial Palestinian government. The PLO says it wants peace.

War in the Gulf (August 2, 1990 - February 28, 1991)

Iraq invades and occupies Kuwait, a nation rich in valuable oil resources. Six months later, a military operation, led by the US and supported by forces from 35 nations, is launched to expel Iraq. After great effort from the US and its allies, Saddam Hussein is defeated.

The Oslo Accords (1993)

In a historic breakthrough, Israel agrees to withdraw from some of the Arab territories it has occupied if the PLO rejects violence against Israel. Jordan also signs a peace deal with Israel.

The Second Intifada (September 28, 2000 - February 8, 2005)

A period of violence erupts after Ariel Sharon, an Israeli politician, visits a site known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, and to Jews as Temple Mount. The visit to an Islamic holy place is seen as an insult by Palestinians. 

The War on Terror begins (From September 11, 2001)

The terrorist group al-Qaeda carries out attacks against high-profile targets in the US, leading to the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York. Believing that the Taliban, another terrorist group, is supporting al-Qaeda, the US intervenes in Afghanistan to bring down the Taliban regime.

Weapons of mass destruction (March 20 - May 1, 2003)

The US, the UK, Australia, and Poland attack Iraq because they believe Iraq holds weapons of mass destruction that could be a threat to the world. Western intervention in the Islamic world only increases anger against the West.

July War (July 12 - August 14, 2006)

War erupts in Lebanon after Hezbollah, a powerful Lebanese military group, captures Israeli soldiers and Israel fights back. More than 1,000 Lebanese people and around 165 Israeli people are killed in 34 days of fighting.


Palestinians continue to call for independence for the occupied territories, and conflict still rages across the region. In 2010, a period of uprisings across the Middle East known as the Arab Spring challenged leadership and called for democracy. The worst violence was in Syria, which descended into brutal civil war.