Gaza Strip timeline

GAZA CITY, June 27, 2006 (AFP) – Key events in the Gaza Strip since the Israeli withdrawal last year which ended a 38-year occupation:

August 2005: Under the leadership of then prime minister Ariel Sharon, Israel begins withdrawing its occupation forces and some 8,000 settlers from the strip of territory it had seized from Egypt during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The pullout is completed in September.

November: The Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt is reopened, under Palestinian administration for the first time ever

December: Two suicide bombers kill themselves and an Israeli soldier at a Gaza Strip check-point

January 2006: The radical Palestinian group Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel and is considered by the United States and the European Union to be a terrorist organisation, wins an absolute majority in parliamentary elections. Both Israel and major Western donors react by cutting aid to the Palestinians, causing further misery in the Gaza Strip.

– Sharon suffers a brain haemorrhage and falls into a coma. He is replaced by Ehud Olmert, who takes over permanently after a parliamentary election in March

March: Olmert announces plans to unilaterally fix Israel’s borders with the Palestinians by 2010.

A raid by Israeli troops on a West Bank prison sparks a massive wave of unrest in the Gaza Strip, including abductions of foreigners, who are rapidly released

April: Tit-for-tat military exchanges between the Gaza Strip and Israel increase, with the Palestinians firing home-made rockets and the Israelis using missiles and artillery shells. The overall death toll in five years of Israel-Palestinian violence passes the 5,000 mark.

June 9: An explosion on a Gaza Strip beach kills eight Palestinians, including three children and both their parents. The blast is widely attributed to an Israeli shell, although Israeli military officials deny responsibility.

June 13: An Israeli air strike on the Strip kills two Palestinian activists but also nine civilians, two of them children.

June 24: Israeli special forces enter the Gaza Strip and seize two men they say are wanted Palestinians, in the first such action since the military withdrawal.

June 25: Palestinian militants attack an Israeli checkpoint on the Gaza border, killing two Israeli soldiers and abducting a third. Israel prepares for a massive military intervention to try and retrieve the soldier.