Generally defined as a geographic region in Western Asia between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands. Situated at a strategic location between Egypt, Syria and Arabia, and the birthplace of major Abraham religions, the region has a long and tumultuous history as a crossroads for religion, culture, commerce, and politics. Palestine has been controlled by numerous different peoples, including the Ancient Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, Tjekker, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Ancient Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, early Muslims (Umayads, Abbasids, Seljuqs, Fatimids), Crusaders, later Muslims (Ayyubids, Mameluks, Ottomans), the British, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (1948–1967, on the “West Bank”) and Egyptian Republic (in Gaza), and finally occupied by Israel. Other terms for the same area include Canaan, Southern Syria, Jund Filastin, Outremer, the Holy Land and the Southern Levant.
The region was among the earliest in the world to see human habitation, agricultural communities and civilization. During the Bronze Age, independent Canaanite city-states were established, and were influenced by the surrounding civilizations of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, Minoan Crete, and Syria. During 1550–1400 BCE, the Canaanite cities became vassals to the Egyptian New Kingdom who held power until the 1178 BCE Battle of Djahy (Canaan) during the wider Bronze Age collapse. The region became part of the Neo-Assyrian Empire from c. 740 BCE, which was itself replaced by the Neo-Babylonian Empire in c. 627 BCE. A war with Egypt culminated in 586 BCE when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II and the local leaders were deported to Babylonia, only to be allowed to return under the Achaemenid Empire.
In 1947, the British Government announced its intention to terminate the Mandate. The United Nations General Assembly voted to partition Palestine into independent Arab and Jewish states, with a special international regime for Jerusalem. The Arabs rejected the partition of Palestine, but the Jews declared the independence of the State of Israel in May 1948. During the 1948 Palestine War, Israel overran far more territory than was proposed by the Partition Plan; Jordan captured the region today known as the West Bank, while in the Gaza Strip the All-Palestine Government was announced in September 1948. In what is known as the Nakba, or “Catastrophe”, hundreds of Palestinian villages and over 70,000 Palestinian homes were ruined and destroyed . 700,000 Palestinians were forced and driven from their native land by the Israelis. The Palestinian refugees were unable to return following the Lausanne Conference, 1949. During and after the 1948 war, a wave of Jewish refugees from Arab countries arrived in Palestine, further exacerbating the situation for Palestinian Arabs. The question of the right to return of the refugees and their descendants remains a source of dispute. The All-Palestinian Government was later moved from Gaza to Cairo and eventually dissolved in 1959 by Egyptian President Nasser. Gaza was taken into Egyptian military administration.
The Palestinian national movement gradually regrouped in the West Bank and Gaza, and in refugee camps in neighboring Arab states. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) emerged as its leading umbrella group. During the Six Day War in June 1967, Israel seized East Jerusalem and the West Bank from Jordan and Gaza from Egypt, as well as the Golan Heights from Syria. Despite international objections and UN resolutions, Israel began a policy of establishing illegal Israeli settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories. The PLO under Yasser Arafat gradually won international recognition as the representative of the Palestinian people. From 1987 to 1993, the First Palestinian Intifada against Israel took place, ending with the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords. These accords established a Palestinian National Authority (PNA – also referred to as the Palestinian Authority, or PA) as an interim body to run parts of Gaza and the West Bank (but not East Jerusalem) pending an agreed solution to the conflict.