MIDDLE EAST HOURGLASS:

December 22, 1998: MKs Ze'ev (Benny) Begin and Dan Meridor announce they will quit Likud Party. Meridor says he will contend for prime minister at head of new party.

22/12: IAF accidentally kills eight Lebanese civilians during raid on Hizb'Allah targets.

22/12: Army chief Shaul Mofaz says more Arab riots can be expected in Judea-Samaria.

22/12: Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah says in Christmas message Israel is ultimately to blame for tensions between Muslims and Christians in the Holy Land.

23/12: Hizb'Allah sends three salvos of Katyusha rockets into northern Israel, wounding 12 Israelis and damaging numerous buildings.

23/12: Report: Labour Party increasingly anxious former army chief Amnon Lipkin-Shahak will steal left-wing votes in election.

23/12: PA releases Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin from house arrest.

23/12: IDF report says pilot error responsible for Lebanese civilian casualties.

24/12: Netanyahu warns Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert not to contest him for party leadership.

24/12: Shahak discharged from army, enters negotiations to enlist Defence Minister Yitzhak Mordechai in new centrist party.

24/12: Meridor kicks off election campaign.

24/12: Christmas Eve celebrations in Bethlehem "muted".

25/12: Israel eases restrictions to allow tens of thousands of Muslims onto the Temple Mount for Ramadan prayers.

26/12: PM's office says Netanyahu not likely to back Foreign Minister Ariel Sharon's proposal for a staged pullout from Lebanon

26/12: Egyptian Foreign Minister Amir Moussa accuses Israel of using the early elections call as an excuse to stop implementing the Wye Accords.

26/12: Baghdad vows it will open fire on Western warplanes patrolling the no-fly zones in north and south Iraq.

27/12: Report: PA television will be broadcast globally within the month.

27/12: Veteran Likud MK Uzi Landau announces he will challenge Netanyahu for party leadership.

27/12: Likud Central Committee supports Netanyahu, sets January 25 for party leadership primaries.

27/12: Netanyahu launches election campaign with slogan: "Arafat wants a Labour government."

27/12: Ehud Olmert says he will not contest Netanyahu. Ariel Sharon states he will not run for PM.

28/12: Report: Experts expect involvement of US "spin doctors" will result in dirtiest election campaign ever.

28/12: Parties agree on May 17 voting date.

28/12: Benny Begin announces his candidacy for PM at head of new right-wing party; settlers split over whether to support him.

28/12: Shimon Peres announces he will support Ehud Barak and remain with Labour.

28/12: Peres, former PM Yitzhak Shamir, and former Defence Minister Moshe Arens call for abolition of direct election for the PM.

28/12: US warplanes fire on Iraqi missile battery after being targeted by enemy missiles fired in no-fly zone.

28/12: Israeli Foreign Ministry lodges "serious complaint" with PA after Israeli security officials are barred from checking Egyptian plane at Gaza International Airport.

28/12: IDF demolition of two illegally built Arab homes in Samaria receives worldwide media coverage.

29/12: Knesset passes bill enabling government to prepare 1999 budget.

29/12: Former Foreign Minister in Netanyahu cabinet, David Levy (Gesher), agrees to team up with Labour's Barak.

29/12: Netanyahu prays at Western Wall.

29/12: Arab lawmakers criticise announcement by Israeli Arab advisor to Arafat, Ahmed Tibi, that he will run for Knesset in separate party.

29/12: Law Committee endorses May 17 election date.

29/12: MKs demand government appoint separate minister to oversee Israel's preparations for Y2K bug.

30/12: Al-Ayyam daily quotes Palestinian Legislative Council Speaker Ahmed Qurei as saying the PA won't change its plans to declare an independent state on May 4.

30/12: President Ezer Weizman calls on leaders of Christian communities in Israel to contribute to the "peace process".

31/12: Israeli cabinet decides IDF will respond with heavy bombing deep in Lebanon to future Katyusha rocket attacks on Israel.

31/12: Housing Ministry publishes tender for over 1000 new homes in two Judea-Samaria settlements.

31/12: Antiquities Authority okays construction of Jewish homes on Mount of Olives (Ras al-Amud).

31/12: Bureau of Statistics pegs Israel's end-of year population at six million.

January 2, 1999: Thousands of Arabs march in Judea, Samaria and Gaza in commemoration of Fatah day, vow to push for statehood.

2/1: Hizb'Allah warns Israel not to bomb Lebanese targets in response to Katyusha attacks on Israel.

3/1: Israeli police detain 14 members of "Concerned Christians" cult; alleges they planned to instigate violence in Jerusalem.

3/1: Former Prime Minister's aide Avigdor Lieberman launches new immigrants' party, Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel our home).

3/1: Tension in north as residents brace for rocket attack after IAF accidentally wounds Lebanese civilians.

3/1: Seven contractors bid for tenders on Har Homa housing site.

3/1: Saddam Hussein says Iraq will challenge and resist no-fly zones imposed on the north and south of his country.

4/1: Arab terrorist opens fire on civilian van in Hebron, wounding two Jewish women. Netanyahu demands Arafat apprehend the gunmen.

4/1: Knesset approves early elections bill.

4/1: MK Meridor and Shahak agree to run together for elections, undecided over who should head the faction.

4/1: Jewish Agency says 46,000 new immigrants came from former USSR in 1998.

4/1: Hizb'Allah again threatens retaliation.

5/1: Lebanon bomb wounds IDF soldier.

5/1: PA minister Nabil Sha'ath says PA won't delay declaration of "Palestine" on May 4.

5/1: Senior Likud members reportedly plan to depose Netanyahu.

6/1: Shahak launches new party and announces he will run for PM. Declares Netanyahu is a "danger" to Israel.

6/1: Hebron Palestinian shot dead by soldiers as he wields a toy gun.

7/1: Bill Clinton's impeachment trial begins.

7/1: Netanyahu announces 1999 inflation target rate of 4 per cent to be revised to 5 or 6 percent.

7/1: Labour Party sets primaries date for February 15.

7/1: Lipkin-Shahak gets roasting from Tel Aviv market vendors.

7/1: Peres meets Arafat; says PA chief agrees he could delay declaration of statehood if Wye Agreement is implemented by Israel.

7/1: Likud launches election campaign, accusing Barak of "evading responsibility" and "fleeing the truth".

7/1: 300 Palestinians demonstrate in Hebron to protest four-day closure imposed after earlier shooting.

10/1: Netanyahu warns that Israel will annex disputed territories should Arafat declare Palestinian state unilaterally in May.

11/1: Deadline for top US officials to make submissions to Clinton over Israel's request that the US free Jonathan Pollard, jailed for life for spying for Israel.


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