MIDDLE EAST HOURGLASS:

August 1, 1997: US Congress allows US relations with PLO to lapse by recessing without extending enabling legislation.

1/8: 16 of 18 PA ministers offer to resign following damaging reports of financial abuse.

1/8: Iran and Syria issue joint statement against Israel as President Hafez Assad ends visit to Tehran.

2/8: Investigation into Jerusalem market (Mahane Yehuda) explosions hits snag as identity of bombers unclear; Hamas denies responsibility while IDF closure tightens.

3/8: Israeli Cabinet decides to withold tax revenues amounting to 60% of PA's budget; IDF remains on high alert, arrests over 100 Palestinians since market bombing in "war on terror, not PA".

4/8: Israeli commandos kill 2 Hizb'Allah regional commanders in Lebanon raid.

4/8: Mohammed Khatami sworn in as Iranian president, hailed by media as "moderate".

6/8: Jordan's Crown Prince Hassan visits, urges Arafat to resume security cooperation with Israel.

6/8: Arafat tells Fatah leaders to prepare for the "big battle ahead".

6/8: US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright calls on Arafat to fulfill obligations on security.

7/8: Large Israeli Arab delegation, including 6 MKs, begins controversial visit to Damascus.

7/8: Jordanian paper reports Arafat's secret meetings this week in Amman with Hamas leader Abu Marzook and Iraq's ambassador to Jordan.

8/8: Kiryat Shmona synagogue hit in first Katyusha rocket attacks in 15 months inside Israel.

9/8: IAF sends air strikes against Hizb'Allah targets.

10/8: US envoy Dennis Ross arrives for meetings with Netanyahu and Arafat in bid to restore security cooperation.

10/8: IDF soldier killed in south Lebanon as clashes with Hizb'Allah escalate. Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri meets with Assad as casualties mount.

11/8: Market bombing claims 14th victim, while 26 others remain in area hospitals.

11/8: Ross continues intense shuttle between Jerusalem and Ram'Allah to achieve "trilateral" security cooperation, including American CIA personnel as referees.

11/8: Israeli Arab delegation visits Palestinian refugee camp in Syria where Arab MKs call for "right of return" and express hopes Syria "wins in all wars."

12/8: Arafat agrees to full security cooperation with Israel in presence of US "witnesses"; Netanyahu government presses for action against terrorists, not forums.

12/8: Assad meets Israeli Arab delegation, says Netanyahu is "an enemy of peace" and that Syria will keep all options open. Labour MK Salah Tarif tells Israeli press he "fell in love with Assad."

13/8: Netanyahu meets King Hussein in Aqaba, tells him Israel's closure is vital to prevent terror attacks.

13/8: Ross ends Jerusalem-Ram'Allah shuttles claiming "a beginning" of progress on security issues, paving way for Albright visit to discuss political issues.

14/8: Albright announces plans for September visit to speed up Israel-Palestinian talks. IDF lifts closures on Ram'Allah and Hebron, but not Bethlehem.

14/8: Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital denounces as "lies" PA claims it turned out Palestinian patients following market bombing; says it treated PA health officials in past week.

15/8: Israeli Arab delegation returns with message Syria ready for peace, but doubts progress with Netanyahu.

16/8: Arafat says Palestinians will not yield to Israeli "dictates" to dismantle terrorist infrastructure; willing to "wipe out" the Oslo accords. PA Cabinet approves boycott of Israeli goods.

16/8: Slain Israeli taxi driver found in cistern near Jericho. PA security court swiftly convicts 3 Palestinians.

17/8: Israel government expresses doubts over London paper's report that market bombing planned in England.

17/8: Histadrut union federation declares dispute over Cabinet's economic reform plan.

18/8: Israel blames lone SLA commander for shelling Sidon. Hizb'Allah returns fire on Jezzine; nine dead in all.

18/8: Israel agrees to release 30% of tax funds owed to PA. Islamic Jihad to Arafat: "Lead armed struggle or leave Gaza."

19/8: Up to 60 Katyushas hit northern Galilee. Netanyahu urges restraint.

20/8: PA holds "national unity" dialogue with Hamas, Islamic Jihad. Arafat says "all options are open."

20/8: IAF planes hit high-profile targets in Lebanon.

21/8: PA continues dialogue with Hamas. Israel and US criticise move.

21/8: Labour leader Ehud Barak fires half of party staff; unions threaten strike.

23/8: Palestinians stone IDF post at Rachel's Tomb.

24/8: Netanyahu begins Far East visit.

24/8: Labor's Barak rescinds firing of workers, easing crisis.


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