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2000: One-sixth of the Israeli population is online.

Internet and telecommunications companies thrive in a nation known for its vigorous cell-phone use.

2000: The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) estimates that about one half of the Israeli population has completed military service.

Military service is compulsory at age 18 for most Israelis; exceptions are made for the ultra-Orthodox. Men serve for three years and women for two, with reserve service for men lasting until age 51 and for single women until age 24.

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January 2000: President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt signs a legal-reform package that provides women equal divorce rights.

The new law signed into law by Egyptian president Mubarak essentially gives women the same divorce rights as men. Women no longer need to show proof of physical abuse or adultery, for example, to end a marriage. Egypt becomes only the second country in the Arab world, after Tunisia, to grant women these rights.

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January 25, 2000: In Kuwait, two women writers are given prison sentences after one is convicted of blasphemy and the other of using indecent language.

Laila al-Othman's use of the word "lustful" to describe sea waves in her book The Departure is interpreted by authorities as having a sexual connotation. She claims this was unintended. Alia Shuaib, a professor at Kuwait University, is found guilty of "publishing opinions that ridicule religion" in a book she published in 1993, Spiders Bemoan a Wound. Each receives a suspended two-month sentence.

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February 16, 2000: Haifa al-Baker becomes the first woman lawyer in Qatar.

February 23, 2000: Ofra Haza, Yemeni-Israeli singer, dies.

Ofra Haza's sound, a mix of traditional songs and dance beats, made her an international star. She was nominated for a Grammy Award in the World Beat category in 1992 and even performed at the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo at the request of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin. Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak deliver eulogies at Haza's funeral.

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2000: The United Arab Emirates establishes Internet City, a free-trade zone located in Dubai for Internet businesses.

Similarly, Media City, a hub for global media companies, opens in 2001, also in Dubai.

March 21, 2000: Israel hands over some of the West Bank territory to the Palestinians.

The West Bank land handed over in a transfer from Israeli to Palestinian control amounts to 6.1 percent of the total Occupied Territories. This completes the transfer agreement made at Wye River in 1998.

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May 2000: Israelis withdraw earlier than planned from the security zone in Lebanon due to military pressure by Hezbollah.

Despite the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, Hezbollah continues cross-border attacks on Israel.

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June 30, 2000: Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim is arrested on charges of fraud, bribery, and spreading false information.

A prominent Egyptian sociologist and human rights activist, Dr. Ibrahim had advocated voter registration and election monitoring and reported on attacks on Egypt's Coptic Christian community. Convicted of the charges of fraud, bribery, and spreading false information, he is sentenced to a seven-year prison term, but is later granted a new trial. On July 29, 2002, he will be convicted for a second time and given another seven-year sentence. Many human rights watch groups contend the charges against Ibrahim are politically motivated and that his conviction is designed to "muzzle civil society in Egypt."

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July 2000: Iranian singer Googoosh performs in New York City.

Faegheh Atashin, popularly known as Googoosh, is an Iranian pop star and icon of female freedom and sexuality. She and other female solo artists were banned from singing in Iran by the Ayatollah Khomeini.

2000: Women's rights activists continue their struggle to gain the right to vote and stand for political office in Kuwait.

After being turned away by officials from registration centers, which opened in February to update the all-male voters lists, a number of women file a complaint against the interior minister, al-Shaikh Mohammad Khaled al-Sabah. This challenge to the legitimacy of Kuwait's electoral law, which denies women the right to vote, is heard by the Constitutional Court in June and is rejected.

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July 25, 2000: A peace summit at Camp David between Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat ends without agreement.

A peace summit hosted at Camp David by U.S. president Bill Clinton ends after two weeks, with the parties unable to come up with a formula to reconcile divisive issues concerning competing Israeli and Palestinian claims to Jerusalem, security, borders, and refugees. At the summit, Barak offers far-reaching compromises to resolve the disputes, while Arafat offers nothing. President Clinton publicly blames Arafat for the failure. Barak and Arafat, however, promise to continue to work toward a permanent peace agreement.

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July 28, 2000: The leader of Afghanistan's Taliban regime bans the growing of opium poppy.

Before the beginning of the November planting season, Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban's supreme leader, bans poppy growing in Afghanistan. He augments the ban with a religious edict declaring the crop to be contrary to the tenets of Islam. According to the United Nations, in 2000 Afghanistan produced nearly 4,000 tons of opium, about 75 percent of the world's supply.

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August 2000: Natural gas is discovered off the coast of Israel.

Should the recently discovered reserves of natural gas off of Israel's coast prove large, tapping them could reduce the country's immense dependence on foreign suppliers of energy, as could Israeli research into solar and wind power. Currently, for political reasons, Israel's energy demand is met by suppliers outside of the Arab world.

September 2000: Turkish weightlifter Halil Mutlu wins an Olympic gold medal in Sydney.

Turkish weightlifters compete exceptionally well in international competitions. Halil Mutlu, nicknamed "Little Dynamo" because of his small stature (123 pounds), wins the gold medal in the Sydney Olympics, lifting more than 300 pounds. His mentor, Naim Suleymanoglu, a.k.a. "Pocket Hercules," has also won a gold medal in Olympic competition.

September 15, 2000: Two Omani women are elected to serve on Sultan Qaboos's advisory council.

The advisory council, or Majlis al-Shura, has no formal powers but is consulted by Oman's ruler, Sultan Qaboos, on new laws and public policy.

September 28, 2000: Ariel Sharon's visit to the al-Aqsa mosque marks the beginning of a second Arab intifada.

Ariel Sharon, leader of Israel's right-wing opposition party, Likud, visits the area around the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem accompanied by 1,000 armed policemen and riot forces. A large police presence at a site sacred to Muslims, together with the timing of the visit -- on the heels of failed talks to end Israeli occupation peacefully -- strike a nerve with many Palestinians. Clashes ensue between Palestinian rioters and Israeli soldiers. The Islamic resistance movement Hamas calls on Palestinians to storm Israeli army outposts in the Occupied Territories. This marks the beginning of the second intifada, or "shaking off," known as the al-Aqsa intifada. Violence spreads from Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem to northern Israeli towns such as Nazareth and Umm al-Fahem. By mid-December, more than 300 are dead, including 13 Israeli Arabs.

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October 12, 2000: The USS Cole is attacked in a Yemeni harbor.

Seventeen American sailors are killed in an explosion on the USS Cole, a U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer docked in the Yemeni port of Aden. The Cole was moored for refueling when a rubber boat blew up alongside it. It is the deadliest attack on the U.S. military since the 1996 bombing of a U.S. Air Force barracks in Saudi Arabia that killed 19.

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November 12, 2000: Leah Rabin, widow of Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin, dies of cancer.

Leah Rabin, a homemaker-turned-peace campaigner, was feted abroad as an advocate of Israeli-Arab coexistence but was shunned by some in Israel as a divisive figure. She counted political leaders, including U.S. president Bill Clinton and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, among her close friends, and after her husband's assassination, she crisscrossed the world to carry the torch for his peace policies. Mrs. Rabin's harshest critics were the supporters of hard-line leader Benjamin Netanyahu, whom she accused of fanning the hatred that led to her husband's murder at a Tel Aviv peace rally in 1995. Netanyahu had opposed the land-for-security agreements Yitzhak Rabin signed with the Palestinians.

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December 10, 2000: Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak resigns.

With his governing coalition on the verge of collapse, Prime Minister Barak submits his resignation to Israeli president Moshe Katsav. The next election, scheduled to take place within 60 days, is to serve as a vote of confidence or no-confidence on Barak and his policies.

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2001: Adult literacy rates in Iran reach 95 percent.

Iran's high adult literacy rate represents a vast improvement since the start of the 1979 revolution, when the figure was only 48 percent. Iran now has more than 30 free public universities, 15 of them located in Tehran.

2001: Analysts predict that Israel's booming economy will slow down as a result of its political situation.

The outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada in September 2000, the collapse of Ehud Barak's government in December, and the worldwide slowdown in the high-tech industry, lead some experts to suggest that Israel's surging economy will soften. Part of the economic boom in the 1990s has been attributed to the influx of scientific and economic professionals who emigrated from the former Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s.

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January 28, 2001: Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan sign an agreement on a $1 billion gas pipeline project.

The project promises to build two pipelines to transport Egyptian natural gas to Middle East partners and to European markets.

January 31, 2001: A Libyan intelligence agent is found guilty of murdering 270 people in the 1988 Pan Am Lockerbie bombing.

Abdel Basset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi is found guilty of murder and is sentenced to life in a Glasgow, Scotland, prison. A second man charged in the bombing, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, is found not guilty of murder and freed. The trial was held in a Netherlands courtroom under Scottish law.

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February 6, 2001: Ariel Sharon wins election as Israel's prime minister.

Ariel Sharon wins election to the office of prime minister with the largest vote margin ever in Israeli politics. The Likud Party leader begins efforts to unite the country by attracting members of the defeated Labor Party to his administration. The unity government that he forms is the largest in Israel's history and is split into a broad spectrum of left, right, center, and religious parties.

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February 26, 2001: Taliban leader Mullah Omar issues an edict to destroy all pre-Islamic statues and shrines in Afghanistan.

Led by Mullah Omar, the Taliban evokes international outrage when it smashes ancient cultural icons, including two giant fifth-century Buddha statues in Bamiyan; one was the tallest standing Buddha in the world.

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March 1, 2001: The Hawar Islands are awarded to Bahrain over Qatar's objections.

The International Court of Justice settles a five-year-old dispute between neighboring countries Bahrain and Qatar over territorial rights to the Hawar Islands and adjoining natural-gas fields in the Gulf of Bahrain.

April 9-11, 2001: An international commission gathers in Lebanon to discuss sustainable development.

The Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) convenes a Thematic Round Table in Beirut to discuss regional concerns about sustainable development, fresh water supplies, land use, poverty, standards of living, and technology. The commission representatives prepare for the "Rio + 10" World Summit on Sustainable Development.

June 2001: Israel divests Merhav, the largest joint Arab-Israeli commercial venture to date.

The Israeli company Merhav announces that it has sold its 20 percent share in the Middle East Oil Refinery Ltd. (MIDOR) to the National Bank of Egypt, ending what had been the largest Arab-Israeli joint commercial venture to date.

September 11, 2001: Two commercial airliners strike the World Trade Center complex in New York City, and one strikes the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Believed to have been on course for the U.S. Capitol, a fourth jet crashes into an open field in western Pennsylvania. About 3,000 people die in the events, which result in the complete destruction of the World Trade Center Twin Towers and severe damage to the Pentagon building. The U.S. labels the incidents terrorist actions and suspects Muslim extremists are responsible. The U.S. launches attacks in Afghanistan, eventually ousting the ruling Muslim fundamentalist regime known as the Taliban. The Taliban and its leader, Mullah Omar, are thought to sponsor the terrorist network al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden.

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October 2001: Qatar wins one of four Asian seats on the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

Qatar's seat on the council is one of four reserved for Asian member countries.

November 2001: Egypt launches its first privately owned satellite network.

Dream TV is launched with two channels: Dream 1 targets youth viewers, while Dream 2 shows movies and variety programming. A third channel, Dream 3, is set to launch at a later date.

November 9-13, 2001: The World Trade Organization meets in Doha, Qatar, to discuss the developing world's economy.

The meetings produce the Doha Development Agenda, which ensures that industrialized nations aid developing nations by providing markets for their agricultural and manufactured goods. Violent anti-globalization demonstrations that occurred at the 1999 Seattle meeting are not repeated in Doha, but threats are made against Qatar for inviting Israel to participate.

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December 7, 2001: Afghan opposition forces conquer Kandahar, effectively ending Taliban authority.

In previous weeks, the first major incursion of U.S. ground troops had landed near Kandahar, the last major city under Taliban control, to support Afghans fighting Taliban and al-Qaeda forces. A series of U.S. air strikes opens the way for the anti-Taliban forces to take control of the city.

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2002: Saudi Arabia's unemployment rate stands at between 15 and 20 percent.

Foreign migrants continue to account for some 65 percent of the Saudi work force, raising fears that unemployed youth could be increasingly drawn to radical Islamist groups.

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2002: Female attendance in schools reaches a record high in the United Arab Emirates.

About 98 percent of all females eligible for school attend. In fact, 60 percent of the student body of the UAE University in al-Ain are women. Graduates make up a large percentage of teachers, health service professionals, and government employees. The UAE's first woman pilot recently graduated from its aviation college.

January 2002: More than 100 Israeli military reserve servicemen sign a petition refusing to serve in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel's armed forces deal with internal dissent as some Israeli soldiers question the government's 35-year policy of occupation of these territories and the harsh measures adopted by the military against civilian populations there. There remains, however, a substantially high rate of volunteer service among Israeli soldiers in the Occupied Territories. In March, women soldiers are deployed for the first time in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

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January 29, 2002: U.S. president George W. Bush says Iran, Iraq, and North Korea constitute an "axis of evil."

In his first State of the Union address, President Bush warns that the proliferation of long-range missiles, known to be under development in these countries, is as great a danger to the U.S. as terrorism.

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February 2002: Saudi Arabia's authorities shut down more than 400 Internet sites.

The Saudi government fails to provide a clear explanation for the censorship. Internet users, a fast-growing group that numbered 112,500 in April 1999, are largely undeterred, and can still obtain unauthorized Internet access through neighbors Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

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April 2002: Israel launches military raids against the Palestinian Authority and suspected terrorists in the West Bank.

The Israeli government responds to an increase in suicide bombings, including an attack on Jews celebrating Passover. Israel defends its raids, saying they are designed to destroy the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure. The Palestinians argue that Israel's goal is to destroy the Palestinian Authority and its economic and civilian infrastructure.

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May 2002: Locusts invade Afghanistan's northern plains, threatening crop production.

The lack of an effective control program has allowed hundreds of millions of locusts to threaten nearly 70 percent of the crops in parts of northern Afghanistan, the country's most productive agricultural area. Several million rural households are potentially affected by the swarm. Insecticides and traditional trench traps are being used to combat the insects.

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May 29, 2002: Libya offers $2.7 billion to compensate the families of the 270 killed in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103.

The offer comes with conditions: Forty percent is to be paid when United Nations sanctions are lifted from Libya; another 40 percent is to be paid when U.S. sanctions are lifted; and the remaining 20 percent is to be paid when Libya is taken off the U.S. list of states sponsoring terrorism. Libya's government quickly denies having made the offer, saying it might have come from an unauthorized source. Some of the victims' families say they would refuse it even if it were official.

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June 10-16, 2002: Hamid Karzai is elected head of Afghanistan's Transitional Authority by the emergency loya jirga, or grand council.

The loya jirga, a centuries-old political institution made up of representatives of Afghan society, convenes in Kabul to restore the Afghan government. For the first time in Afghan history, women are allowed to participate. It is decided that free and fair elections will be held within two years.

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June 23, 2002: Turkey reaches the soccer World Cup semifinals for the first time.

Soccer is Turkey's most popular sport, perhaps reflected in the government's decision to mint commemorative coins celebrating the national team's third-place overall finish in the 2002 World Cup.

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