Since 1948 there had been fierce competition between neighbouring states to lead an Arab response to the creation of Israel. That left the Palestinians as passive onlookers.
In January 1964, Arab governments - wanting to create a Palestinian organisation that would remain essentially under their control - voted to create a body called the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
But the Palestinians wanted a genuinely independent body, and that was the goal of Yasser Arafat who took over the chairmanship of the PLO in 1969. His Fatah organisation (founded in secret five years earlier) was gaining notoriety with its armed operations against Israel.
Fatah fighters inflicted heavy casualties on Israeli troops at Karameh in Jordan in 1968.