Despite being a year of ethnic unrest and major domestic political change in the USSR, 1988 was also an active one for Soviet diplomacy in the Middle East. At the beginning of the year, Moscow was faced with the dual challenges of reacting to the intifada and the intensification of the Iraqi-Iranian War. While the war ended in a cease-fire during the summer—a development warmly welcomed by Moscow—the intifada continued and, in part, contributed to the decision by the Palestine National Council (PNC), in November, to declare the creation of a Palestinian state. The Soviet Union’s rather ambiguous reaction to this development reflected Moscow’s desire to support the mainstream PLO while also continuing the slow, but steady, improvement of its relations with Israel. The improving relations between Moscow and Jerusalem were marked, at the end of 1988, by Israel’s prompt return of four criminals who hijacked a Soviet plane to Israel in December, and by Israeli aid to the Soviet Union following the Armenian earthquake, a week later.