Al-Aqsa Intifada

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It has been suggested that Rosh Hashana Arab Assault be merged into this article or section. (Discuss)
It has been suggested that October Riots be merged into this article or section. (Discuss)

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The wreckage of a commuter bus in West Jerusalem after a suicide bombing on Tuesday, 18 June 2002. The blast killed 20 people.
The wreckage of a commuter bus in West Jerusalem after a suicide bombing on Tuesday, 18 June 2002. The blast killed 20 people.

The al-Aqsa Intifada (Arabic: ,انتفاضة الاقصى, transliteration: Intifadat Al-Aqsa; Hebrew: אינתיפאדת אל אקצה (or אינתיפאדת אל-אקצה with a hyphen), transliteration: Intifadat al-Aqtsa) is the wave of violence and political conflict that began in September 2000 between Palestinian Arabs and Israelis; it is also called the Second Intifada (see also First Intifada). "Intifada" is an Arabic word for "uprising" (literally translated as "shaking off"). Palestinians consider the intifada to be a war of national liberation against foreign occupation, whereas Israelis consider it to be a terrorist campaign.

It has also been called the Oslo War by those who consider it a result of concessions made by Israel following the Oslo Accords, and Arafat's War, after the late Palestinian leader whom Israelis blame for starting it.

The Israeli Defense Forces codenamed the events (already before their outbreak) אירועי גאות ושפל ("Ebb and Tide events"). This name remained internal code in the Israeli Security Forces, and the Intifada mostly called in Israel אינתיפאדת אל-אקצה or אינתיפאדת אל אקצה (the transliteration of last two names is Intifadat Al Aktza or sometimes Intifadat El Aktsa) or האינתיפאדה השניה or האינתיפאדה השנייה (the last two names means "the Second Intifada"). In some right-wing Israeli circles, it is unofficially referred to as the Oslo War (מלחמת אוסלו).

The truce (Arabic: تهدئة Tahdi'a) declared at the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit of 2005 was considered by many to mark the end of the Intifada, despite incidents of sporadic violence from both sides during the first months of 2005. The lull in violence was attributed by many to the change in Palestinian government following the death of Yasser Arafat and the Israeli Disengagement Plan.


Prior events

By signing the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords between Palestinians and Israel, the Palestine Liberation Organization committed to curbing violence in exchange for phased withdrawal of Israeli forces from parts of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and Palestinian self-government within those areas through the creation of the Palestinian Authority.

However, between September 1993 and September 2000, 256 Israeli civilians and soldiers were killed by Palestinians. (Source: Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs). Israeli leaders called the fatalities the "victims of peace".

In 1995, Shimon Peres took the place of Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated by an Israeli extremist opposed to the Oslo peace agreement. In the 1996 elections, Israelis elected the conservative Likud candidate, Benjamin Netanyahu, who promised to restore safety for Israelis by conditioning every step in the peace process on Israel's assessment of the Palestinian Authority's fulfillment of its obligations in curbing violence as outlined in the Oslo agreement. Netanyahu continued the policy of construction within and expansion of existing Israeli settlements, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Though construction within the settlements was not explicitly prohibited in the Oslo agreement and the violence increased after 1993, many Palestinians believed that the continuing construction was contrary to the spirit of the Oslo agreement.

For the Israeli side, the effects of Oslo were deeply disappointing; the number of people killed by Palestinian terrorists in the five years immediately after the Oslo accord (256) was doubly greater than the number killed in the 15 years preceding the agreement (216). During the six years of the first uprising (Dec. 9, 1987 to Sep. 9, 1993), 172 people were murdered. More than 1,100 Israelis have been killed during the "al-Aqsa uprising" beginning in September 2000.

For the Palestinian side, the effects of Oslo were also deeply disappointing. Following the 1993 agreement and gradual Israeli withdrawal from major cities until September 2000, 405 Palestinians were killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers (in defensive measures) (Source: B'Tselem). Because of defensive enforced closure of security fences by Israel, many Palestinians lost their jobs in Israeli cities; the Palestinian economy collapsed causing a 30% drop in the standard of living and a 50% unemployment rate.

Many Palestinians blamed this collapse on the conditions imposed in Oslo, especially the rapidly increasing settler population and the subsequent uncompensated land confiscation for the enlargement of "buffer zones" around the settlements.

Media investigations have claimed that Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority had pre-planned the intifada.

[1] [2] [3] [4]. They point out that Yasser Arafat had warned that the failure of on-going peace process talks would lead to another intifada [5]. They often quote a statement made by Imad Falouji, the P.A. Communications Minister at the time, that the violence had been planned since Arafat's return from the Camp David summit in July, far in advance of Sharon's visit. He stated that the intifada "was carefully planned since the return of (Palestinian President) Yasser Arafat from Camp David negotiations rejecting the U.S. conditions."[6][7]

In his book The High Cost of Peace, Yossef Bodansky writes:

Clinton's proposal... included explicit guarantees that Jews would have the right to visit and pray in and around the Temple Mount... Once Sharon was convinced that Jews had free access to the Temple Mount, there would be little the Israeli religious and nationalist Right could do to stall the peace process. When Sharon expressed interest in visiting the Temple Mount, Barak ordered GSS chief Ami Ayalon to approach Jibril Rajoub with a special request to facilitate a smooth and friendly visit... Rajoub promised it would be smooth as long as Sharon would refrain from entering any of the mosques or praying publicly... Just to be on the safe side, Barak personally approached Arafat and once again got assurances that Sharon's visit would be smooth as long as he did not attempt to enter the Holy Mosques... A group of Palestinian dignitaries came to protest the visit, as did three Arab Knesset Members. With the dignitaries watching from a safe distance, the Shahab (youth mob) threw stones and attempted to get past the Israeli security personnel and reach Sharon and his entourage... Still, Sharon's deportment was quiet and dignified. He did not pray, did not make any statement, or do anything else that might be interpreted as offensive to the sensitivities of Muslims. Even after he came back near the Wailing Wall under the hail of stones, he remained calm. "I came here as one who believes in coexistence between Jews and Arabs," Sharon told the waiting reporters. "I believe that we can build and develop together. This was a peaceful visit. Is it an instigation for Israeli Jews to come to the Jewish people's holiest site?" (p354)

Following Israel's pullout from Lebanon in May 2000, the PLO official Farouk Kaddoumi told reporters: "We are optimistic. Hezbollah's resistance can be used as an example for other Arabs seeking to regain their rights"Citation needed.

Starting as early as September 13, 2000, members of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement carried out a number of attacks on Israeli military and civilian targets, in violation of Oslo Accords. In addition, the Israeli agency Palestinian Media Watch alleged that the Palestinian official TV broadcasts became increasingly militant during the summer of 2000, as Camp David negotiations faltered [8].

According to the Mitchell Report, (the investigatory committee set up to look into the cause of the violence and named after the chairman of the committee, former U.S. Senator George Mitchell), the government of Israel asserted that

the immediate catalyst for the violence was the breakdown of the Camp David negotiations on 25 July 2000 and the “widespread appreciation in the international community of Palestinian responsibility for the impasse.” In this view, Palestinian violence was planned by the PA leadership, and was aimed at “provoking and incurring Palestinian casualties as a means of regaining the diplomatic initiative.”

The Palestine Liberation Organization, according to the same report, denied that the Intifada was planned, and asserted that "Camp David represented nothing less than an attempt by Israel to extend the force it exercises on the ground to negotiations." [9]

The report also stated:

From the perspective of the PLO, Israel responded to the disturbances with excessive and illegal use of deadly force against demonstrators; behavior which, in the PLO’s view, reflected Israel’s contempt for the lives and safety of Palestinians. For Palestinians, the widely seen video of Muhammad al Durra in Gaza on September 30, apparently shot as he huddled behind his father, reinforced that perception, although these images are widely regarded as forgeries.

The Mitchell Report, based on a subsequent investigation, found that the Sharon visit did not cause the Al-Aqsa Intifada, although it was poorly timed and would clearly have a provocative effect [10]. The report also concluded that

Accordingly, we have no basis on which to conclude that there was a deliberate plan by the PA to initiate a campaign of violence at the first opportunity; or to conclude that there was a delilberate plan by the Government of Israel to respond with lethal force. [11]


Stop! The neutrality of this section is disputed.


On September 27, Sgt. David Biri (Information from Israeli government) was killed; Israeli sources typically view this as the start of the Intifada.

Sharon visits the Temple Mount

On September 28, the Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited in the Temple Mount (called Har HaBayt in Hebrew, Al-Haram As-Sharif in Arabic) in the Old City of Jerusalem, the holiest site for Judaism, the third holiest site in Islam, and a place of special significance to Christianity. Sharon's visit was in response to complaints by archeologists that Muslim religious authorities had vandalized archeological remains beneath the surface of the mount during the conversion of Solomon's Stables into a mosque.

Palestinians claim East Jerusalem, which Israel unilaterally annexed in 1967, as their capital. Palestinians, the UN and many countries consider East Jerusalem to be part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank or part of a corpus separatum provided by the Partition of 1947. They claim that Tel Aviv as Israel's capital. Israel considers the whole of Jerusalem to be its eternal capital, and part of. U.S. The US Congress defines "Jerusalem the undivided capital of the State of Israel"

Sharon's impending visit was officially announced and approved in advance, though prior to it some moderates on both sides protested, because of his controversial political stance. He was warned that this could lead to riots but Sharon declared that he went to the site with a message of peace. His visit was condemned by the Palestinians as a provocation and an incursion, as was his over 1,000 strong armed bodyguard that arrived on the scene with him.

Rosh Hashana Arab Assault

The Rosh Hashana Arab Assault is the Arab rioting that broke out on September 28, 2000 and was the opening of al-Aqsa Intifada.

The rioting of the Rosh Hashana Arab Assault started just before Rosh Hashana, on September 28, 2000, when Ariel Sharon ascended the Temple Mount on which rests the Al-Aqsa Mosque. For this reason, it is known by Arabs as the Al-Aqsa Intifada.

The term relates both to the Palestinian riots (see further discussion in al-Aqsa Intifada) and the riots by the Israeli Arabs which are known as the October Riots.

The "October Riots" begin

On September 29, 2000, the day after Sharon's visit, following Friday prayers, large riots broke out around Old Jerusalem during which several Palestinians were shot dead. Already in the same day, the September 29, 2000, demonstrations and riots broke out in the West Bank. In the days that followed, demonstrations erupted all over the West Bank and Gaza.

Also on September 29, 2000, in the West Bank city of Qalqilya, a Palestinian police officer working with Israeli police on a joint patrol opened fire and killed his Israeli counterpart Supt. Yosef Tabeja, a Israel Border Police officer.

On October 12, two Israeli reservists who entered Ramallah were arrested by the PA police. An agitated Palestinian mob stormed the police station, beat the soldiers to death, and threw their mutilated bodies into the street. The killings were captured on video by an Italian TV crew and broadcast on TV; the famous picture of one of the lynchers waving his blood-stain hands from the window shocked and outraged many around the world, and became another iconic image. [12] [13] [14] [15]

In response, Israel launched a series of retaliatory air strikes against the Palestinian Authority. The violence quickly escalated and in the first six days of the Intifada, 61 Palestinians were killed and 2,657 were injured by Israeli Military and Police.

During the early months of the Intifada, Palestinian gunmen infiltrated Beit Jala a Christian Arab quarter south of Jerusalem and opened fire at the neighboring Jewish quarter of Gilo to provoke Israeli counterfire and drive out Beit Jala's residents. No such infiltrations occured into Muslim neighborhoods. Both Beit Jala and Gilo lie in the former Jordanian sector of the city conquered during the Six-Day War).

In October, Israeli Arabs, citizens of Israel, started violent riots in which main roads (such as Wadi Ara road) were blocked while banks and stores were set on fire and Jewish civilians were assaulted by the Arab rioters. The Israeli Police reacted by sending crowd-control units to try to break up the riots. Jan Bechor, an Israeli civilian from Rishon LeZion was stoned to death by an Arab mob near Jisr Az-Zarqa. Policemen opened fire with rubber-coated bullets and later with live ammunition on the rioters, and snipers were deployed. The result was tragic: 12 Israeli-Arabs and 1 Palestinian were killed by police fire. The riots were suppressed and order was restored.

Following the riots, there was a high degree of tension between Jewish and Arab citizens and distrust between the Arab citizens and police. An investigation committee, head by Supreme Court Justice Theodor Or, reviewed the violent riots and found that the police were poorly prepared to handle such riots and charged major officers with bad conduct. The Or Commission reprimended Prime Minister Ehud Barak and recommended Shlomo Ben-Ami (then the Internal Security Minister) not serve again as Minister of Public Security. The committee also blamed Arab leaders and Knesset members for contributing to inflaming the atmosphere and making the violence more severe. Retrieved from: [16]

Economic and human costs

In the Palestinian attacks, about 1,001 Israelis were killed (up to September 2004) and 6,700 were wounded (source: Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs). The Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group reports everyday disagreements and clashes between the various political factions, families and cities that a complete picture of Palestinian society is painted. These divisions have during the course of the al Aqsa Intifada also led to an increasingly violent ‘Intrafada’. In the 10 year period from 1993 to 2003, 16% of Palestinian civilian deaths were caused by Palestinian groups or individuals [17]. Erika Waak reports in The Humanist Of the total number of Palestinian civilians killed during this period by both Israeli and Palestinian security forces, 16 percent were the victims of Palestinian security forces.[18] Freedom House's annual survey of political rights and civil liberties, Freedom in the World 2001-2002, reports Civil liberties declined due to: shooting deaths of Palestinian civilians by Palestinian security personnel; the summary trial and executions of alleged collaborators by the Palestinian Authority (PA); extra-judicial killings of suspected collaborators by militias; and the apparent official encouragement of Palestinian youth to confront Israeli soldiers, thus placing them directly in harm's way. [19] The Israeli commerce has experienced much hardship, in particular because of the sharp drop in tourism. A representative of Israel's Chamber of Commerce has estimated the cumulative economic damage caused by the crisis at 150 to 200 billion Shekels, or 35 to 45 billion US $ - against an annual GDP of 122 billion dollars in 2002.

Following statistics of the Palestine Red Crescent Society 2,417 Palestinians were killed and 22,233 were wounded from 29 September 2000, to 1 August 2003. Sixteen square kilometers of land in the Gaza Strip, most of it agricultural, was razed by Israeli military forces and more than 601 houses were completely destroyed. The UNSCO (Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories) estimates the damage done to the Palestinian economy at over 1.1 billion dollars in the first quarter of 2002, compared to an annual GDP of 4.5 billion dollars. There are 42% of Gazans dependent on food aid, and 18% of Gaza children exhibit chronic malnutrition. Additionally, 85% of Gazans and 58% of Palestinians in the west bank lived below the poverty line.

A study (see below) by the Institute on Combatting Terrorism indicates that nearly 55% of the Palestinians killed were combatants; moreover, the non-combatant Palestinian casualties are mostly male of combatant ages. According to their data, more than 300 Palestinians were killed by actions of their own side. Palestinians dispute this, as the report treats most people that were killed as combatants, often much to the dispute of locals and international aid workers. Additionally, to reach these numbers, "combatant age" was defined to include ages 15 and up. Finally, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, this contradicts a calculation, claimed to be conducted by the Shin Bet, which determined that of the 2,341 Palestinians killed up to August 2003, only 551 were combatants - about 23%. [20]. However, the attribution of these numbers to the Shin Bet is highly disputed.

On August 24, 2004, Haaretz reporter Zeev Schiff published casualty figures based on Shin Bet data. Here is a summary of the figures presented in the article:

  • Some 1,001 Israelis were killed by Palestinian attacks in the al-Aqsa Intifada, most of them (more than 75%) civilians.
  • Palestinians sources claim 2,736 Palestinians killed in the intifada.
  • The Shin Bet has the names of 2,124 Palestinian dead.
  • Out of the figure of 2,124 dead, 1,414 (or 66%) were said to be combatants (armed men and/or "terrorists"). The casualties are thus assigned to organizations:

As a response to IDF statistics about Palestinian casualties in the West Bank, the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem released a study indicating two thirds of the Palestinians killed in 2004 did not participate in the fighting. [21] Some Israelis claim that the Palestinian Authority throughout the intifada has sought to place unarmed men, women, children and the elderly in the line of fire between Israeli forces and armed Palestinians, and that television, radio, sermons, and calls from mosque loudspeaker systems are used for this purpose. (See Engineering civilian casualties in External Links). Palestinians heavily dispute this claim.

On September 8, Maariv published IDF casualties figures indicating that some 989 Israelis were killed and 6,700 injured. Of the dead, 694 were civilians and 295 security personnel.


Ariel Sharon from the Likud ran against Ehud Barak from the Labour party and Sharon was elected Israeli prime minister in February, 2001 in the 2001 special election to the prime ministership.

On May 7, 2001, the IDF naval commandos captured the vessel Santorini, which sailed in international waters towards Palestinian Authority-controlled Gaza. The ship was laden with weaponry. The Israeli investigation that followed alleged that the shipment had been purchased by Ahmed Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command (PFLP-GC). The ship's value and that of its cargo was estimated at $10 million. The crew was reportedly planning to unload the cargo of weapons filled barrels — carefully sealed and waterproofed along with their contents — at a prearranged location off the Gaza coast, where the Palestinian Authority would recover them.

On June 1, 2001, a Hamas suicide bomber detonated himself in the Tel Aviv coastline Dolphinarium dancing club. 21 Israelis, most of them high school students, were killed. The attack significantly hampered American attempts to negotiate cease-fire.


In January 2002 the IDF Shayetet-13 naval commando captured the Karine A, a large boat carrying weapons from Iran presumably intended to be used by Palestine militants against Israel. It was discovered that top officials in the Palestinian Authority were involved in the smuggling. Israel claims that Yasser Arafat also was involved, a claim accepted by the Bush Administration.

A spate of suicide bombings launched against Israel elicited a military response. A suicide bombing dubbed the Passover Massacre (30 Israeli civilians were killed at Park hotel, Netanya) climaxed a bloody month of April 2002 (more than 130 Israelis, mostly civilians, killed in attacks). Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield. The operation led to the apprehension of many members of militant groups, as well as their weaponry and equipment.

The UN estimated that 497 Palestinians were killed and 1,447 wounded during the IDF reoccupation of Palestinian areas between 1 March through 7 May and in the immediate aftermath. An estimated 70-80 Palestinians, including approximately 50 civilians, were killed in Nablus. Four IDF soldiers were killed there. [22]

Especially fierce battles took place at the Jenin refugee camp: 32 Palestinian militants, 22 Palestinian civilians, and 23 Israeli soldiers were killed in the fighting. The battle remains a flashpoint for both sides, due to allegations by Palestinian leaders that hundreds of civilians were massacred during the IDF's operations in the camp. These allegations were completely disproven, but many supporters of the Palestinian cause still believe them.

See main article: The battle in Jenin 2002 for more information about this topic.

In late April 2 to May 10, a stand-off developed between armed Fatah militants, who sought refuge at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and the IDF. Despite the Code of Conduct demanding respect for holy sites, IDF snipers killed 7 people inside the church and wounded more than 40 people, the vast majority unarmed civilians. The stand-off was resolved by the deportation of 13 Palestinian militants to Europe and the IDF ended its 38 day siege of the church.


Following an Israeli intelligence report claiming to prove that Arafat paid $20,000 to Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the USA demanded democratic reforms in the Palestinian Authority, as well the appointment of a prime minister independent of Arafat. Following U.S. pressure, Arafat appointed on 13 March 2003 the moderate Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) as Palestinian prime minister.

Following the appointment of Abbas, the U.S. administration promoted the Road Map for Peace — the Quartet's plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by disbanding militant organizations, ending the Israeli occupation and establishing a democratic and peaceful Palestinian state. The first phase of the plan demanded that the PA suppress guerrilla and terrorist attacks and confiscate illegal weapons. Unable or unwilling to confront militant organizations and risk civil war, Abbas tried to reach a temporary cease-fire agreement with the militant factions and asked them to halt attacks on Israeli civilians.

On May 20, 2003, Israeli naval commandos intercepted another vessel, Abu Hassan, on course to the Gaza Strip from Lebanon. It was loaded with rockets, weapons, and ammunition. Eight crew members on board were arrested including a senior Hezbollah member.

In June 2003, a so-called Hudna (truce) was unilaterally declared by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which declared a ceasefire and halt to all attacks against Israel for a period of 45 days. The following month was relatively quiet on the Israeli side although several suicide bombings were committed against Israeli civilians. However, little changed in the everyday lives of Palestinians. Few roadblocks were removed (159 were left in the West Bank alone), and the IDF continued its policy of "targeted killings" (assassinations) in addition to crowd dispersal and demolitions.

One of the more provocative raids was when tanks and APCs invaded a refugee camp outside Nablus, killing four people, two of whom were militants. According to Palestinian witnesses, a squad of Israeli police disguised as Palestinian labourers opened fire on Abbedullah Qawasameh as he left a Hebron mosque [23]. YAMAM, the Israeli counter-terrorism police unit which performed the operation, claimed that Qawasemah opened fire on them as they attempted to arrest him.

On August 19, Hamas coordinated a suicide bombing attack on a crowded bus in Jerusalem killing 23 Israeli civilians, including 7 children. Hamas claimed it was a retaliation for the killing of 5 Palestinians (including Hamas leader Abbedullah Qawasameh) earlier in the week. U.S. and Israeli media outlets frequently refer to bus bombings shattering the quiet and bringing an end to the ceasefire but given the higher number of Palestinian deaths at the hands of Israeli forces, Palestinians perceive that these reports reflect a lack of concern for their peace and quiet.

Following the Hamas bus attack, Israeli Defence Forces were ordered to kill or capture all Hamas leaders in Hebron and the Gaza Strip. The plotters of the bus suicide bombing were all captured or killed and Hamas leadership in Hebron was badly damaged by the IDF. Strict curfews were enforced in Nablus, Jenin, and Tulkarem; the Nablus lockdown lasted for over 100 days. In Nazlet 'Issa, over 60 shops were destroyed by Israeli civil administration bulldozers, in what was described by locals as a scene that rivaled a natural disaster. The Israeli civil administration explained that the shops were demolished because they were built without a permit. Palestinians consider Israeli military curfews and property destruction to constitute collective punishment against innocent Palestinians. [24]

Unable to rule effectively under Arafat, Abbas resigned in September 2003. Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) was appointed to replace him. The Israeli government gave up hope for negotiated settlement to the conflict and pursued a unilateral policy of physically separating Israel from Palestinian communities by beginning construction on the Israeli West Bank barrier. Israel claims the barrier is necessary to prevent Palestinian attackers from entering Israeli cities. Palestinians claim the barrier separates Palestinian communities from each other and that the construction plan is a defacto annexation of Palestinian territory.

Following an October 4 suicide bombing in Maxim restaurant, Haifa, which claimed the lives of 21 Israelis, Israel claimed that Syria and Iran sponsor Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah and were responsible for the terrorist attack. Days after the Maxim massacre, IAF warplanes bombed a terrorist training base at Ein-Saheb, Syria.


In response to a repeated shelling of Israeli communities with Qassam rockets and mortar shells from Gaza, the IDF operated mainly in Rafah — to search and destroy smuggling tunnels used by militants to obtain weapons, ammunition, fugitives, cigarettes, car parts, electrical goods, foreign currency, gold, drugs and cloth from Egypt. Between September 2000 and May 2004, ninety tunnels connecting Egypt and the Gaza Strip have been found and destroyed. [25] Recent raids in Rafah left many families homeless. Israel's official stance is that their houses were captured by militants and were destroyed during battles with IDF forces. Many of these houses are abandoned due to Israeli incursions and later destroyed. Palestinians claim that many houses were destroyed to create a large buffer zone in the city, displacing several hundred people. The entire southern side of the city was completely destroyed, making it very unlikely that an entire portion of a city has been seized by "terrorists" to use as a base for gunfire (as can be seen in satellite photos [26]).

Some residents acknowledge the smuggling tunnels as the main factor in the unrest and destruction in Rafah, according to the Israeli newspaper Maariv:

"The Palestinian population around Philadelphi is fed up by the goings-on. Recently, one tunnel was revealed when local residents approached IDF soldiers and told them where it was. In another case, after the IDF soldiers and bulldozers destroyed a tunnel, leaving ruins behind them, some local residents shot the tunnel's owner to death." [27], [28].

Some accounts reflect a more common sentiment. [29] [30] [31].

"Mine is the last home in the street now and it's everything we have," said Abu Alouf, a resident who has watched her neighbors' houses destroyed one by one. "I have begged them not to destroy it. They know there are no tunnels here but I don't think it is about that at all. Do they really believe that every house in my street had a tunnel under the border?"
"It's not a matter of tunnels or terrorists," said Yusuf Ashair, a man made homeless in Block J. "They want us out of here, they want us to flee. They don't care if it's a school or a house they destroy. They know that if they destroy it all, people will leave."

On 2 February 2004, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced his plan to transfer all the Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip. The Israeli opposition dismissed his announcement as "media spin" but the Israeli Labour Party said it would support such a move. Sharon's right-wing coalition partners Mafdal and National Union rejected the plan and vowed to quit the government if it were implemented. Surprisingly, Yossi Beilin, peace advocate and architect of the Oslo Accords and the Geneva Initiative, also rejected the proposed withdrawal plan. He claimed that withdrawing from the Gaza Strip without a peace agreement would reward terror.

Following the declaration of the disengagement plan by Ariel Sharon and as a response to suicide attacks on Erez Crossing and Ashdod seaport (10 people were killed), the IDF launched a series of armored raids on the Gaza Strip (mainly Rafah and refugee camps around Gaza), killing about 70 Hamas militants. On March 22, 2004, an Israeli helicopter gunship killed Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and on April 17, after several failed attempts by Hamas to avenge Yassin's death, his successor, Abed al-Aziz Rantissi was killed by IDF helicopter gunship strike.

The fighting in Gaza Strip escalated severely in May 2004 after several failed attempts to attack Israeli checkpoints such as Erez crossing and Karni crossing. However, on May 11 and May 12, Palestinian militants destroyed two IDF M-113 APCs, killing 13 soldiers and mutilating their bodies. The IDF launched two raids to recover the bodies in which about 20-40 Palestinians were killed and great damage was caused to structures in the Zaitoun neigbourhood in Gaza and in south-west Rafah.

Subsequently, on May 18 the IDF launched Operation Rainbow with a stated aim of striking the terror infrastructure of Rafah, destroying smuggling tunnels, and stopping a shipment of SA-7 missiles and improved anti-tank weapons. The operation ended after the IDF killed 40 alleged Palestinian militants and 12 civilians and demolished about 45-56 structures. The great destruction and killing of 10 peaceful protestors led to a worldwide outcry against the operation. See further discussion in Operation Rainbow.

On September 29, after a Qassam rocket hit the Israeli town of Sderot and killed two Israeli children, the IDF launched Operation Days of Penitence in the north of the Gaza Strip. The operation's stated aim was to remove the threat of Qassam rockets from Sderot and kill the Hamas militants launching them. The operation ended on October 16 after Israeli forces killed an estimated 104-133 Palestinians, including 62-87 militants and 18-31 children. The operation brought footage of an Israeli commander killing Iman_Darweesh_Al_Hams at close range, which led to sharp criticism of the IDF. [32] [33] [34] (See Media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.) According to Palestinian medics, Israeli forces killed at least 62 militants and 42 other Palestinians believed to be civilians.[35] According to a count performed by Haaretz, 87 combatants and 42 non-combatants were killed. Palestinian refugee camps were heavily damaged by the Israeli assault. The IDF announched that at least 12 Qassam launchings had been thwarted and many terrorists hit during the operation. Three Israelis also were killed (1 civilian).

On October 21, the Israeli Air Force killed Adnan al-Ghoul, a senior Hamas bombmaker and the inventor of the Qassam rocket.

On November 11, Yasser Arafat died in Paris.

Escalation in Gaza began amid the visit of Mahmoud Abbas to Syria in order to achieve a Hudna between Palestinian factions and convince Hamas leadership to halt attacks against Israelis. Hamas vowed to continue the armed struggle, while numerous Qassam rockets hit open fields near Nahal Oz and an anti-tank missile hit a kindergarten in Kfar Darom.

On December 9 five weapon smugglers were killed and two were arrested in the border between Rafah and Egypt. Later that day, Jamal Abu Samhadana and two of his bodyguards were injured by a missile strike. In the first Israeli airstrike against militants in weeks, an unmanned Israeli drone plane launched one missile at Abu Samahdna's car as it traveled between Rafah and Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. It was the fourth attempt on Samhadana's life by Israel. AP. Samhadana is one of two leaders of the Popular Resistance Committees and one of the main forces behind the smuggling tunnels. Samhadana is believed to be responsible for the blast against an American diplomatic convoy in Gaza that killed three Americans.

On December 10, in response to Hamas firing mortar rounds into the Neveh Dekalim settlement in the Gaza Strip and wounding four Israelis (including an 8 year old boy), Israeli soldiers fired at the Khan Younis refugee camp (the origin of the mortars) killing a 7-year-old girl. An IDF source confirmed troops opened fire at Khan Younis, but said they aimed at Hamas mortar crews. The IDF insisted that it does its utmost to avoid civilian casualties. AP Haaretz.

The largest attack since the death of Yasser Arafat claimed the lives of five Israeli soldiers on December 12, wounding ten others. Approximately 1.5 tons of explosives were detonated in a tunnel under an Israeli military-controlled border crossing on the Egyptian border with Gaza near Rafah, collapsing several structures and damaging others. The explosion destroyed part of the outpost and killed three soldiers. Two Palestinian militants then penetrated the outpost and killed two other Israeli soldiers with gunfire. It is believed that Hamas and a new Fatah faction, the "Fatah Hawks," conducted the highly organized and coordinated attack. A spokesman, "Abu Majad," claimed responsibility for the attack in the name of the Fatah Hawks claiming it was in retaliation for "the assassination" of Yasser Arafat, charging he was poisoned by Israel. [36]


Palestinian presidential elections were held on January 9, and Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) was elected as the president of the PA. Although Abbas called militants to halt attacks against Israel, he promised them he'll protect them from Israeli incursions and will not force them to disarm. Colin Powell and Israeli officials expressed concern over Abbas's election rhetoric and pictures taken of him with armed al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades activists.

However, hopes sharply decreased after violence continued in the Gaza Strip, reaching its height on Thursday the 13th, as six Israelis were killed by suicide bombers at the Karni crossing on the edge of the Gaza Strip. In reaction to the bombing, Ariel Sharon froze all diplomatic and security contacts with the Palestinian Authority. Spokesman Assaf Shariv declared that "Israel informed international leaders today that there will be no meetings with Abbas until he makes a real effort to stop the terror". The freezing of contacts came less than one week after Mahmoud Abbas was elected, and the day before his inauguration . Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, confirming the news, declared "You cannot hold Mahmoud Abbas accountable when he hasn't even been inaugurated yet". [37][38]

Following international pressure and Israeli threat of wide military operation in the Gaza Strip, Abbas ordered Palestinian police to deploy in the Northern Gaza to prevent Qassam and mortar shelling over Israeli settlement. Although attacks on Israeli have not stopped completely they have decreased sharply. Notable violent events were the killing of a Palestinian in Rafah (by Palestinian fire) which followed with Hamas shelling Israeli settlements as a "revenge"; serveral infilitration attempts by Palestinian terrorists; and the arrest of a 15-year-old Palestinian with explosive belt in Nablus checkpoint. Palestinian policemen started to act against the smuggling tunnels in Rafah.

After Sharon was convinced that Abbas was determined to stop terrorism, he agreed to meet him at a peace summit at Sharm al-Sheikh. Israel said it would release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture, but not prisoners with "blood on their hands". However, Palestinians demanded that at least three pre-Oslo convicted murderers be released. Israel should also start moving cities in the West Bank to Palestinian responsibility, provided they will stop attacks from them.

On February 8, 2005, at the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit of 2005, Sharon and Abbas declared a mutual truce between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority. They shook hands at a four-way summit which also included Jordan and Egypt at Sharm al-Sheikh. However, Hamas and Islamic Jihad said the truce is not binding for their members. Israel has not withdrawn its demand to dismantle terrorist infrastructure before moving ahead in the Road Map for Peace. [39]

Many warned that truce is a fragile, and progress must be done slowly while observing that the truce and quiet are kept. On February 9-February 10 night, a barrage of 25-50 Qassam rockets and mortar shells hit Neve Dekalim settlement, and another barrage hit at noon. Hamas said it was in retaliation for an attack in which one Palestinian was killed near an Israeli settlement. [40]. As a response to the mortar attack, Abbas ordered the Palestinian security forces to stop such attacks in the future. He also fired senior commanders in the Palestinian security apparatus. [41] On February 10 afternoon Israeli security forces arrested Maharan Omar Shucat Abu Hamis, a Palestinian resident of Nablus, who was about to launch a bus suicide bombing in the French Hill in Jerusalem. [42]

A major shift occurred on February 13, 2005, as Abbas entered talks with the leaders of the Islamic Jihad and the Hamas, for them to rally behind him and respect the truce. Ismail Haniyah, a senior leader of the group Hamas said that "its position regarding calm will continue unchanged and Israel will bear responsibility for any new violation or aggression". Abbas so far been able to make things quiet and it could very well be a new hope for a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace.

May and June saw a sharp increase in Palestinian terror attacks. In Nablus and Jenin, many Palestinian youth were caught carrying explosives - either as suicide bombers or as curriers. In the Gaza Strip, Palestinian factions such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Popular Resistance Committees commited attacks on IDF outposts and Israeli settlements almost daily. On the middle of June, Palestinian factions intensified bombardment over the city of Sderot (outside the Gaza Strip) with improvised Qassam rockets. Palestinian attacks in May through June 20 resulted in 2 Palestinians and a Chinese killed by a Qassam and 2 Israelis killed by anti-tank missile and car ambush. The wave of terror attacks lessen support for the disengagement plan among the Israeli public. Attacks on Israel by the Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades increased on July, and reached the peak on July 12, when a suicide bombing hit the coastal city of Netanya, killing 5 people. On July 14, Hamas started to shell Israeli settlement inside and outside the Gaza Strip with dozen of Qassam rockets, killing an Israeli women. This was too much for the Israeli restraint policy, there was also fear that the terror would render the disengagement plan impossible. On July 15 Israel resumed its "targeted killing" policy, killing 7 Hamas militants and bombing about 4 Hamas facilities. The continuation of shelling rockets over Israeli settlements, and fatal street battles between Hamas militants and Palestinian policemen, threaten to shatter the truce, agreed on Sharm el-Sheikh Summit of 2005. The Israeli Defence Force started to build-up armored forces around the Gaza Strip in a ultimatum to Palestinian stop firing Qassams and disarm terror groups.[43]


The tactics of the two sides in the conflict are largely based upon their resources and goals. Despite the claims of both sides to the contrary, polling consistently shows that a majority of both Palestinians and Israelis agree on the same basic goals: a two state solution and a right for Palestinian refugees to move to the new Palestinian state (but not to Israel).


On the Palestinian side, a variety of groups are involved in violence such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. They have waged a high-intensity campaign of guerrilla warfare and terrorism against Israel. Military equipment is mostly imported light arms and homemade weapons, such as hand grenades and explosive belts, assault rifles, and the Qassam rocket. They also have increased use of remote-controlled landmines, a tactic which has become increasingly popular among the poorly armed groups. Car bombs were often used against "lightly hardened" targets such as Israeli armored jeeps and checkpoints.

Palestinian "suicide belt", a vest loaded with explosives, captured by the Israeli police.
Palestinian "suicide belt", a vest loaded with explosives, captured by the Israeli police.

The tactic which the Palestinians have become most infamous for is the suicide bombing. Conducted as a single or double bombing, suicide bombings are generally conducted against "soft" targets (civilians) or "lightly hardened" targets (such as checkpoints) to try to raise the cost of the war to Israelis and demoralize the Israeli society. Most suicide bombing attacks (although not all) are targeted against civilians, and conducted on crowded places in Israeli cities, such as public transportation (buses), restaurants and markets.

Contrary to popular belief, most suicide bombers are not religious radicals, nor are they from the most destitute sections of the population - they generally are relatively well off and well educated, and view their action as a sacrifice intended to remedy an injustice. The suicide bombings are not an act of desperation but rather a considered deliberate act characterized as martyrdom. It is this last tactic which has earned them the most international scorn. On 14 March, a 10-year-old boy was caught carrying a bomb through a checkpoint. Ten days later, a mentally deficient 16-year-old had been paid to be a suicide bomber. Unlike most suicide bombings, the use of children in the conflict earned condemnation from the United States and pro forma condemnation from pro-Palestinian human rights groups such as Amnesty International, but also from many Palestinians and much of the Middle East press [44]. The youngest Palestinian suicide bomber was 16-year-old Issa Bdeir, a high school student from the village of Al Doha, who shocked his friends and family when he blew himself up in a park in Rishon LeZion, killing a teenage boy and an elderly man.

UNRWA ambulance carry armed militants
UNRWA ambulance carry armed militants

Palestinian militants have been accused of using ambulances of both the UNRWA and the Red Crescent to transport armed men, suicide bombers, weapons and explosives.[45]

On March 27, 2002, Israel seized an explosive belt from a Red Crescent ambulance. The vest was detonated in front of TV cameras by an EOD robot.

In May 2004, Israel Defence minister Shaul Mofaz claimed that UNRWA ambulances were used to take the bodies of dead Israeli soldiers in order to prevent the Israel Defense Forces from recovering their dead. [46] Reuters has provided video of healthy armed men entering ambulance with UN markings for transport. UNRWA initially denied that its ambulances carry militants but later reported that the driver was forced to comply with threats from armed men. UNRWA still denies that their ambulances carried body parts of dead Israeli soldiers.

In August 2004, Israel claimed that an advanced explosives-detection device employed by the IDF at the Hawara checkpoint near Nablus discovered a Palestinian ambulance had transported explosive material. [47]


On the Israeli side, a well-trained, well-equipped military force with a strong central command has led to the development of tactics well-suited to the enclosed, urban environment in which the IDF is frequently fighting. The Israeli Defense Forces stress the safety of their troops, using such heavily armored equipment as the Merkava tank and various military aircraft including F-16s, drone aircrafts and helicopter gunships. Sniper towers were used extensively in the Gaza Strip (before the Israeli pullout) and are being increasingly employed in the West Bank. Heavy armored bulldozers, such as the Caterpillar D9, are routinely employed to detonate booby traps and IEDs, and clear houses along the border with Egypt used to fire at Israeli troops, in "buffer zones", and during military operations in the West Bank. Israel has also established the policy of destroying the family home of suicide bombers. Due to the considerable number of Palestinians living in single homes, the large quantity of homes destroyed, and collateral damage from home demolitions, it has become an increasingly controversial tactic. Families have provided timely information to Israeli forces regarding suicide bombing activities in order to prevent the demolition of their houses, although families who do this risk being executed or otherwise punished for collaboration, either by the Palestinian Authority or extra-judicially by Palestinian militants.

With complete ground and air superiority, mass detentions are regularly conducted; at any given time, there are about 6,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, about half of them held without charges. Various international non-governemental organizations associated with the Palestinian cause, such as Amnesty International, have attempted to document incidents of the use of torture [48]; Israel denies the routine use of torture. Checkpoints, designed to weed out terrorists and limit the ability to move weapons, divide most Palestinian cities and interconnections between cities. Transit across checkpoints can take 2-8 hours, depending on the current security situation in Israel. Palestinian metalworking shops and other business facilities suspected by Israel of being used to manufacture weapons are regularly destroyed by airstrikes. The tactic of military "curfew" - long-term lockdown of civilian areas - has been used routinely. Nablus was kept under curfew for over 100 consecutive days, with generally under two hours per day allowed for people to get food or conduct other business.

IDF Caterpillar D9 armored bulldozer.
IDF Caterpillar D9 armored bulldozer.

Although these tactics also have been condemned internationally, Israel insists they are vital to thwart terrorist attacks and ensure the security of the Jewish state. Some cite figures, such as those published in Haaretz newsaper, to prove the effectivness of these methods ( Graph 1: Thwarted attacks (yellow) vs successful attacks (red) - Graph 2: Suicide bombing within the "green line" per quarter). The Israeli secret services Shin Bet (SHABAK) enable the Israeli Security Forces (IDF, Magav, police YAMAM and Mistaravim SF units) to thwart suicide bombings by providing real-time warnings and reliable intelligence reports.

Israel also pursues a policy of "targeted killings", a euphemism for the assassination of terrorists and prominent leaders. Such killings are used to single out as a target those involved in perpetrating attacks against Israelis, and to intimidate others from following suit. Although there is no protection in international law for non-uniformed combatants, This tactic has been condemned as unlawful summary execution by the United Nations and international human rights organizations associated with the Palestinian cause. Others (such as the United States) see it as a legitimate measure of self defense against terrorism.

Many criticize the targeted killings for placing civilians at risk, though its supporters believe it reduces civilian casualties on both sides. Israel has been criticized for the use of helicopter gunship missiles in urban assassinations which often results in civilian casualties. Israel in turn has criticized what it describes as a practice of hiding terrorist leaders hiding among civilians in densely populated areas, thus turning them into human shields, often unwittingly.

The West Bank barrier

See Israeli West Bank barrier

International Involvement

The international community has long taken an involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and this involvement has only increased during the Al-Aqsa Intifada. Israel annually receives 1.2 billion dollars in economic aid and 1.8 billion dollars in military aid from the United States, excluding loan guarantees. The military aid is a result of the Camp David Accords and the associated peace treaty between Egypt and Israel and offsets similar aid to Egypt.

The Palestinian Authority generally receives about 100 million dollars in economic aid from the United States, and the Palestinian territories are major humanitarian aid recipients. The conflict has been widely reported in the international press, with a large degree of sympathy for the Palestinians in the Arab world and Europe, and sympathy for the Israelis in United States. As such, it seems only likely that a solution to the conflict will involve 3rd party mediation, either by the United States or the United Nations.

Additionally, private groups have started becoming increasingly involved in the conflict, such as the International Solidarity Movement on the side of the Palestinians, and the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee on the side of the Israelis.

Effects on Oslo Accords

Since the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifada and its emphasis on suicide bombers deliberately targeting civilians riding public transportation (buses), the Oslo Accords are viewed with increasing disfavor by the Israeli public. In May 2000, seven years after the Oslo Accords and five months before the start of the Al-Aqsa Intifada, a survey by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at the University of Tel Aviv found that: 39% of all Israelis support the Accords and that 32% believe that the Accords will result in peace in the next few years. [49]. By constrast, the May 2004 survey found that 26% of all Israelis support the Accords and 18% believe that the Accords will result in peace in the next few years; decreases of 13% and 16% respectively. Furthermore, the May 2004 survey found that 80% of all Israelis believe the Israel Defense Forces have succeeded in dealing with the Al-Aqsa Intifada militarily. [50]

See also

External links



Claims of Palestinian hatred education and child suicide bombers


Wars of Israel 1948 Arab-Israeli War | 1956 Suez War | 1967 Six Day War | 1970 War of Attrition | 1973 Yom Kippur War | 1982 Lebanon War | First Intifada | 1990/1 Gulf War | al-Aqsa Intifada
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