(The neutrality of this article is disputed.)

The al-Aqsa, or Second, Intifada is the intifada (the wave of violence and political conflict) that began in 2000 between Israel and the Palestinians.

Table of contents
1 Prior causes
2 Beginning of hostilities
3 Timeline
4 Tactics
5 The Separation Barrier
6 International Involvement
7 Economic and human costs
8 See also
9 External links

Prior causes

During the 1990s, Israel's settler population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip almost doubled; the Palestinians often cite this as the main reason for the outburst of hostilities. Israel alleges that the question of settlements was not as acute as often displayed, and the Intifada was initially intended by the PA leadership only as a tactical step to give more weight to the Palestinian positions on several issues (see Proposals for a Palestinian state), which were rejected by the Israeli government in the Camp David 2000 Summit. This is rejected outright as a mere fabrication by the Palestinians although Marwan Barghouti told the press that the uprising was planned by the PA (Palestinian Authority) before the summit.

Beginning of hostilities

The real upsurge in the intifada began after Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount. Both sides, however, view the violence as having earlier roots.

As claimed by the Israeli side, a small increase in violence had begun even earlier. Since at least September 13, 2000, militants from the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah militant movement have carried out a growing number of attacks aimed at various Israeli targets, military and civilian, in violation of Oslo Accords. In addition, the Israeli agency Palestinian Media Watch states that the Palestinian official TV broadcasts became increasingly militant during the summer of 2000, as Camp David negotiations faltered. On September 27, the new Intifada claimed its first Israeli victim, the military officer Sgt. David Biri ( Information from Israeli government).

From the Palestinian side, it began earlier as well. The effects of Oslo, widely hoped for as an end to occupation, became seen as just another form of colonialism, with control remaining still in the hands of Israel. It was seen as only benefitting Israel and Arafat, not the people themselves. The agreement also led to the further collapse of the Palestinian economy, with a drop in the standard of living by 30%, and a 50% unemployment rate. The rapidly increasing settler population, and the subsequent uncompensated enlargement of "buffer zones" around the settlements, left them viewing the arrangement as merely cover for Israel to illegally seize what little remained of their land. The Palestinian Authority became draconian in its attempts to enforce Oslo, shutting down independent media and jailing opponents.. Israeli restrictions on trade, investment, and most critically, water resources that were already being monopolized by Israel, led to increased unrest amongst Palestinians. Reports of those who lost their land only worsened it They were additionally incensed by remarks from right-wing Israeli government members, such as Rehavam Zeevi referring to the Palestinian people as "a cancer" and "vermin".


On September 28, 2000, the Israeli opposition leader, Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount (also called Al-Haram As-Sharif) in Jerusalem, a holy site for Islam, Christianity and Judaism (the Islamic holy site is the al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Jewish one - the Western Wall). Prior to his visit some moderates on both sides protested Sharon's visit, because of his controversial political stance and his massive armed bodyguard - over 1,000 strong. He was warned that this would lead to riots. Sharon declared, on the other hand, that he went to the site with a message of peace. However, on the site, he proclaimed the area as eternal Israeli territory. Following Sharon's visit, large riots broke out around Old Jerusalem; in the riots, several Palestinians were shot dead. One of them, a 12 year old boy, Muhammed A-Dura, was captured on camera and broadcast around the world. Images of the boy and his father attempting to hide behind a concrete water barrel while a barrage of bullets flew by caused much outrage throughout the world. (Recent investigations into the matter, the most notable aired in a prominent documentary by the independent German Television Station ARD, have questioned whether Israeli soldiers shot him, claiming that the position of the soldiers and the angle of the bullet wound imply that he was hit by other Palestinians in the crossfire. These claims have been denied by the original camerman and the boy's father.) On the other side, the lynching of two Israeli reservists in Ramallah catalyzed the downfall of dovish Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the rise of Ariel Sharon in general election held at February 2001.

Subsequently, a spate of suicide bombings was launched against Israel, which met a quick response. Ariel Sharon ordered Operation Defensive Shield (in April 2002) after a suicide bombing called the Passover Massacre, which killed 29 Israelis. The operation led to the apprehension of numerous members of terrorist organizations, as well as their weaponry and equipment. The operation however came at a cost of 35 soldiers killed in action, 23 of them in Jenin, and the loss of several hundred Palestinian lives. Additionally, there were international accusations of [war crimes. In late April, a stand-off developed between Israel and Fatah militants who seeked refuge at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The stand-off was resolved after 38 days, by the deportation of 13 militants to Europe.

On January 2002 the IDF Shayetet-13 naval commando captured a large boat, Karin A, smuggling illegal weapons from Iran 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 claim that Yasser Arafat was involved too, was accepted by the American Government.

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

Following the appointment of Abu Mazen, the USA have raised the Road Map for Peace - George W. Bush's plan to end the violent intifada by disbanding the terrorist organization and the establishment of a Palestinian state. The first phase of the plan demanded the PA to fight terrorism and confecate all illegal weapons. Instead of fighting terrorism, Abu Mazen tried to reach a cease-fire agreement with the terrorist factions and asked them to halt attacks on Israeli civilian.

On June 2003 the so-called Hudna was signed. The terrorist groups have agreed to halt suicide bombings against Israel. The following month was relatively quiet although serveral suicide bombings have occured. On August 19 a suicide bombing attack by Hamas in a crowded bus in Jerusalem killed 20 Israelis. The attack has shattered the quiet and brought an end to the cease-fire.

Following the attack, Israeli Defence Forces went on a hunt-down of Hamas leaders in Hebron and in the Gaza Strip. The plotters of the bus suicide bombing were all captured or killed and Hamas leadership in Hebron was wiped out by the IDF.

Failing to recieve real power from Arafat, Abu Mazen resigned on September 2003. Instead of him, Ahmed Qarie (Abu Ala) was appointed. Israel's lack of truts in the Palestinian Authority and the ingoing public protest urged the Israeli government to construct a security barrier. The barrier is claimed by Israel to stop suicide bombers from entering Israeli cities, whereas Palestinians claims it is a landgrab.


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 consistantly shows that the significant majority of both Palestinians and Israelis agree on the same basic goals: a two state solution, established on the 1967 borders, with at least most of the settlements withdrawn, and right to return only within the borders of the new Palestinian state.

On the Palestinian side, a variety of groups are involved in combat such as Hamas and Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. They have waged a high-intensity guerella warfare campaign against Israel. Military equipment is mostly imported light arms and homemade weapons, such as hand grenades and the Qassam rocket. They also have increased use of remote-controlled landmines, a tactic which has become increasingly popular among the poorly armed resistance groups. Developed due to the difficulty in targeting the well-armed and armored Israeli Defense Forces, the tactic which they have become most famous 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 and raise the cost of the war to Israelis. 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 to try and remedy an injustice. It is this last tactic which has earned them the most international scorn.

On the Israeli side, the advantages of a strong economy and arms trade relations, in addition to a centralized command authority, have led to opposite tactics. The Israeli Defense Forces stress the safety of their troops, using such heavily armored equipment as the Merkava tank and various military aircraft. Sniper towers are used extensively in the Gaza Strip, and are being increasingly employed in the West Bank. Heavy armored bulldozers, such as the Caterpillar D9, are routinly employed to detonate booby traps and clear large areas of houses along the border with Egypt, in "buffer zones", and during military operations in the West Bank. Israel has also established the policy of destroying the home of the family of a suicide bomber. Due to the large number of Palestinians who live in a home, the large number of homes destroyed, and collateral damage from home demolitions, they have become an increasingly controversial tactic. With complete ground and air superiority, large arrests are regularly conducted; at any given time, there are about 6,000 prisoners in Israeli jails, about half of them held with charges and half without. Various international aid groups, such as Amnesty International, have documented many incidents of the use of torture; Israel denies this. Checkpoints, designed to weed out militants and limit the ability to move weapons around, divide most Palestinian cities and interconnections between cities. Transit across checkpoints generally takes 2-8 hours, depending on the current security situation in Israel. Metal shops and other facilities capable of being used to manufacture weapons have been mostly destroyed. The tactic of "Curfew" - long-term lockdown of areas - has been used. Nablus was kept under curfew for over 100 consecutive days, with generally under two hours per day allowed for people to get food or do business. Although these tactics also have been largely internationally condemned, Israel insists they are vital to thwart terrorist attacks. Figures provided by the IDF proves the effectiveness of those tactics.

The Separation Barrier

Claiming that it would protect Israel from terrorist activities, Israel began building a barrier around parts of the West Bank, complete with guard towers and checkpoints. Such a fence already exists around Gaza and allegedly proved its efficiency against suicide bombers. Most of the barrier is a system of wire fences and trenches, but there is a 8 mile section of concrete wall around Qalqilia, where shooting toward Israeli vehicles on the nearby highway has occurred. Reaching as high as 8 meters, the wall will cost an estimated 1.7 million dollars per mile. Termed a "security fence" by supporters and an "apartheid wall" by detractors, it has become another contentious issue in the region. Initially expected to follow the 1967 Green Line, the route in fact cuts deeply into the West Bank and may leave about 10% on the Israeli side. The route has cut off some Palestinian towns from their surrounding farmland. In some places there are also secondary barriers east of the main barrier. In October 2003, the Israeli Army declared the area between the barrier and the Green Line (at that time including 12 Palestinian towns or villages) to be forbidden to all adult Palestinians who don't hold special permits, but open to all Jews (not only to Israeli Jews). Some villages refused the permits. Other villages accepted them but found many of their residents were not on the list.

Israel hopes that by constructing this barrier, it will greatly increase their domestic security and the security of the settlements. However, despite its overwhelming support amongst the Israeli public, the settler organizations oppose the barrier for fear that it will eventually become the border of a future Palestinian state, a concept they reject entirely. On October 21, 2001, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution (144 -4 with 12 abstentions) declaring the barrier to be illegal, a few days after a similar resolution in the Security Council was vetoed by the United States.

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 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 sympathy for the Israelis in the western world. 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 American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee on the side of the Israelis.

Economic and human costs

In the Palestinian terrorist attacks, about 920 Israelis were killed (up to 2.1.2004), and 4,400 were wounded (source: Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs). 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 economical damage caused by the crisis as "150 to 200 billion Shekels", or 35 to 45 US $ billion - compared to a GDP of 122 billion dollars (2002).

Following statistics of the Palestine Red Crescent Society 2,417 Palestinians were killed and 22,233 were wounded from September 29, 2000, to August 1, 2003, due to the Israeli military operations. 16 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. 42% of Gazans are depentant on food aid, and 18% of Gaza children exhibit chronic malnutrition. 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 combattants; moreover, the non-combatant Palestinian casualties are mostly male in combatant ages. Palestinians dispute this, as the report treats most people that were killed as combattants, often much to the dispute of locals and international aid workers. Additionally, to reach these numbers, "combattant age" was defined to include ages 15 and up. Finally, according to the Israeli newspaper Ha'Aretz, 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 combattants - about 23%. [1]

See also

External links

Further information from pro-Israel sources: Pro-Palestinian information at: Other sources: