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Al-Aqsa Intifada
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Al-Aqsa Intifada

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. It is called the Oslo War by some Israelis.

Table of contents
1 Prior causes
2 Timeline
3 Tactics
4 The West Bank separation barrier
5 International Involvement
6 Economic and human costs
7 Effects on Oslo Accords
8 See also
9 External links

Prior causes

By signing the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords between Palestinians and Israel, the PLO committed to curb the violence. However, between September 1993 and September 2000, 256 Israeli civilians and soldiers were killed in terrorist attacks (Source: Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs). In 1995, dovish Shimon Peres took the place of Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated by an Israeli fanatic. In the 1996 elections, the Israelis chose the Likud's right-wing canidate Benjamin Netanyahu who promised to restore safety by conditioning every step of the peace process with seeing that the PA fulfils its obligations in fighting terrorism, as they committed at Oslo. At the same time, he continued the policy of settlement building according to the "less land for less peace" principle. As a result, during the 1990s, Israel's settler population in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip nearly doubled; the Palestinians often cite this as the main reason for the outburst of hostilities.

From the Palestinian side, the effects of Oslo were deeply disappointing. Following the 1993 agreement, the Palestinian economy collapsed, with a drop in the standard of living by 30%, and a 50% unemployment rate; many Palestinians blame this on the conditions imposed in Oslo. 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 additional land in settlements. 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 used 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".

Israel states that the Intifada was pre-planned by the Palestinian Authority leadership and executed by the PA as their response to the failure of the Camp David 2000 Summit per statements made by Yasser Arafat, President of the PA. 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".

Since at least September 13, 2000, militants from the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah militant movement carried out a number of attacks at 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).

Timeline

2000

On September 28, 2000, the Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount (called Har HaBayt in Hebrew, Al-Haram As-Sharif in Arabic) in Jerusalem, the holiest site for Judaism, the third holiest site in Islam, and a place of special significance to Christianity.

The Sharon's impending visit was officially announced in advance, and prior to it some moderates on both sides protested, because of his controversial political stance and his massive armed bodyguard — over 1,000 strong. He was warned that this could lead to riots but Sharon declared that he went to the site with a message of peace. On the site, he proclaimed the area as eternal Israeli territory, which is the official policy of Israel, according to the Jerusalem Law passed by the Knesset in 1980.

Following the Sharon's visit, large riots broke out around Old Jerusalem; during 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 caught in the crossfire, attempting to hide behind a concrete water barrel 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_(TV), 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 cameraman and the boy's father, as well as an Amnesty International's report, in that the shooting from the Palestinian outpost had stopped 45 minutes before he was killed.)

On October 12, two Israeli reservists who by mistake entered Ramallah, were arrested by the PA police. Soon, a mob stormed the police station and lynched them. This manslaughter, shown on TV, electrified Israeli public opinion. [1]

2001

Ariel Sharon ran against Ehud Barak and won the Prime Minister title in the general elections held in February, 2001.

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 investigation that followed revealed 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 were 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 they would be picked up by Palestinian Authority.

2002

Subsequently, 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 Israeli killed in terror attacks), and Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield. The operation led to the apprehension of many 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 refugee camp alone, and the loss of several hundred Palestinian lives, many of whom were combatants.

The hardest battle took place at the refugee camp of Jenin. Palestinians claimed that many hundreds of Palestinians were massacred there by IDF, an allegation that echoed in world press for serveral weeks, damaging Israeli reputation in the world public opinion. However, this allegation turned out as false. (See Allegations of a Massacre in Jenin.) Many Israelis cite the "Jenin massacre" allegation as the first blood libel of the so-called New antisemitism. The battle of Jenin is still a sensitive issue for both sides. In late April 2002, a stand-off developed between Fatah militants who sought refuge at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, and the IDF whose Code of Conduct demands respect of holy sites. It was resolved by the deportation of 13 Palestinian militants to Europe after had lasted for 38 days.

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 claim that Yasser Arafat was involved too, was accepted by the American Government.

2003

Following an 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 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 accepted the Road Map for Peace — the Quartet's plan to end the violent intifada by disbanding the terrorist organizations and the establishment of a democratic and peaceful Palestinian state. The first phase of the plan demanded the PA to fight terrorism and confiscate all illegal weapons. Instead of fighting terrorism, Abu Mazen tried to reach a temporary cease-fire agreement with the terrorist factions and asked them to halt attacks on Israeli civilian.

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 Hizbollah member.

In June 2003, the so-called Hudna was signed. The terrorist groups agreed to halt suicide bombings against Israel for a period of 3 months. 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 militants. On August 19 a suicide bombing attack by Hamas in a crowded bus in Jerusalem killed 23 Israelis, including 7 children. Hamas claimed it was a retaliation for the killing of 5 Palestinians (including Hamas leader Abbedullah Qawasameh) earlier in the week; according to witnesses, a squad of Israeli police disguised as Palestinian labourers opened fire on him as he left a Hebron mosque [1]; the Israeli counter-terror police unit YAMAM, who performed the operation, claims he opened fire on them as they attempted to arrest him. US and Israeli media outlets frequently referred to bus bombing as shattering the quiet and bringing an end to the cease-fire; given the number of Palestinian deaths, Palestinians have hotly disputed this assertion.

Following the attack, Israeli Defence Forces pursued all 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. Strict lockdown began to be 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. [1]

Failing to receive real power from Arafat, Abu Mazen resigned on September 2003. Instead of him, Abu Ala was appointed. Israel's lack of trust in the Palestinian Authority and the ingoing public protest urged the Israeli government to start constructing the Israeli West Bank barrier. The barrier is claimed by Israel to stop suicide bombers from entering Israeli cities, whereas Palestinians claims it is a landgrab.

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

2004

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. [1] 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 the fighting 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 [1]). However, some residents acknowledge the smuggling tunnels as main factor in the unrest and destruction in Rafah, Maariv's journalist Ben Kaspit reports:
"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." [1], [1].

Samo accounts contradict this being a common sentiment. [1] [1] [1].
"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 be 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 February 2, 2004, Israeli PM 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, rejection to this move came also from dovish Yossi Beilin, the architect of the Oslo Accords and the Geneva Initiative. He claimed that withdrawing from the Gaza Strip without an agreement would be a prize to terror.

Following the declaration on 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 armoured 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 serveral failed attempts of 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 serveral 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 operations in order 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.

Subsquently, on May 18 the IDF launched Operation Rainbow in order to strike the terror infrastructure of Rafah, destroy smuggling tunnels, and stop a shipment of SA-7 missiles and improved anti-tank weapons. The operation ended with 40 Palestinian militants and 12 civilians killed and about 45-56 structures demolished. The great destruction and the incident where 10 protestors were killed accidentally led to a world outcry regarding the operation. See further discussion in Operation Rainbow.

Tactics

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 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 terror warfare campaign against Israel. Military equipment is mostly imported light arms and homemade weapons, such as hand grenades and suicide bomber 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. 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 to 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 intended to remedy an injustice. The suicide bombings are not an act of desparation but rather a considered deliberate act characterized as martyrdom. It is this last tactic which has earned them the most international scorn. On March 14, a 10 year old boy was caught carrying a bomb through a checkpoint, and followed 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 not only earned condemnation from the United States and from human rights groups such as Amnesty International, but also from many Palestinians and much of the Middle East press [1]. 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.

The Palestinian terrorists have used ambulances of both the UNRWA and the Red Crescent to transport armed men, suicide bombers, weapons and explosives.[1] In March 2002, an explosive belt was caught in Red Cresecent ambulance. In May 2004, Israel Defence minister Shaul Mofaz told 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. [1] 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 told that the driver was forced to comply by gun-threats. UNRWA still denying that the ambulance carried body parts of dead Israeli soldiers.

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 routinely employed to detonate booby traps 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 home of the family of a suicide bomber. Due to the large number of Palestinians who live in a single home, the large number of homes destroyed, and collateral damage from home demolitions, they have 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. 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 [1] ; 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 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. 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 ). An additional tactic employed by Israel is what is known as "targeted killings", i.e. the assassination of terrorist figureheads, the purpose of which is to single out as a target those involved in perpetrating attacks, and intimidate others from doing the same. This tactic has been condemned for being unlawful and for placing civilians at risk, though it's supporters believe it reduces civilian casualties on both sides.

The West Bank separation 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 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 American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee on the side of the Israelis.

Economic and human costs

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.

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 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[1]. 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.[1] 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 my militias; and the apparent official encouragement of Palestinian youth to confront Israeli soldiers, thus placing them directly in harm's way.[1] 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. 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 dependent 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 combatants; moreover, the non-combatant Palestinian casualties are mostly male in combatant ages. According to their data, more than 300 Palestinian were killed by action 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, conducted by the Shin Bet which determined that of the 2,341 Palestinians killed up to August 2003, only 551 were combatants - about 23%. [1]

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 on peace in the next few years. [1]. By constrast, the May 2004 survey found that 26% of all Israelis support the Accords and 18% believe that the Accords will result on peace in the next few years; decreases of 13% and 16% respectively. Furthermore, the May 2004 survey found that 80% of all Israelis hold that the Israel Defense Forces have succeeded in dealing with the Al-Aqsa Intifada militarily. [1]

See also

External links

Non-characterized

Pro-Israeli

Pro-Palestinian