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Al-Aqsa Intifada

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The wreckage of a commuter bus in West Jerusalem after a suicide bombing on Tuesday,  . The blast killed 20 people.
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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 al-Aqsa Intifada (Arabic: انتفاضة الاقصى) 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.

The Israeli Defense Forces codenamed it " אירועי גיאות ושפל " ("Ebb and Tide events"). Some right-wing Israeli circles unofficially refer to it as the Oslo War.

The truce (Arabic: تهدئة Tahdi'a) declared at the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit of 2005 is considered by many to mark the end of the Intifada; however, this is still in doubt, especially with recent crises plaguing talks, like the suicide bombing on the Tel-Aviv Promenade in late February 2005.

Contents

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, Palestinians killed 256 Israeli civilians and soldiers (Source: Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Palestinian+terror+before+2000/Fatal+Terrorist+Attacks+in+Israel+Since+the+DOP+-S.htm)). The Israeli leadership 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. In accordance with the "Land for peace" principle, Netanyahu continued the policy of construction within and expansion of existing Israeli settlements, and during the 1990s, Israel's settler population in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip nearly doubled. 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.

From the Palestinian side, the effects of Oslo were deeply disappointing. Following the 1993 agreement and gradual Israeli withdrawal, 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. The rapidly increasing settler population and the subsequent uncompensated enlargement of "buffer zones" around the settlements, left Palestinians viewing the arrangement as a cover for Israel to illegally seize additional land for settlements and was cited as the main reason for the outburst of al-Aqsa intifada hostilities. The Palestinian Authority became draconian in what it described as its attempts to enforce Oslo, shutting down independent media and jailing opponents (though others viewed these activities as attempts to consolidate power). Israeli restrictions on trade, investment, and most critically, water resources that were already being used by Israel, led to increased unrest amongst Palestinians. Remarks from Israeli government members, such as Rehavam Zeevi referring to the Palestinian people as "a cancer" and "vermin", further worsened relations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Others, however, have claimed that Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority planned the intifadeh. [1] (http://www.mafhoum.com/press3/111P55.htm) [2] (http://www.townhall.com/columnists/charleskrauthammer/ck20010520.shtml) [3] (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/myths/mf19.html#a1) [4] (http://www.eretzyisroel.org/~jkatz/alaksa.html). They point out that Yasser Arafat had warned that the failure of on-going peace process talks would lead to another intifada [5] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/56038.stm) They often quote statements by Palestinian Authority officials, particularly Imad Falouji, the P.A. Communications Minister, who admitted months after Sharon's visit that the violence had been planned in July, far in advance of Sharon's visit, stating the intifada "was carefully planned since the return of (Palestinian President) Yasser Arafat from Camp David negotiations rejecting the U.S. conditions."[6] (http://gulf-news.com/Articles/print.asp?ArticleID=11166)[7] (http://jewishweek.org/news/newscontent.php3?artid=3846) 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)

According to the Mitchell Report, 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 Mitchell Report, based on a subsequent investigation, also found that the Sharon visit did not cause the Al-Aqsa Intifada, though it was poorly timed and would clearly have a provocative effect.[8] (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Peace/Mitchellrep.html) But the report also says "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;" .[9] (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Peace/Mitchellrep.html)

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".

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 states that the Palestinian official TV broadcasts (http://www.pmw.org.il/specrep-30.html) became increasingly militant during the summer of 2000, as Camp David negotiations faltered.

Timeline

2000

On September 27, Sgt. David Biri (http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Terrorism-+Obstacle+to+Peace/Memorial/2000/Sgt+David+Biri.htm) (Information from Israeli government (http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.asp?MFAH0ijw0)) was killed; Israeli sources typically view this as the start of the Intifada.

On September 28, 2000, in the West Bank city of Kalkilya, a Palestinian police officer working with Israeli police on a joint patrol opened fire and killed his Israeli counterpart. That same day the Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited 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.

Palestinians claim East Jerusalem, which Israel unilaterally annexed in 1980, as their capital. Palestinians, the UN and many countries consider East Jerusalem to be part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank or at least disputed, and treat Tel Aviv as the Israeli capital. Israel considers the whole of Jerusalem to be the Israeli capital, and part of Israel.

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 publically proclaimed the area as eternal Israeli territory, reiterating Israel's official policy, according to the Jerusalem Law passed by the Knesset in 1980.

The day after Sharon's visit, following Friday prayers, large riots broke out around Old Jerusalem; during the riots, several Palestinians were shot dead. A 12-year-old boy, Muhammad al-Durrah, and his father were caught in crossfire between Palestinian militiamen and the IDF, attempting to hide behind a concrete water barrel. Images of the boy's death were captured on videotape and broadcast around the world, causing much outrage - though much evidence was later found showing that it was not Israeli fire that killed him. As Palestinian terrorism began to gather steam, anti-Jewish riots by Israeli-Arabs broke out as well in early October; a total of twelve Arab-Israelis, one Palestinian and one Israeli were killed. The violence quickly escalated, with Arabs attacking police and civilians in Um el-Fahm, Taibe, Tira, Khan Yunis, Jenin, Jerusalem, and elsewhere. Forests were set ablaze, and Israeli security forces attempted to respond with a strong arm.

October 12 was a critical turning-point: the day of the brutal lynching of two Israeli reserves soldiers in Ramallah. The two made a wrong turn into Ramallah, were arrested by the PA police, and taken to the police station. An "agitated" Palestinian mob stormed the police station, beat the soldiers to death, and threw their mutilated bodies out of a second-story windown and onto the street. A famous picture of a bloodthirsty Palestinian holding up his blood-stained hands in glee and triumph became a famous image of the Palestinian war of terrorism. The killings were captured on video and broadcast on TV, outraging Israeli, Micronesian and some U.S. public opinion. [10] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/969778.stm) [11] (http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/mideast.htm#readmore) [12] (http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2000/504/pal92.htm) [13] (http://archives.cnn.com/2000/WORLD/meast/10/12/mideast.violence.03/) In response, Israel launched a series of retaliatory air strikes against the Palestinian Authority.

2001

Ariel Sharon campaigned in the Likud ticket against Labor Party's Ehud Barak and Sharon was elected Israeli prime minister 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 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.

2002

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. [14] (http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2002/SG2077.doc.htm)

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 of a massacre that surfaced during the IDF's operations in the camp. These allegations were completely disproven, but it remains a sore point.

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 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.

2003

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 Hizbollah 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 [15] (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2003/06/23/wmid23.xml). 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. [16] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/2680777.stm)

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 an alleged "terrorist training base" at 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. [17] (http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1084160735358&p=1078027574121) 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 [18] (http://www.reliefweb.int/hic-opt/docs/UN/OCHA/OCHAHU_190104.pdf)).

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." [19] (http://www.maarivintl.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=article&articleID=6411), [20] (http://www.maariv.co.il/cache/ART695470.html).

Some accounts reflect a more common sentiment. [21] (http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,1165834,00.html) [22] (http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,2763,1071683,00.html) [23] (http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/1029/p07s01-wome.html).

"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. [24] (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/504926.html) [25] (http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/1126/p07s01-wome.html) [26] (http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/newscontent.php3?artid=10201) (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.[27] (http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L16687192.htm) 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 (http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/G/GAZA_EXPLOSION). 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 (http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/I/ISRAEL_GAZA_VIOLENCE) Haaretz (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/512952.html).

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. [28] (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/513429.html)

2005

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". [29] (http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/meast/01/14/gaza.bombing/index.html)[30] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4176141.stm)

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. Noteable 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. [31] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4245353.stm)

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. [32] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4252445.stm). 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. [33] (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/538438.html) 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. [34] (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/538922.html)

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 child 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.

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 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).

Palestinians

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 "", a vest loaded with explosives, captured by the .
Enlarge
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 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 [35] (http://www.aljazeerah.info/News%20archives/2004%20News%20archives/March/26n/Palestinian%20Backlash%20Over%20Child%20Bombers.htm). 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.

Missing image
UNambulance-carry-militants01.jpg
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.[36] (http://www.intelligence.org.il/eng/tr/amb_1_04.htm)

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. [37] (http://www.intelligence.org.il/eng/sib/5_04/unrwa.htm) Reuters has provided video (http://e.tln0.com/ame/archives/reuters_UN_amblulances_11_may_04.wmv) 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. [38] (http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1091416710532)

Israel

On the Israeli side, a highly organized military force and significant financial and military aid from the United States have led to tactics well-suited to the enclosed, urban environment in which they are 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 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 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 with charges. Various international aid groups, such as Amnesty International, have documented many incidents of the use of torture [39] (http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/engMDE150311998?OpenDocument&of=COUNTRIES%5CISRAEL/OCCUPIED+TERRITORIES?OpenDocument&of=COUNTRIES%5CISRAEL/OCCUPIED+TERRITORIES); Israel denies the routine use of torture. 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. 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.

Missing image
D9R-idf.jpg
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 (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/413396.html) the effectivness of these methods ( Graph 1: Thwarted attacks (yellow) vs successful attacks (red) (http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/images/printed/P080404/zza.jpg) - Graph 2: Suicide bombing within the "green line" per quarter (http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasite/images/printed/P080404/a.0.0804.10.2.9.jpg)). 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", i.e. the assassination of militants and especially prominent leaders, to single out as a target those involved in perpetrating attacks against Israelis, and to intimidate others from following suit. This tactic has been condemned as unlawful summary execution by some international human rights organizations and the United Nations, while 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 militant leaders hiding among civilians in densely populated areas, thus turning them into unwitting human shields.

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. Much of this is as a result of the Camp David Accords and the associated peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. 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 (http://www.aipac.org) 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 attacks, about 1,001 Israelis were killed (up to September 2004) and 6,700 were wounded (source: Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.asp?MFAH0mcw0)). 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 [40] (http://www.phrmg.org/intrafada.htm#_ftn5). 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.[41] (http://articles.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1374/is_1_63/ai_96417155) 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. [42] (http://articles.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1374/is_1_63/ai_96417155) 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 (http://www.palestinercs.org/intifadasummary.htm) 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 (http://www.arts.mcgill.ca/mepp/unsco/unfront.html)) 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%. [43] (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=336075). However, the attribution of these numbers to the Shin Bet is highly disputed.

On August 24, 2004, Haaretz reporter Zeev Schiff published casualty figures (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/468469.html) 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:

[44] (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/468469.html)

On September 8, Maariv published IDF casualties figures (http://www.maarivintl.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=article&articleID=10981) indicating that some 989 Israelis were killed and 6,700 injured. Of the dead, 694 were civilians and 295 security personnel. [45] (http://www.maarivintl.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=article&articleID=10981)

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. [46] (http://spirit.tau.ac.il/socant/peace/peaceindex/2000/data/may2000d.pdf). 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. [47] (http://spirit.tau.ac.il/socant/peace/peaceindex/2004/data/may2004d.pdf)

See also

External links

Non-characterized

Pro-Israeli

Claims of Palestinian hatred education and child suicide bombers

Pro-Palestinian

bg:Интифада ал-Акса de:Al-Aqsa-Intifadafr:seconde Intifadaes:Intifada de al-Aqsa he:אינתיפאדת אל אקצה

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