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Al-Aqsa Intifada

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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.

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Background TODO: Oslo Accords, Palestinian opposition to Israeli settlements, Palestinian non-hostility towards terrorist organization.

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 reject outright as a mere fabrication by the Palestinians.

Beginning of hostilities The real upsurge in the intifada began after Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount. However, as claimed by the Israeli side, a small increase in violence had begun even earlier. Since at least September 13th, 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, as claimed by the Israeli agency Palestinian Media Watch, the Palestinian official TV broadcasts (http://www.pmw.org.il/report-30) became increasingly militant during the summer of 2000, as Camp David negotiations faltered. On September 27th, the new Intifada claimed its first Israeli victim, the military officer Sgt. David Biri ( Information from Israeli government (http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.asp?MFAH0ijw0)).

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. Some declared that Palestinians would treat such a visit as a provocation although the eventual proportions of the Palestinian riots surprised even them. Sharon declared, on the other hand, that he went to the site with a message of peace.

Sharon's visit marked the beginning of the second (or al-Aqsa) intifada. Palestinians initially claimed that this intifada was spontaneous; Israelis charged that the Palestinian leadership planned an uprising in order to use violence to get Israel to make more concessions. Few months later a number of Palestinian officials have claimed that the new intifada indeed was a pre-planned event:

Whoever thinks that the Intifada broke out because of the despised Sharon's visit to the Al-Aqsa mosque, is wrong, even if this visit was the straw that broke the back of the Palestinian people. This Intifada was planned in advance, ever since President Arafat's return from the Camp David negotiations, where he turned the table upside down on President Clinton. (Palestinian Communications Minister Imad al-Faluji, March 3, 2001, Al-Safir)

Development of the violence on both sides Following Sharon's visit, the Muslims visiting Jerusalem began an unprecedented wave of violent riots, which led to the destruction of property throughout Old Jerusalem, then expanding to other locations in Israel. The riots that developed caught Israel's government, led by Ehud Barak, off-guard. Palestinian and Israeli-Arab leaders refused to condemn the violence; Israeli Arabs began a series of severe riots (as some Israelis estimated at that time, amounting to mutiny), in which 13 Israeli Arabs were killed in confrontations with the Israeli police, and hundreds were injured on both sides.

Later in October 2000, the Palestinians destroyed a Jewish shrine in Nablus, Joseph's Tomb. They also stoned worshipers at the Western Wall and attacked another Jewish shrine, Rachel's Tomb. The Israelis killed during al-Aqsa intifada are detailed in terrorism against Israel.

In late March 2002, following a series of Palestinian suicide bombings that left more than 100 Israelis dead, Israel started a military invasion, dubbed Operation Defensive Wall[?] into the West Bank. Ariel Sharon declared this operation aimed at "destroying the terrorist infrastructure".

The operation led to the apprehension of numerous members of terrorist organization, 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. 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 two weeks, by the deportation of 13 militants to Europe.

Economic and human costs

In the Palestinian terrorist attacks, 623 Israelis were killed, and 4,400 were wounded (source: Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (http://www.mfa.gov.il/mfa/go.asp?MFAH0mcw0)). 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 at the exchange rates of the time (the interview with him was aired on Wednesday, September 25th (date exact??), 2002 at the 6 o'clock news by the Israeli Second Channel). Meanwhile, the Palestinian economcy has essentially collapsed as a result of Israeli closure and curfew.

Following statistics of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (http://www.pchrgaza.org/Intifada/Killings_stat.htm) 1550 Palestinians were killed and 13 625 were wounded from September 29 2000 to July 17 2002 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 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)) estimates the damage done to civilian infrastructure and institutions in the West Bank at US $361 million.

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 (meaning their death could also be caused by a mistaken-fire accident), whereas the Israeli casualties are distributed in a way much closer to the natural gender and age distributions, meaning they were more likely to be passers-by killed in a random - but deliberate - attack.

TODO: write about (1) tactics of both sides (2) claims of both sides (3) Tenet & Mitchell (4) Operation Defensive Wall.

Further information from pro-Israel source:

Pro-Palestinian information at:

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