September 28, 2000: Palestinians launch Second Intifada
“In the first few days of the intifada, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) fired over a million bullets into the crowds, according to data supplied to the head of Israel’s military intelligence, Amos Malka. As the journalist Ben Caspit reported, a member of the IDF’s Central Command responded to this figure by suggesting that the operation should be called ‘a bullet for every child.’” - Bashir Abu-Manneh
“The Israeli army's siege of Yasser Arafat amid the ruins of his bulldozed presidential compound could mean ‘the death’ of hopes for a Palestinian state and a peace agreement. […] We're moving in the direction of state destruction and not state-building” - UN Under-Secretary-General Terje Rød-Larsen, one of the architects of the Oslo Accords
On this day in 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made a provocative visit to the Al Aqsa mosque compound, prompting mass protests among Palestinians in what became the symbolic trigger event for the Second Intifada (Arabic for “uprising”). Also known as the Al Aqsa Intifada, the Second Intifada was born out of Palestinian disillusionment with the Oslo Process, failed negotiations at Camp David, increased illegal Israeli settlement activity, and provocative Israeli military actions. For about five years, Palestinians engaged in large protests, civil disobedience, boycotts, militant violence and other forms of resistance. In what became the “end of Oslo,” Israel repeatedly reinvaded the West Bank and used brutal violence to quash Palestinian resistance. By the end of the Second Intifada, approximately 5,000 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis had been killed.
The Second Intifada lasted until about 2005, with significant acts of violence against civilians committed by both Israel and Palestinian groups. Frequent Palestinian suicide bombings in Israel-proper were characteristic of the Second Intifada, as was extreme violence from Israeli forces, often using heavy military hardware. The Jenin Massacre in 2002, where Israeli forces levelled an entire neighbourhood in the Jenin refugee camp, killing at least 50 Palestinians, became symbolic of Israel’s ruthlessness during this period. Israel also began building its 700 km 8-metre-high apartheid wall during this period, arguing that it was necessary to stop Palestinian suicide bombers. In another notable incident, Israel laid siege to Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's, headquarters, a step that led to a gradual weakening of Arafat and the independence of the Palestinian Authority.
The Second Intifada drew to a close with a summit in Sharm el-Sheikh in February, 2005, where Israel and the Palestinians agreed to end attacks on one another. Strategically, the Second Intifada, along with the death of Yasser Arafat in 2004, forced a changeover of the Palestinian leadership – both in Fatah and Hamas. The Second Intifada also prompted Israel to remove all Israeli settlers from Gaza in 2005, although the territory remains under Israeli occupation and a brutal siege today. Israel’s apartheid wall – which it justified by pointing to the violence of the Second Intifada – has imposed terrible hardship on Palestinians since its construction, hampering Palestinian livelihoods, education, health care, and freedom of movement. With the abandonment of the Oslo process, there was also new interest in appraising the conflict under the lens of international law, as demonstrated by the International Court of Justice’s scathing opinion on Israel’s wall in 2004. This experience also led Palestinian civil society to form the non-violent Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which was launched in 2005.