September 28, 2000
Violent protests erupted on the Haram al-Sharif (the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock) in Jerusalem during a visit by right wing Likud leader Ariel Sharon. Up to this point, Ariel Sharon's career had spanned more than fifty years, most of them spent as an officer in the Israeli Defense Forces (commander of Unit 101, role in 1973 war, as a leader in the formation of Likud Party in 1973, role in 1982 invasion of Lebanon and as a target of investigation - Kahan Commission). More recently, he had been involved in politics (Housing Minister, 1990, Infrastructure Minister, 1998, Foreign Minister, 1998, (see especially his speech of Nov. 15, 1998), and Prime Minister, 2001.
By mid October, Arabs began referring to the spreading unrest as intifada al-Aqsa, the al-Aqsa Uprising. Palestinians, who recalled Sharon's uncompromising rhetoric toward Arabs as well as his alleged role in the massacres of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatilla camps in Beirut (1982), regarded the visit to al-Aqsa as a deliberate provocation and an attempt to assert Israeli sovereignty over the holy Muslim sites. Many critics viewed these events as the logical outcome of the deeply flawed Oslo Accords.
By October 6, more than 70 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli police firing rubber bullets and 1,900 had been injured. A U.S. and French brokered meeting in Paris hosted by U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright failed to bring a halt to hostilities. The unrest spread into Israel itself as Arab citizens of Israel joined their counterparts in the West Bank and Gaza staging street battles with Israeli troops. A symbol of the new intifada was a twelve year old Palestinian boy named Muhammad al-Dura who had been shot to death on September 30, 2000 at Netzarim Junction in Gaza by Israeli bullets as he cowered in terror beside his father (wounded in the same attack). The incident was filmed and broadcast worldwide.
On October 8 and 9 three Palestinians were lynched by Israeli settlers. On October 12, two Israeli soldiers were lynched while in Palestinian police custody in Ramallah. A mob of 1,000 Palestinians stormed the police station and overpowered police officers who tried to protect the prisoners. Israel retaliated with rocket attacks on Palestinian government headquarters in Ramallah and on Arafat's offices in Gaza.
An October 9 editorial in al-Hayat, a leading pan-Arab newspaper, typified Arab reaction to the ongoing events.
On October 12, the United States Senate sent a letter to President Clinton signed by 96 senators urging him to stand in "solidarity with Israel" and condemning the Palestinian "campaign of violence." The four senators who did not sign the letter were Republican Senators Spencer Abraham, Judd Gregg, and Chuck Hagel, and Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia.
A hastily convened summit in Sharm al-Sheikh brought together Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and their US mediators on October 16. Israel agreed to pull back its forces and Palestinians agreed to try to do what they could to rein in the rioters. The summit failed to stop the violence on the ground which, by week's end, saw the death toll rise to 123.
On October 22, a summit of Arab leaders in Cairo ended with a somewhat muffled rebuke of Israel. Most Arab states were too dependent upon American aid to take a harsher stand against Israel. Even Arafat was restrained, by turns blaming the United States for not living up to its role of honest broker, and praising President Clinton for his untiring efforts to bring about peace. In Israel, Barak announced he was considering a "time out" from the peace process as speculation rose that he would invite Ariel Sharon to join an emergency coalition in an effort to save Barak's government. The Arab League called upon every Arab to donate a day's pay to the Palestinian cause. Jordan ordered its 160,000 civil servants to donate a day's pay to the cause. At least one commentator (John Whitbeck, Middle East International, 10 November, 2000) urged Arabs to use their oil in a "carrot-and-stick" approach with the United States, applying restrained but steady pressure on the Americans in the pursuit of a just peace in the region.
Hillary Clinton, running for the Senate in New York, announced on October 26 that she would return a $50,000 donation from a California based Muslim organization because some of its members had praised a United Nations resolution supporting Palestinian armed resistance against Israel.
British historian and journalist Patrick Seale saw a "turning of the tide" in the Middle East with Israeli imperialism and American hegemony beginning to end, and a trend toward increasing autonomy for the Muslim nations of the region on the rise.
On October 25, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution introduced by New York Congressman Benjamin Gilman expressing its solidarity with the state of Israel and condemning the Palestinians for the current violence. The vote was 365-30. American media coverage had been running heavily pro-Israel and against the Palestinians. Palestinians began to call for international protection against what they characterized as Israeli aggression as well as a new international coalition to put together a new peace initiative. The United States was conspicuously omitted from any role in the new coalition.
On October 26, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up at an Israeli army outpost in Gaza injuring one Israeli. Islamic Jihad took credit for the operation. The Israeli army destroyed a Palestinian house overlooking the site and uprooted olive trees nearby. On November 2, Islamic Jihad struck again, detonating a car bomb in a crowded market area of West Jerusalem killing two Israelis. Israelis blamed the activity by Jihad on Arafat's decision to release scores of Islamic militants from jails at the outset of the uprising.
By November 1, 170 people, almost all Palestinians, had died in the violence. Israeli and Palestinian leaders reached an agreement to try to halt the violence, but without success. Israeli leaders, who along with the Americans, had charged Arafat with fomenting the violence, now admitted publicly that he may not have been able to control or dictate events on the ground. Day to day direction of the intifada seemed to be coming not from Arafat but from Fatah militia leader Marwan Barghouti.
On November 9, Yasser Arafat met with President Clinton in Washington as an Israeli helicopter gunship launched a rocket destroying a car in the West Bank. Fatah leader Hussein Abeyat and two women bystanders were killed. The incident was branded an assassination and Palestinians vowed revenge. Up to this point, 190 Palestinians had died in the violence. The following day Arafat met with the UN Security Council in a futile attempt to have UN troops sent to the West Bank and Gaza to help restore peace.
By mid November, voices from the Israeli Left had begun to raise the question of whether Israel should be sacrificing lives and hopes for peace to defend the settler movement. Writer David Grossman (The Yellow Wind) wrote, "The time has come when all Israelis must ask themselves honestly whether they are prepared to die for the sake of tens of thousands of settlers who live in isolated, armed enclaves in the heart of an Arab population." Yossi Sarid, leader of the Israeli Meretz Party said, "We think the settlement program is the most foolish thing ever carried out by the Zionist enterprise." (New York Times, November 15, 2000, A13). In an article written for the Israeli paper Yediot Aharanot (November 10, 2000), Sarid referred to the settlements as "our original sin." Sarid noted ruefully that the number of settlers in the occupied territories had grown from 20,000 in 1977 to 200,000 in the year 2000. The same year had seen a 96% rise in settler housing start-ups compared to the previous year 1999. In the first quarter of 2000, housing start-ups in Israeli settlements comprised more than 22% of all public building construction in Israel (Middle East International, November 24, 2000, 26).
On November 15, the twelfth anniversary of Palestinian President Arafat's declaration of the State of Palestine (in Tunis,1988), at least seven Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank and Gaza, bringing the death toll in the intifada to at least 224 people.
On November 16, hostilities broke out on the northern border with Lebanon as Hizbullah guerillas vowed to fight on until they recovered the disputed Shebaa Farms (which U.N. maps regarded as part of Syria) occupied by Israel.
On November 17, al-Jazeera, the Qatar based Arabic satellite news channel, hosted a debate between three prominent Palestinian leaders: Palestinian Authority Minister of Information Yasser Abd Rabbo, the deputy head of HAMAS' political bureau, Musa Abu Marzuq, and Bilal Al Hassan, an analyst with the London-based daily, al-Hayat. All three agreed on the concept of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital. However, they then went on to say that the eventual goal was a unified state in all of geographical Palestinian. The debate host Sami Haddad and Abd Rabbo both characterized the existence of a Jewish state in the region as "racist." (Middle East Times, December 1, 2000)
On November 20, a bomb went off in a school bus carrying children from a Jewish settlement in Gaza. Two Israelis were killed. Later that night, Israel retaliated with missile attacks from the air and sea hitting offices belonging to Fatah. The following day, Egypt recalled its ambassador to Israel. The death toll at this point stood at 250 as fighting continued to rage.
As the death toll neared 300 (mostly Palestinians), Barak offered Palestinians even more land if they would agree to defer the issue of Jerusalem. Arafat said no.
On December 5, an Israeli diplomat was shot and wounded in Jordan by members of the Jordanian Islamic Resistance Movement for Holy Struggle prompting fears that the intifada may be spreading outside geographical Palestine and Israel.
In early December, the United Nations issued a report criticizing Israel for its blockade of the Palestinian territories which was precipitating a deep economic crisis there. Unemployment had risen from twelve to forty percent since the outbreak of the intifada. In a related development, the World Bank announced it had awarded the Palestinian National Authority a grant of twelve million dollars to help alleviate the suffering.
On December 11, an international commission appointed to investigate the intifada began talks with Israeli PM Barak and PNA leader Arafat. The commission was led by former US Senator George Mitchell who had brokered a peace agreement in Northern Ireland.
On December 18, the United Nations Security Council rejected a Palestinian request to set in place a team of international observers in the West Bank and Gaza. The United States, Russia, France, and the United Kingdom all abstained from the vote denying the measure any chance of passage. Palestinians accused the United States of biased behavior in favor of Israel by pressuring member nations into withholding their support.
The waning weeks of President Clinton's final term saw vigorous efforts to broker a deal before Clinton left office, but all ended in failure. The death toll stood at 370, (mostly Palestinians) with more killings almost daily. With Israeli elections impending, polls showed challenger Ariel Sharon far ahead of the incumbent, Prime Minister Ehud Barak. On February 6, Sharon won a landslide victory over Barak in the elections (25 point margin).
On February 12, one of Arafat's body guards, Massoud Ayad, was killed in an Israeli helicopter gunship attack in Gaza. The Israeli army described the operation as an "anti-terrorist action."
On February 14, in the worst attack inside Israel in three years, a Palestinian bus driver ran his bus into a crowd of Israeli citizens killing eight. Two days later, Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians during clashes in Hebron. Troops also clashed with Palestinians in Ramallah following Friday prayers.
On February 22, the Bush administration demanded Israel release $54 million in tax revenues earmarked for the Palestinian authority. Israel had thus far linked the turnover of the money to pledges by Palestinians to reduce violence.
On March 1, a bomb blew up on a minibus traveling through northern Israel killing one and injuring five.
In late March, the Islamic Development Bank, with funds coming from Saudi Arabia, the United Emirates, and Kuwait (countries that heretofore had refused to provide any monies to Arafat's Palestinian Authority because of his support for Saddam Hussein in the 1991 Gulf War), announced it would provide a $300 million aid package to shore up the Palestinian economy which was on the brink of total collapse. Palestinian incomes had on average been cut in half and unemployment had tripled since the outbreak of violence the previous fall.
Also in late March, violence began escalating at an alarming rate. A Palestinian gunman shot the infant daughter of Israeli settlers in Hebron provoking Israel to seal off the city. Two bomb blasts occurred in Jerusalem on the 27th killing the Palestinian suicide bomber and injuring several Israelis. The following day, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in the midst of a group of Israeli teenagers waiting for a school bus killing himself and three of the students. An eleven year old Palestinian boy was killed by Israeli gunfire in Gaza. In the United Nations, the USA vetoed a resolution calling for an international observer force in the region to protect Palestinians. Meanwhile, Israel unleashed artillery attacks on Palestine Authority government buildings in the West Bank and Gaza. On March 30, Palestinians staged another "Day of Rage" throughout the territories to protest Israeli violence. Six Palestinians were killed and over 100 injured. The European Union called on both sides to exercise "maximum restraint." To this point over 400 people had died, 350 of them Palestinian including dozens of children.
In early April, 2001, violence spiraled upward with Palestinians targeting settlers and with Israel responding with strikes from helicopter gunships. Islamic Jihad leader Iyad Hardan was killed when a telephone booth he was using blew up (the work, it was assumed, of Israeli agents). On April 5, Israel announced plans to construct 700 new homes for settlers in Palestinian territories expanding settlements near Jerusalem and Nablus. The United States, in an unusually sharp rebuke, denounced the initiatives as "provocative."
On April 11 in an effort to eliminate Palestinian mortar positions that had been firing on the adjacent Israeli settlement of Neve Dekalim, Israeli tanks and bulldozers rolled into the Palestinian refugee camp of Khan Yunis in Gaza and leveled at least fifteen homes. Two Palestinians were killed and twenty five injured. 460 Palestinians had died since the intifada erupted, 70 Israeli Jews, and 20 Israeli Arabs.
On April 16, 2001, for the first time since it handed control of Gaza over to the Palestinians under the Oslo Accords of 1994, Israel sent forces into sovereign Palestinian territory dividing the Gaza Strip into three parts. Arabs called the move "reoccupation." Israel said it was acting in retaliation for mortar attacks on the Israeli town of Sderot. PNA President Arafat denied responsibility for the attacks, but HAMAS did claim responsibility raising anew the old question of just how much control Arafat had over his people. Later that day, the United States strongly rebuked Israel. While acknowledging that Israel had been provoked, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell branded Israel's reaction as "excessive and disproportionate." Israel responded by pulling back. By day's end all Israeli troops and equipment had withdrawn from Gaza. Hours after Israel's withdrawal, Palestinians launched further mortar attacks on positions inside Israel. Israel announced that its new policy was to reoccupy portions of Palestinian land as it saw fit in order to defend itself. On the following day, Israel briefly reentered Gaza, leveled a police station in retaliation for continuing mortar attacks on Israeli positions, then abruptly pulled back again. All sides agreed that the intifada had escalated to new and far more dangerous heights.
On April 22 and 23, Palestinian militants carried out three bomb attacks inside Israel killing two and injuring scores: one in the northern Tel Aviv suburb of Kfar Saba, one in Haifa, and the other near the settlement of Ariel inside the West Bank.
By April 28, there were signs that Arafat was beginning to succeed in reigning in factions of his Fatah movement responsible for mortar attacks on Israeli settlements as well as leaders of HAMAS like Abdul Aziz Rantissi.
In the early morning hours of May 2, Israeli bulldozers backed by army tanks entered a refugee camp in Rafah at the southern edge of the Gaza Strip and destroyed Palestinian homes and crops. Israel claimed the positions had been used to shell Israeli settlements and troops. In the preceding few weeks Israel had razed dozens of houses in Khan Yunis and Rafah rendering hundreds of Palestinians homeless. The U.S. State Department sharply criticized the May 2 operation.
On May 4, 2001, a report by the commission led by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell investigating the causes of the current Palestinian uprising was prematurely leaked. A key finding was that Israel's settlement activity in Palestinian territories was a root cause of the unrest. Israel flatly rejected the report. On May 7, a four month old baby girl was killed by Israeli gunfire in the Gazan refugee town of Khan Yunis. On the West Bank, Israeli troops, tanks, and bulldozers entered the Palestinian town of Tulkarm and destroyed the police station.
On May 8, Israeli forces intercepted a boat off the coast of Gaza which was smuggling arms from Lebanon for use by Palestinian militants. On May 9, the bodies of two Israeli teenagers were found in a cave near Tekoa on the West Bank. The boys had been stoned to death, allegedly by Palestinian militants who more and more had been targeting Jewish settlers in the Palestinian territories.
On May 10, Israel launched missile attacks on Palestinian security headquarters in Gaza in retaliation for the deaths of two Romanian-Israeli workers. On May 14, one day before Israeli independence day (a day Palestinians call al-nakba - "the catastrophe"), five Palestinian policemen died in an Israeli raid in the West Bank (in Bitunia, west of Ramallah). Palestinians claimed the five were assassinated in cold blood as they stood routine guard duty at their regular posts. Israel also launched an overnight raid on Gaza involving both land and naval forces. Arafat vowed revenge.
On May 17, after several weeks of raids on Palestinian positions inside Palestinian territories, Israel announced it was setting up outposts inside Palestinian territories which it intended to occupy "indefinitely."
On May 18, a HAMAS suicide bomber blew himself up at a shopping mall in Netanya, Israel killing at least five Israelis and wounding more than 100. Israel retaliated with F-16 fighter attacks against Palestinian targets in the West Bank and Gaza killing at least nine Palestinians. The use of jets was a first for Israel since the 1967 war and was interpreted as yet another dangerous escalation of the conflict. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon remained defiant as criticism of his policies mounted, among them his decision to allow the building of fifteen new Jewish settlements on Palestinian lands since January.
One year after the Lebanese Shiite militia Hizbullah took credit for compelling Israel to withdraw from southern Lebanon, arguments raged in the Israeli press over the extent to which the Palestinians may have been inspired by Hizbullah's example to initiate their own intifada ("uprising") against Israel, this in light of the Mitchell Commission's finding that Ariel Sharon's visit to the al-Aqsa Mosque on September 28, 2000 did not in and of itself cause of the intifada. Many recalled Hizbullah leader Hasan Nasrallah's statements encouraging Palestinians to press on. Columnist Bilal Hasan writing in al-Hayat (June 10, 2000) predicted that Palestinians would be inspired by Hizbullah's victory in Lebanon to once again rise up against Israeli occupation.
On May 27, a new U.S. envoy, William Burns, met with Sharon and Arafat. Israel and the Palestinians agreed to resume joint security operations. This development came hard on the heels of a new series of bomb blasts in West Jerusalem. The current conflict had claimed more than 500 lives to date in the worst fighting since the 1967 war.
Following a suicide bombing by an Islamic militant at a nightclub in Tel Aviv on June 1 which killed 17 Israelis and wounded 90 (most of them teenagers), Israel sealed off the West Bank and Gaza. Israel ended a unilateral ceasefire imposed one week earlier. Israeli tanks entered northern Gaza. Israeli patrol boats imposed a blockade along the coast of Gaza preventing Palestinian fishing vessels from putting out to sea. The border crossing between Gaza and Egypt was closed. Arafat condemned the bombing. International condemnation of the bombing also came quickly. The following day, a mob of Israelis attacked a mosque across the street from the bombing scene hurling stones and breaking windows.
On June 26, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon paid his second visit to the White House since taking office in March while Palestinian leader Arafat had not yet been invited to meet the new U.S. President (Bush). This prompted Arab charges that the U.S. was biased in favor of Israel. Support continued to build in the U.S. Congress to close Palestinian offices in Washington.
On June 28, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell meeting with Arafat in Ramallah declared American support for the idea of an international force to monitor the ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians. The White House later retracted this concession to Palestinian wishes, which had been opposed by Israel from the start, saying that the U.S. had no intention of imposing conditions on either side.
By mid July, the U.S. brokered ceasefire was seen as a cruel and ineffectual joke: hostilities had gone on unabated (with a total to this point of 477 Palestinians dead and 122 Israelis killed altogether, 30 of them since the supposed ceasefire had gone into effect). The accidental shooting of an eleven year old Palestinian boy by Israeli troops on July 7 was followed by another HAMAS sponsored suicide bombing on July 10. Also on July 10, Israel demolished 26 Palestinian homes and 12 stores on the Egypt-Gaza border provoking an extensive gun battle. The day before, Israel had destroyed 14 Palestinian homes that had been under construction in the Palestinian refugee camp of Shuafat in a northern neighborhood of Jerusalem.
On 19 July, all major industrialized countries (including the United States), the so-called "G8," went on record at their conference in Genoa in support of international observers to oversee the behavior of both sides in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israel remained opposed to the idea claiming the United Nations had traditionally opposed Israeli interests (the U.N. General Assembly voted in 1975 to brand Zionism as a racist ideology, a resolution that was repealed at the insistence of the United States and Israel in 1991. Since 1994 when Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein gunned down 29 Palestinians at prayer in Abraham's tomb at Hebron, 150 European observers had been in place to monitor events but had been able to do little to stem the violence.) Writing in one of the Arab world's leading papers al-Hayat (July 25, 2001), Ranada Taqi al-Din credited pressure from the United States' European allies at the G8 conference for the American change of heart on the question of observers, and argued that active European involvement might help neutralize the impact of the ongoing American pro-Israeli bias in Middle Eastern affairs.
Also on July 19, in Hebron, three Palestinians (one a baby) were shot dead by members of an extremist Jewish settler group calling themselves, "The Committee for Security on the Roads," believed to be an offshoot of the Kach movement founded by New York Rabbi Meir Kahane who was assassinated in 1990. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and leaders of the settler movement condemned the attack.
Also on July 19, 2001, the BBC reported that Robert Malley, adviser to former President Clinton, had claimed publicly that Yasir Arafat was being unfairly made to shoulder most of the blame for the failure of the Camp David summit in the summer of 2000 which led to the outbreak of the current conflict. Malley argued that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak was also to blame since beforehand he had committed to allowing no more settlements on Palestinian lands and had agreed to withdraw from Palestinian villages. Later, at the conference itself, Barak reneged on the deal angering Arafat and leaving him unwilling to compromise.
On July 29, violence erupted on the Haram al-Sharif ("the Noble Enclosure") in Jerusalem where it had all begun the previous September. An angry crowd of Palestinian Muslims began throwing stones down on Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall which abuts the Muslim holy sites on what Jews called "the Temple Mount." The Palestinians were angry at an attempt by an extreme messianic Jewish group, "Temple Mount and Land of Israel Faithful," to lay a cornerstone for the third Jewish temple. The Muslim shrine, the Dome of the Rock, stood on the site of the two previous Jewish temples (the second of which had been destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E.). Israeli authorities had denied the "Faithful" a permit to lay the cornerstone on the site itself, but had allowed them to perform the ceremony just outside the "Dung Gate" entrance to the Old City ignoring warnings from Arab leaders that the act would be a provocation no matter where it was performed. At least 35 people were injured when Israeli police moved in to break up the melee.
The following days brought the deaths of fourteen Palestinians in the West Bank, eight of them the targets of a an Israeli missile attack aimed at high HAMAS officials. Two of these officials were among the Palestinian dead in addition to two children. On August 1, tens of thousands of enraged Palestinians demonstrated vowing revenge.
On August 9, a Palestinian a suicide bomber struck a pizzeria in West Jerusalem during the busy lunch hour killing fifteen people. Israel responded by occupying Orient House, the Palestinian headquarters in East Jerusalem, as well as additional Palestinian offices in Abu Dis. Israeli F-16 fighters struck targets in Ramallah and Israeli tanks entered Gaza. On August 12, a second Palestinian suicide bomber struck a cafe in Haifa wounding 21. (Go to the transcript of an interview with a Palestinian suicide bomber)
Violence escalated rapidly over the weekend of August 24-26 with raids by both sides on one another. The death toll to this point: at least 537 Palestinians, 153 Israelis, and 14 Israeli Arabs. U.S. President Bush came under fire from Arabs who charged him with shirking his responsibilities by failing to take a more active role in helping to stop the violence. The U.S. had been active (the Mitchell Commission Report in May and the ceasefire of June 13 brokered by CIA director George Tenet) but in recent weeks had backed off.
On August 27, an Israeli missile attack claimed the life of the highest ranking Palestinian official to die in the intifada thus far, Abu Ali Mustapha, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Palestinian counter attacks led Israel on the 29th to send troops and tanks in to reoccupy Beit Jala on the West Bank and the Palestinian refugee camp of Khan Yunis in Gaza. Israel withdrew after two days following an official American protest. On September 3, four bombs went off in Jerusalem. Responsibility was claimed by the PFLP: retaliation for Mustapha's assassination.
Suicide airliner attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington on September 11, 2001 prompted Arafat to urge Palestinians not to do anything to provoke Israeli retaliation. Israel had recoiled in the wake of a suicide bombing in Nahariya that killed three and which was carried out for the first time by an Israeli Arab on September 9. Heavy fighting was reported in the north West Bank town of Jenin, where the Israeli Arab bomber had received training. The United States began applying heavy pressure on Israel to work out a ceasefire with the Palestinians in advance of anticipated allied retaliatory attacks on Afghanistan. The government of Afghanistan was believed to be harboring Usama Bin Laden, the principal suspect in the September 11 attacks. Renewed efforts to put a stable ceasefire in place were cast in doubt by a Palestinian car bomb attack in Jerusalem and an attack on the Jewish settlement of Alei Sinai in the northern Gaza Strip. President Bush announced on October 2 that the United States favored the establishment of a Palestinian state. This provoked a heated exchange between President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon after the latter hinted publicly that the U.S. may have been contemplating abandoning Israel to appease the Arabs just as Chamberlain had given up Czechoslovakia to appease Hitler.
On October 8, Palestinian police fired upon Palestinian demonstrators killing one and prompting angry charges that Arafat was bowing to pressure from the United States and Israel to rein in the militants.
On October 17, Israel's minister of tourism, Rehavam Zeevi, who had long advocated the forcible transfer of all Arabs out of the West Bank and Gaza, was shot to death in a hotel in Jerusalem. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine took credit for the assassination. The assassination prompted Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to deliver an ultimatum to Arafat: seven days to hand over the assassins or Israel's military would begin targeting the Palestinian Authority itself. Israeli troops moved in and occupied large areas of the West Bank. By the end of the month Israel began pulling out of Arab territories and continued to do so despite continued attacks by Arab militants.
On November 4, a Palestinian gunman opened fire on a bus in Jerusalem killing two teenagers.
On November 8, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmad Maher warned the United States that success in the American led war on terror depended on solving the Arab-Israeli conflict, and that the United States must play a leading role. Editorial writers throughout the Arab world castigated the United States for not doing more to restrain Israel which six weeks earlier had reoccupied six cities in the West Bank and up to this point still occupied two of them. U.S. President George W. Bush had vowed not to meet Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat when both were scheduled to be at the United Nations charging that Arafat was dragging his heels in efforts to restrain extremists under his rule. A week earlier Arafat's government had released some of the members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) who had been arrested following the assassination of Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi on October 17.
Over the weekend of November 24, 2001, violence on both sides continued unabated as an American delegation led by retired Marine General Anthony Zinni prepared to go to the region with a new American peace initiative (see also Zinni's mission in March, 2002). On November 29, as General Zinni was meeting with Arafat, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in a bus in northern Israel killing four passengers. On December 1 and 2, in what Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres called "one of the worst attacks ever seen" on Israel, at least 26 Israelis were killed and more than 200 injured in a pair of suicide bomber attacks in the Ben Yehuda pedestrian shopping mall of West Jerusalem and, twelve hours later, a bus bombing in the northern Israeli city of Haifa. In addition, a Jewish settler in Gaza was killed by Palestinian gunmen there. Islamic Jihad and HAMAS took responsibility for the incidents. Senior HAMAS official Abdel Aziz Rantisi said the attacks on Israel would continue until Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory ended.
These attacks were seen as undermining Zinni's peace initiative. The Palestinian Authority strongly condemned them. The United States called upon Arafat to arrest militants and do more to quell Palestinian terror. On December 3, Israel began massive retaliatory attacks against the Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called it "Israel's war on terror." Palestinian cabinet minister Saab Erakat said the attacks amounted to a "declaration of war against the Palestinians." The United States (through presidential spokesman Ari Fleisher) said, "Israel has a right to defend itself." Arafat responded by rounding up scores of militants and by putting HAMAS' spiritual leader Ahmed Yassin under house arrest. The Israelis called a halt to the raids for the time being.
Many observers saw the past repeating itself: weak leaders on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides resorting to violence to shore up their fragmenting power bases. Arafat's regime, which was widely unpopular among Palestinians who viewed it as corrupt and ineffectual, lacked the will to eliminate HAMAS and other militant groups fearing an attempt to do so might backfire and result in the Palestinian Authority's own downfall. At the same time, Palestinian militants believed that suicide bombings in Israel served the purpose of inviting further retaliatory attacks against Arafat by Israel thereby increasing the chances of his downfall. Thus, the attacks on Israel were seen by some as a proxy war that HAMAS was fighting against Arafat.
For his part, Ariel Sharon was threatened by a Labor Party pullout from the fragile coalition that made up his government, an event that would probably lead to his fall from power. Sharon had to walk a fine line between further retaliation against the Palestinians (which the Right wing wanted) and the drive to make peace (which Labor wanted, as did 60% of all Israelis according to polls at that time).
A week of sharply escalating violence on both sides that included massive Israeli bombardment of Palestinian installations and another suicide commando attack near the Israeli settlement of Emmanuel on the West Bank that killed 10 Orthodox Jews led Israel to cut off all contacts with Arafat. Meanwhile, the United States on December 15 cast the only negative vote on the United Nations Security Council vetoing a measure introduced on behalf of Tunisia and Egypt that reaffirmed the "essential role" of the Palestinian Authority in the peace process, condemned terrorist violence on both sides, and called for international observers on the ground in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
On December 16, 2001 Arafat called for a halt to Palestinian attacks on Israelis.
On January 3, the Israeli Navy captured the freighter Karine in the Red Sea after discovering it was carrying munitions picked up off the coast of Iran and destined for Gaza. American intelligence confirmed the personal knowledge and involvement of Yasir Arafat in the shipment.
On January 9, two Palestinian gunmen dressed in Palestinian police uniforms stormed an army outpost in Gaza and killed four Israeli soldiers. HAMAS claimed responsibility.
On January 14, Israeli troops demolished nine Palestinian homes in the Issawiyya neighborhood of East Jerusalem claiming they had been built without permits. Palestinian residents claimed they were being forced to violate Israeli imposed building codes because the Israelis had refused to issue them permits to build homes to accommodate their growing families. (Israeli zoning restrictions were designed to limit Palestinian growth and preserve the Jewish majority in Jerusalem.) The demolitions came just days after the Israeli army destroyed refugee homes in Gaza leaving homeless, according to the Red Cross, 600 people. The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem claimed that 60 houses were bulldozed altogether. Israeli military analyst Zeev Schiff called the demolitions "an act of undisguised ruthlessness, a military act devoid of humanitarian and diplomatic logic." (New York Times, January 14 and 15, 2002). Israeli army officials countered that the homes were being used to launch attacks on Israeli outposts and therefore had to be destroyed.
On January 17, 2002, a member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, a militant group associated with Arafat's own Fatah movement, entered a hall in the town of Hadera inside Israel and gunned down six Israelis attending a party celebrating a Bat Mitzvah. The attack was said to have been an act of revenge for the assassination by Israeli forces of Fatah's militia leader in the West Bank city of Tulkarm, Raed Karmi, earlier in the week. Israel responded with an air raid on Tulkarm destroying Palestinian government headquarters there, then surrounded Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah with tanks and destroyed the Palestinian national broadcasting facility. Arafat was now under de facto house arrest, unable to leave his own office building. A few days later, the Israel army occupied Tulkarm, the first time in the 16 month conflict that it had occupied an entire city.
On January 22, a member of the Palestinian militant group al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade opened fire with an M16 semiautomatic weapon at a crowded bus stop in downtown West Jerusalem killing two and wounding sixteen. This was the first attack inside Jerusalem since December 16 when Arafat had called for a halt to attacks on Israelis. Earlier the same day, Israeli forces killed four members of HAMAS in the West Bank city of Nablus during a raid on what was described as a bomb-making factory.
On February 1, more than a hundred members of Israel's army reserves released a signed statement saying they would henceforth refuse to serve in the West Bank and Gaza. In their statement, the soldiers said, "'The price of occupation is the loss of the Israel Defense Forces' semblance of humanity and the corruption of all of Israeli society...We will no longer fight beyond the Green Line with the aim of dominating, expelling, starving, and humiliating an entire people.'" According to a war resisters' group Yesh Gvul ("There is a limit") approximately 400 Israelis had refused to serve in the occupied territories. Most had been quietly released from duty. Some forty had faced disciplinary hearings and detentions. The action unsettled Israelis: following the invasion by Israel of Lebanon in 1982, protests within the army were considered to have been a chief factor in Israel's decision in 1985 to pull back to the security zone along its border with Lebanon (from which it withdrew completely in the spring of 2000). (New York Times, Feb. 2, 2002).
In mid February, Israeli tanks were once again making incursions into Palestinian villages in Gaza and cities in the West Bank. Israel was especially concerned about the appearance of a new homemade weapon in the arsenal of HAMAS: the Qassam-2 rocket with a range of up to seven miles. Israel pledged to seek out rocket "factories" in Palestinian controlled areas and destroy them.
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres on February 13 submitted a new peace plan which included an immediate ceasefire, immediate recognition of a Palestinian state within a limited area, and yearlong negotiations over final boundaries.
On Saturday night, February 16, 2002, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in a pizzeria in the Jewish West Bank settlement of Karnei Shomron crowded with post-Sabbath revelers killing two others and wounding 20. Recent polls showed Israeli Prime Minister Sharon's popularity falling off sharply among Israelis who were upset at his failure to deliver on his election promise of the previous year to bring peace and security to Israel. On February 19, one of the bloodiest days in the conflict, eight Palestinians and six Israelis died in attacks and counter attacks. By February 25, Israel had shifted its tactics away from keeping Arafat holed up in his office building in Ramallah and away from raids into Palestinian territory in response to Palestinian attacks and toward creating "buffer zones" between Israeli and Palestinian positions. (Some observed ominously that this was all too reminiscent of Israeli tactics in Lebanon during the 1980s).
On the evening of March 2, 2002, as the Sabbath was ending, an eighteen year old Palestinian suicide bomber, Muhammad Daraghmeh, blew himself up in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Mea Shearim in Jerusalem killing nine Israelis. The next day, a Palestinian gunman shot dead ten Israelis at a West Bank check point and two more Israelis were killed in Gaza and the West Bank. These events led to one of the most violent periods in the uprising to date. Momentum built in support of a new peace initiative by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah with Arab countries (including Syria) climbing on board. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak meeting with President Bush in Washington on March 5 called for the United States to become actively involved in the peace process again. On March 6, the United States (speaking through Secretary of State Colin Powell) openly broke with Israel's latest policy of escalating violent conflict with the Palestinians and predicted its ultimate failure.
On March 8, one of the bloodiest days in the uprising up to that point, more than 30 Palestinians were killed in Israeli military raids into Palestinian enclaves. The dead included a Palestinian United Nations employee who was shot in an ambulance in Tulkarm. Earlier, a Palestinian gunman killed five Israeli seminary students as he stormed through the school lobbing grenades and firing guns. Elsewhere, dozens of Jewish settlers raided a Palestinian village near Nablus damaging a clinic and a mosque and injuring four. Fears began to rise that vigilante actions on both sides could further add to the turmoil. (BBC, March 8, 2002) On the evening of Saturday, March 9, in an emerging pattern of operations targeting post-Sabbath Jewish crowds (see February 16 and March 2 above), a Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in a cafe across the street from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem killing 11 Israelis. Israel responded by destroying Arafat's seaside headquarters in Gaza.
On March 11, seven hard line members of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government from the Beiteinu, Tekuma, and Moledet parties withdrew from his national unity coalition giving the opposition Labor Party power to topple the government. The hardliners said Sharon had failed to deliver on his election promise to deliver security for Israel. (Boston Globe, March 12, 2002) To date, more than 340 Israelis had been killed (over 1,000 Palestinians). The ratio of Israelis to Palestinians killed was 1 to 12 seventeen months before when the current uprising began, but at this point had narrowed to 1 to 3.
On March 12, 2002, the United Nations Security Council passed a United States resolution (1397) in which for the first time the U.S. called for a Palestinian state to exist side by side with Israel. The vote was 14-0 with Syria abstaining. The U.S. won praise from Palestinian representatives, and Israel called the resolution "balanced." U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan had blunt words for both Israelis and Palestinians: he urged Palestinians to halt "morally repugnant" acts of terror against Israelis, and he called upon Israel to end its "illegal occupation" of Palestinian land. (Associated Press, March 13, 2002). On March 14, the New York Times in its lead editorial used uncharacteristically blunt language to criticize current Israeli military operations in the West Bank and Gaza. The editorial came one day after President Bush issued some of his strongest criticism of Israel labeling the current incursions as "not helpful." Israel at the time had 20,000 troops in Palestinian territories in the biggest operations since the 1967 war.
On March 20, 2002, a suicide bomber blew himself up on a bus in northern Israel killing himself and seven Israelis. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility. The incident occurred during a mission by U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni who was trying to arrange a truce. (See interview with a Palestinian suicide bomber). Despite two other suicide bombings over the course of the following two days (leaving ten Israelis dead), officials pressed on with the talks.
On March 27, 2002, with Arafat still a virtual prisoner of Israel in the West Bank city of Ramallah (where his headquarters had been surrounded by Israeli tanks since January 17) and unable to either attend or even speak via TV hookup to the Arab Summit conference in Beirut, a suicide bomber from HAMAS blew himself up in a hotel in Netanya where Israeli Jews were gathering to celebrate a Passover seder. Twenty Israelis were killed and more than one hundred are injured. Despite the unanimous Arab call for peace issued on March 28 in Beirut (see Arab summit), Israel's Prime Minister Sharon called up 30,000 reservists and on March 29 began an assault on Palestinian leader Arafat's Ramallah headquarters ("Operation Protective Wall"). At the end of the day, Arafat and a few bodyguards were holed up in a single room without electricity or water. Also on the 29th (during Passover and on the eve of the Sabbath), a female Palestinian suicide bomber blew herself up killing two Israelis in a Jerusalem supermarket.
The same day (March 29, 2002), the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 1402 (the vote was 14-0) calling upon Israel to withdraw its forces from all Palestinian cities, but also expressing "grave concern" over the practice of Palestinian suicide bombings against Israelis. This marked the second time in a month (see March 12 above) when the United States, which usually either voted in favor of Israeli government positions or abstained, had voted against an Israeli position. (Associated Press, March 30, 2002) The resolution reaffirmed preceding resolutions 242 (1967), 338 (1973), 1397 of March 12, 2002, and the Madrid Principles (1991).
On March 30, 2002, the normally pro-Israel New York Times in its lead editorial called upon Israel to withdraw from occupied Palestinian lands and move toward implementing a Palestinian state.
On March 31, as Israeli soldiers continued to lay siege to Arafat's compound and initiated massive assaults on numerous other targets, two more suicide bombings occurred; the first in a restaurant in Haifa took 15 Israeli lives in addition to that of the bomber while the second in a Jewish settlement (Efrat) killed the bomber and injured several Israelis. Sharon told Israel in a televised address that he had declared war on Palestinian terror and would completely dismantle the terrorist network. Palestinians accused Sharon of dragging the entire Middle East into another war. Meanwhile, on March 31, 2002, al-Jazeera reported that in Egypt, prominent Muslim Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi had called for a pan-Muslim jihad against Israel and furthermore had called for a boycott of American goods and products claiming that the United States was biased in favor of Israel and could not be trusted to play the role of honest broker in the peace process. Moderate Arab governments like Egypt and Jordan, who had peace treaties with Israel, stood to lose the most ground as moderate voices in both countries began to yield to calls in the street to break the treaties and send Arab armies into Palestine to fight alongside the Palestinians.
On April 1, the wave of suicide bombings (the sixth in as many days) continued when a lone bomber blew himself up along with his car at a checkpoint in Jerusalem. One Israeli policeman was severely injured. U.S. policy on April 1 had not been presenting a unified face: while President Bush publicly sympathized with Israel and called on Arafat to stop the suicide attacks, his advisers expressed doubts that Israel's current campaign against the Palestinians would work. Meanwhile, tensions escalated on Israel's northern border as the Lebanese Hizbullah militia reinforced its positions and lobbed occasional Katyusha rockets at Israeli army positions in the Shebaa Farms area. Israel warned Syria and Lebanon to rein in Hizbullah or face reprisals as Arab calls for Israel to give up its occupation of the Shebaa Farms (on the slopes of Mt. Hermon at the foot of the Golan heights) were heard again. Israel responded to Hizbullah rockets with raids across the border into southern Lebanon from which it had withdrawn nearly two years before prompting fears that a second front of the current Arab-Israeli conflict could open soon and that Syria, which had redeployed 20,000 troops into Lebanon, might also be drawn into the fray.
April 4, 2002 marked the second day that the fourth century Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, traditional site of Jesus' birth, had been under siege since it was taken over by more than 100 armed Palestinian policemen seeking asylum from Israeli troops. Meanwhile, after heavy fighting, Israeli troops took control of Nablus, the West Bank's largest city. In the midst of all this, Iraq announced it was upping the remuneration it paid families of Palestinian "martyrs" (suicide bombers) from $10,000 to $25,000. Late on April 4th, President Bush committed his administration to work toward a resolution of the conflict announcing that Secretary of State Colin Powell would travel to the region the following week. This prompted Israel to step up its offensive. President Bush responded to the escalation by demanding Sharon pull his troops out of Palestinian areas "without delay." Scores of Palestinians were dead by April 6. The International Red Cross said it was suspending humanitarian efforts in the Palestinian territories because its vehicles were being fired on by Israel. Fighting was described as fierce. An Arab League meeting in Cairo on April 6 welcomed Powell's upcoming visit to the region, but at the same time unanimously affirmed its support of Yasir Arafat as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
On April 8 it became clear that Israel was defying U.S. President Bush's demand that it withdraw its army from Palestinian cities "without delay." Oil prices surged as Iraq announced it was suspending shipments of crude oil for 30 days or until Israel withdrew its army from Palestinian areas. By April 10, ten days into its invasion of Palestinian areas, Israel had failed in its goal to stop terrorism: another suicide bus bomber in Haifa claimed eight Israeli lives. The previous day, thirteen Israeli soldiers were killed in an ambush inside the Jenin refugee camp. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell received a chilly reception on his meandering tour of Arab capitals from angry Arab leaders like Morocco's King Muhammad VI who asked pointedly why Powell hadn't gone first to Jerusalem to stop Israel's invasion. On April 12, as Powell was winding up meetings with Sharon, a suicide bombing in Jerusalem (the fourth carried out by a female attacker) killed six Israelis.
On April 13, Arafat issued a statement condemning terrorism. The first line said, "President Yasir Arafat and the Palestinian leadership express their condemnation (idana) of terrorist acts aimed at civilians whether they be Israelis or Palestinians and whether this terror is state terror, terror committed by groups, or terror committed by individuals. This is based on the deep rooted principle of rejecting the use of violence and terror against civilians or as a means of realizing political goals." (translated from a statement in Arabic released by Wafa, the news agency of the Palestinian National Authority and published in al-Quds, April 14, 2002.) The statement went on to remind readers that the Palestinians had first announced this position in 1988 and had repeated it several times since, most recently on 16 December, 2001. Notwithstanding this, the same week, Arafat's wife in an interview in al-Majalla said if she had any sons of her own she would want them to become martyrs. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell met with Arafat the following day, but the meetings, while described officially as "constructive," did not produce a ceasefire.
On April 15, the Israelis arrested Marwan Barghouti, a member of Arafat's Fatah organization and the man widely believed to be the principal field commander for the intifada. On April 17, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell ended his mission without having achieved a ceasefire and without selling Arab leaders on the idea of a new regional peace conference in the absence of full Israeli withdrawal in compliance with U.N. Resolution 1402.
On April 19, 2002, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously in favor of a United States resolution authorizing the sending of a United Nations investigation team into the Palestinian refugee camp of Jenin to examine the behavior of the Israel Defense Forces in the recent assault on the camp. Palestinians claimed the Israelis massacred civilians there. (On April 30, the Israeli cabinet voted to defy the United Nations and refused admittance to the U.N. team commissioned to investigate the Israeli operation in the Palestinian refugee camp of Jenin.) Ultimately, the United Nations issued a report on August 1, 2002 which found that no massacre occurred at Jenin.
The death toll at this point in the conflict stood at 1,287 Palestinians dead (at least) and 452 Israelis dead (Reuters, April 20, 2002). Once again, President Bush demanded that Israel withdraw from Palestinian cities, but once again he did not set a timetable. On April 21, Sharon withdrew his troops from all Palestinian cities except parts of Ramallah (leaving Arafat still penned up) and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem (where, Israel maintained, some thirty five "terrorists" were among the Palestinians who had taken over the Church when the Israeli campaign began) and proclaimed that this phase of his "war on terrorism" was over. Having said this, however, Sharon continued throughout the week to send tanks and troops on temporary missions into targeted areas.
On April 27, gunmen entered the Jewish settlement of Adora west of Hebron and killed four people. Israel responded by launching a raid into Hebron on April 29 in which nine Palestinians were killed. Also on April 29, Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a U.S. plan that would lift the month long siege against Arafat and allow him to travel throughout the West Bank and Gaza freely in exchange for which six Palestinians suspected of violence against Israel would be guarded by American and British military police. Meanwhile, Israel continued to resist attempts by a U.N. inspection team to enter Jenin.
On May 2, Arafat was set free. The United Nations decided to back down in the face of Israel's challenge, and the team sent to investigate the Israeli campaign on Jenin was recalled. On May 3, as the United States committed itself to join Russia, Europe, and the United Nations in a peace conference on the Middle East to be held early in the summer, the U.S. Congress, voting on separate non-binding House and Senate resolutions, overwhelmingly expressed support for Israel (House: 352-21, and Senate: 94-2). Members of both houses branded Arafat a "terrorist" and a "despot." (New York Times, May 3, 2002, A10).
On May 8, talks to end the siege at the Church of the Nativity broke down. Palestinians and Israelis had been close to a deal whereby fugitives inside the church wanted by Israel would be allowed to go into exile in Italy. But, the Italians said they had never agreed to such an arrangement. Meanwhile, Israel suffered another suicide bomber attack (the first since "Operation Protective Wall" ended) on a pool hall in Rishon Le Zion, a working class town south of Tel Aviv. HAMAS claimed responsibility. Later the same day, a would-be suicide bomber was critically injured when the device went off prematurely in Haifa (no one else was injured). Arafat's PNA, through its news agency Wafa said it "strongly condemns the violent operation in Rishon Le Zion that targeted civilians." Arafat began arresting HAMAS officials. HAMAS vowed attacks would continue.
On May 10, agreement was reached between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators and the siege of the Church of the Nativity (which had begun on April 2) ended. The agreement called for the deportation of some militants to Europe.
On May 12, Sharon's Likud Party voted, over his objections, to rule out the establishment of an independent Palestinian state paving the way for a challenge to Sharon's leadership from former P.M. Benjamin Netanyahu. The U.S. reasserted its support for a Palestinian state the following day. Also on the 12th, Arab leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Syria meeting at Sharm al-Sheikh issue a communiqué condemning all violence and expressing the sincere desire on the Arab side to make peace with Israel (BBC, May 12, 2002).
On May 15, 2002, the Palestinians' annual commemoration of what they referred to as al-Nakba ("the catastrophe"), the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that sent hundreds of thousands of Palestinians into exile, Palestinian Authority leader Yasir Arafat called for new elections and sweeping reforms in Palestinian governing institutions, this in response to charges of corruption from all sides, including his own people. Two days later as sporadic clashes continued, Arafat backtracked saying that elections would not be held until Israel withdrew from the occupied territories.
On May 19, a suicide bomber killed two others in Netanya, Israel. PNA Chairman Arafat condemned the act.
On May 20, Ariel Sharon's coalition government was threatened by his dismissal of four members of the religious Shas movement after an argument over budgetary matters. Some began predicting early elections.
During the week of May 20-24, Israel was rocked by a series of bombings indicating a new wave of Palestinian attacks was underway. On May 27, a suicide bomber killed himself and two others in Petah Tikva (near Tel Aviv). Israel raided Palestinian towns (including Bethlehem) in search of Palestinian militants. Arafat said the raids could delay the elections he had promised (see May 15 above). At least 1,372 Palestinians and 480 Israelis were dead up to that point in the uprising according to figures from Reuters (May 27, 2002).
On June 5, the Palestinian branch of Islamic Jihad announced it was responsible for the suicide bombing of a bus near Afula, Israel that killed at least 16 Israelis, 13 of whom were soldiers. Israeli armored vehicles attacked Arafat's compound in Ramallah entrapping him for the second time this year (see above).
On June 24, 2002, U.S. President Bush delivered a speech calling for the establishment of a Palestinian state pending reforms in the Palestinian Authority. At the same time, Bush announced that the United States would no longer deal with Yasir Arafat or recognize him as the Palestinians' leader. Also in late June, Israel announced that it was responding to a new wave of Palestinian suicide attacks by reoccupying sections of the West Bank. On July 2, Arafat sacked three security chiefs; but, two of them - Jibril Rajoub and Ghazi Jabali - defied him and refused to step down highlighting Arafat's weakened powers and setting the stage for a showdown.
Meanwhile, a debate over whether suicide bombings served the Palestinian interest sprang up, led by a group of 55 Palestinian intellectuals and political leaders including Hanan Ashrawi and Sari Nusseibeh who argued that they did not. This group published an ad in the daily newspaper al-Quds calling for a cessation of attacks on Israeli civilians inside Israel (but, pointedly, not in the Israeli occupied portions of the West Bank and Gaza). HAMAS leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi opposed the proposal. Israel on July 9 closed the Jerusalem offices of Nusseibeh claiming that as a representative of the Palestinian Authority he constituted a "Trojan horse" that threatened Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem.
On July 11, the London based Amnesty International group condemned Palestinian suicide bombings and other attacks targeting Israeli civilians as "crimes against humanity" that might also constitute war crimes. The Palestinian Authority dismissed the report as "biased and unbalanced," and HAMAS officials vowed that suicide attacks would go on. According to Associated Press figures, the death toll in the current conflict up to that point stood at 1,752 Palestinian dead and 565 Israeli dead including 71 Palestinian suicide bombings that have killed 250 Israelis. (Associated Press, July 11, 2002)
On July 16, eight Israelis were killed when Palestinian militants ambushed a bus in the Israeli settlement of Emmanuel near Nablus. The next day, three Israelis were killed in a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv. These incidents demonstrated to Israelis that militants were able to penetrate even the tightest Israeli security.
On July 20, Israeli plans to blow up homes of suspected Palestinian militants and expel their relatives drew fire from the United States, the United Nations, and from human rights groups who contended that such measures violated the Geneva Conventions see Fourth Geneva Convention). UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the plans amounted to "collective punishment" of the Palestinian people. (BBC, July 20, 2002)
On July 23, the Israeli military using a U.S. F-16 jet dropped a 2,000 pound bomb on a house in Gaza killing one of the founders of HAMAS' military wing Sheikh Salah Shehada but also fourteen others including nine children. Condemnation from around the world (including the United States) was swift. The bombing came as Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were engaged in the most serious truce talks in months for the two sides and as Tanzim, the militia associated with Arafat's Fatah movement, was offering an unconditional end to attacks on Israeli noncombatants.
On July 30, a suicide bomber attacked a snack bar in downtown Jerusalem killing only himself. The following day, HAMAS took responsibility for a remote controlled bomb that killed seven (five of them American students) and injured at least seventy in an attack on a cafeteria at Hebrew University in East Jerusalem.
The United Nations issued a report on August 1, 2002 which found that no massacre of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers occurred at Jenin the previous April.
A suicide bus bomber from HAMAS blew up an Israeli bus in northern Galilee on August 4 killing at least ten and initiating one of the worst days of bloodshed in the conflict. The following day, Israel imposed a total travel ban on sections within the West Bank except to meet humanitarian needs.
On August 18, Israeli and Palestinian officials okayed a plan for Israeli troops to withdraw from recently reoccupied parts of the Gaza Strip and Bethlehem.
On August 30, Palestinian Interior Minister Abdel Razzak al-Yahya said publicly that Palestinian suicide bombings were contrary to Palestinian traditions and harmed the Palestinian cause. HAMAS leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin vowed they would continue.
On September 10, disputes between the Palestinian Legislative Council and Arafat's cabinet over how to conduct the intifada reflected growing dissatisfaction among Palestinians over Arafat's leadership. (New York Times, Sept. 11, 2002) The following day, the cabinet resigned in the most serious challenge to Arafat's rule since he returned to Palestine from exile in 1994.
On September 18 and 19, 2002, after a six week respite, two Palestinian suicide bombings occurred in Israel. In the first, one Israeli policeman was killed. In the second, five bus passengers in Tel Aviv were killed and fifty were wounded. Israeli tanks and troops surrounded Arafat's compound in Ramallah and began systematically destroying the buildings. Arafat found himself (once again) pinned down by Israeli troops who demanded the surrender of some fifty Palestinian militants who had taken refuge inside the compound. World reaction against Israel's action was strongly against it. The United States described it as "unhelpful." Israel was seen as attempting to force Arafat back into exile (he had returned to Palestine in 1994 as part of the Oslo Agreement). Bowing to U.S. pressure, the Israelis called off the siege of Arafat's compound on September 29.
On September 24, an Israeli raid on a weapons making facility in Gaza killed nine. On September 27, another Israeli raid in Gaza failed to kill the main target, HAMAS bombing strategist and head of its military wing Muhammad Deif, but killed two others and injured 40.
On September 30, Amnesty International issued a report condemning both the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships of targeting children in the conflict and otherwise showing "utter disregard for the lives of children and other civilians." (BBC, Sept. 30, 2002) According to A.I. figures, more than 250 Palestinians under the age of 18 had died during the two year conflict, and more than 70 Israeli children.
On October 7, fourteen residents of the Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza were killed in a raid by Israeli forces who had been hunting for suspected Palestinian militants. HAMAS vowed revenge. Deadly clashes began to break out in Gaza between supporters of Arafat and supporters of rival factions leading some to fear the prospect of civil war erupting within Palestinian society.
Amidst ongoing violence in Gaza, the United States on October 18 floated a new peace plan. The terms called for reforms to Palestinian governance, an end to Palestinian violence, a freeze on Jewish settlement building, withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian population centers by mid 2003 to be followed six months later by Palestinian elections and the declaration of a temporary Palestinian state, and final status arrangements to be completed by the end of 2005 (according to the BBC, October 19, 2002).
On October 21, a suicide bomber from Islamic Jihad detonated the bomb-laden jeep he was driving as he pulled up beside an Israeli bus near the town of Pardes Hanna. At least 15 Israelis were killed in the attack. On October 25, Israel reoccupied the Jenin refugee camp from which it believed the attack had been launched.
November 15, twelve Israeli settlers in Hebron who were headed to the Machpelah cave (Abraham's grave) for Friday evening Sabbath prayers were gunned down by Palestinians. Islamic Jihad took credit. (see 1994 when settler Baruch Goldstein gunned down 29 Muslim worshippers at Machpelah.) On December 19, the Israeli army dismantled an Israeli settler outpost built illegally near the site of the shootings and occupied by members of the Kiryat Arba settlement.
On November 21, a suicide bomber killed eleven passengers and injured forty in an attack on a bus in West Jerusalem. HAMAS claimed responsibility. The Israeli army occupied Bethlehem in response.
On November 23, Israel admitted its troops had shot dead a British United Nations worker in Jenin during a gun battle with Palestinians.
In late November, comments made at a private meeting by Arafat's deputy Mahmoud Abbas (known also as "Abu Mazen") were printed in the Arabic daily al-Hayat. In these remarks, Abbas bluntly characterized the uprising as a disastrous mistake on the part of the Palestinians and said that it must be brought to an end. He went on to say that the uprising had led to the "complete destruction of everything we built." There was no response from Arafat, isolated and holed up in the ruins of his Ramallah headquarters: a sign of his diminished influence.
On December 15, embattled Palestinian leader Arafat charged Usama bin Laden's al-Qaeda movement with exploiting the Palestinian cause for its own political purposes and thereby harming it.
On January 15, 2003, Israel responded to a suicide bomb attack in Tel Aviv earlier in the month that killed 23 by closing two Palestinian institutions of higher learning in the West Bank which Israel claimed were serving as recruiting and training centers for militants.
On January 28, Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon posted a strong victory as his ruling Likud party increased its number of seats in the 120 member Knesset from 19 to 37, a sign that, while most Israelis said they wanted Israel to dismantle Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories and establish a Palestinian state, at the same time they felt safer living under Sharon's hard-line policies and did not trust Yasir Arafat as a negotiating partner.
Also in late January, the charity organization Christian Aid published a report claiming that three quarters of the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza were living on less than $2 per day and that one quarter of all children living in those areas suffered from anemia. (BBC, Jan. 29, 2003)
In early February, the Arabic weekly news magazine al-Majalla reported that the official spokesman of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territories, Father Attallah Hana, had called on Palestinian Christians to join their Muslim brothers in suicide attacks ("martyrdom operations") against Israelis. Father Hana was quoted as saying, "Palestine as we understand it extends from the sea to the river: the Jordan River is the natural border of Palestine. We categorically refuse to give up even a speck of dust from our mighty homeland (min watanina al-'azizi)." He then gave a list of cities from both the territories and Israel and went on to say, "Zionist Jews are foreigners in these places and have no right to live in them or settle in them...Jerusalem is an Arab city in which Jews have no right to settle, own property, or carry out religious practices or rites of any kind." (al-Majalla, Feb. 2-8, 2003, 12, trans. by Ted Thornton). (see also interview with a Muslim suicide bomber) Father Hana's position was reminiscent of that taken by the rector of Egypt's al-Azhar university during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War.
On February 12, Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat agreed to international demands that he appoint a Prime Minister.
On February 14, a senior leader of HAMAS, Riyad Abu Zayd, died in an ambush by undercover Israeli agents in Gaza in retaliation for the HAMAS bombing of an Israeli tank which killed four Israeli soldiers a few days earlier. During the following week, Israeli tanks and helicopters invaded Gaza targeting workshops the Israelis claimed were being used to manufacture weapons. At least eleven Palestinians died, the largest death toll since a similar raid into Gaza on January 26.
On February 24, Israeli PM Sharon formed a new three way coalition including his Likud Party, the secular Shinui Pary and the National Religious Party, the leading proponent of Israeli settlement activity in Palestinian territories.
On March 16, Rachel Corrie, an American college student, was killed as she attempted to block an Israeli bulldozer from demolishing the home of suspected Palestinian militants in Gaza.