WEST BANK (Dispatches) – Palestinians gathered at a rally in central Ramallah to mark the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the second Intifada, or uprising, on September 28, 2000.
The second Intifada – commonly referred to by Palestinians as al-Aqsa Intifada – began after then-Zionist opposition leader Ariel Sharon sparked the uprising when he stormed al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East al-Quds with more than 1,000 heavily armed police and troops.
Nabil Shaath, currently a top adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Mahmoud Abbas, who back then served as a close aide to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Sharon’s visit move was straw that broke the camel’s back.
The frustration of the Palestinians, he says, started long before the notorious visit.
Although the Oslo Accords in 1993 between the Zionist regime and the Palestinians stipulated the gradual establishment of an independent Palestinian state, in reality very little has been done to achieve that goal.
But prior to Sharon’s move, frustration and anger had risen year after year among Palestinians on the backdrop of the refusal of successive Zionist administraions to abide by the Oslo Accords and end the occupation.
The tensions and the frustration had also risen after the failure of the Camp David talks that were held in July 2000, where then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Zionist prime minister Ehud Barak failed to reach an agreement because of disagreements over the status of al-Quds, territorial contiguity, and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
The first days of the uprising were characterized by large non-violent demonstrations that included civil disobedience and some stone-throwing. It started in al-Quds and quickly spread to the occupied West Bank and East al-Quds.
The demonstrations were met with excessive force from Zionist troops that included rubber-coated bullets and live ammunition. Soon thereafter followed military incursions involving helicopters and tanks into heavily populated Palestinian areas.
During the first few days of the second Intifada, it is estimated Zionist troops fired about 1.3 million rounds of ammunition, as revealed by Amos Malka, then-director of the occupying regime’s military spy agency. This occurred despite the fact that Palestinians in the early weeks did not resort to violence.
In the first five days of the Intifada, 47 Palestinians were martyred and another 1,885 were wounded. Amnesty International found the majority of Palestinian casualties were civilian bystanders, and 80 percent of those martyred in the first month posed no life-threatening danger to Zionist troops. Five Zionists were killed during the same period.
Analysts have long said excessive use of force was the reason why the phase of Palestinian popular resistance in the Second Intifada ended quickly and was replaced by armed resistance.
At least 4,973 Palestinians were killed over the course of the Second Intifada. Among them were 1,262 children, 274 women and 32 medical personnel, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.