What has happened during the al-Aqsa intifada?
Intifada in Arabic means “shaking off” and is used because of the Palestinian struggles to shake the Israeli occupation off. Al-Aqsa intifada, also known as the second intifada, occurred somewhere in 1987 which was largely a non-violent movement to cut back on everything relating to Israel in an attempt to make their demands known. It is known to have subsided with the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 when Palestinians gained a little hope as to achieve independence.
The underlying reason of the al-Aqsa intifada was a 30-year continuous occupation of the Israeli military on the West Bank and Gaza. The hope which Palestinians had gained because of Oslo Accords of 1993 remained so and the anticipation of an independent state and the end of occupation kept delaying with the situation worsening rapidly.
Israel kept on expanding settlements, constructing by-pass roads and confiscating Palestinian property. They continued to demolish houses and burning or uprooting olive groves and fruit trees, eliminating the sources of income for Palestinians. Signs of tighter occupation were imposed through closures, check points and other such hindrances, going as far as turning ambulances back from the military fences or detaining them. Palestinian people were restricted from entering into Israel occupied territory to go to their work and were humiliated at the checkpoints by the Israeli soldiers. Palestinian basic human rights were infringed and their dignity was challenged. In such a situation, rage and frustration kept building up in the hearts of Palestinian people. They felt betrayed and disillusioned by the Oslo Accords.
In September 2000, Ariel Sharon appeared on one of the most sacred Muslim sites, Haram-al-Sharif which added fuel to the fire. Palestinians protected to it the following day and 7 were killed by the members of IDF. This sparked even more anger in Palestinians and they initiated the intifada full on. In the five following days, massive demonstrations were carried out all over West Bank and Gaza whose Israeli response was to use live fire and bullets. 47 Palestinians lost their lives and over 1800 were badly wounded.
A report from Amnesty international stated that most of the Palestinian casualties were of the people taking part in the demonstrations or bystanders while the lives of IDF soldiers were in no danger. The underlying conditions which gave birth to intifada still exist, only in a worst form than before, more so because of the siege of 2001 and the building of ‘security fence’.
According to a consensus in 2004, over 3500 Palestinians were injured while around 1100 were killed because of the intifada. Children suffered from malnutrition and Palestinian schools were bombed to rubbles. Economy of the West Bank and Gaza was badly disrupted and its overall effect was seen in Palestinian infrastructure. Although the exact date of the end of intifada is not known, it is said to have lasted till February 2005. While the situation did not get any better, it brought out two positive changes. One, it brought about the independence of Gaza strip from the Israeli control and secondly, it proved to all the Israeli parties that the dream of “greater Israel” is impossible to fulfill.