Politics, World

15 yrs since 2nd Intifada, Aqsa remains at conflict's heart

Exactly 15 years since eruption of ‘Al-Aqsa Intifada,’ East Jerusalem’s iconic mosque complex remains at center of decades-long conflict

Aness Suheil Barghoti   | 28.09.2015
15 yrs since 2nd Intifada, Aqsa remains at conflict's heart

JERUSALEM

Fifteen years ago today, on Sept. 28 2000, the Second Palestinian Intifada broke out after controversial Israeli politician Ariel Sharon – serving as defense minister at the time – entered occupied East Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque complex accompanied by a large number of Israeli troops.

Sharon toured the mosque’s courtyards, where he declared that the “Temple Mount” – the Jewish term for Al-Aqsa – “will remain Israeli territory,” an assertion that provoked the ire of the Palestinians.

Sharon’s provocation led to clashes at the mosque compound that left seven Palestinians dead and 250 injured.

Shortly afterward, dozens more Palestinians were injured in violent clashes that erupted in occupied East Jerusalem, with violence between Israeli forces and angry Palestinians quickly spreading all over the Palestinian territories.

Two days after Sharon’s provocative visit, Mohamed al-Durra, an 11-year-old Palestinian child, was shot dead in the southern Gaza Strip – as he sought shelter in the arms of his father – by an Israeli soldier.

Al-Durra’s murder – which was captured on camera – infuriated Palestinians, thousands of whom hit the streets as a result, prompting further clashes with Israeli troops in which dozens of Palestinians were killed and injured.

Compared to the First Intifada, which lasted from 1987 to 1991, the second Palestinian uprising was marked by frequent clashes and military escalations between Palestinian resistance groups and the Israeli army.

According to official Palestinian and Israeli figures, 4,412 Palestinians were killed and 48,322 injured during the Second Intifada, while 1,069 Israelis were killed and 4,500 injured.

During the Second Intifada, which lasted from 2000 to 2005, the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip were both subjected to Israeli military invasion, in which thousands of homes were destroyed and thousands of acres of farmland devastated.

Among the most prominent events of the Second Intifada was the assassination of Israel’s then Tourism Minister, Rehavam Ze'evi, by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

Ariel Sharon, for his part, ordered the killing of numerous Palestinian resistance figures, one of the most prominent of whom was Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, founder of Islamic resistance group Hamas.

 Developing resistance

It was during the Second Intifada that the Palestinians developed their most effective tools of resistance, while resistance factions built their military wings.

It was at this point, for example, that the Ezzeddin al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, succeeded in developing rockets able to hit Israeli cities and towns.

One year after the outbreak of the Second Intifada, also known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada, Al-Qassam managed to strike Israel’s southern city of Sderot with a homemade rocket – the first time for the Palestinian resistance to successfully land a missile inside Israeli territory.

The Second Intifada ended on Feb. 8, 2005, after an agreement arrived at between Israelis and Palestinians at a summit held in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm al-Sheikh.

Some observers, however, say the Second Intifada never really ended because no political solutions were ever adopted formally ending the conflict, with violence between the two sides continuing to this day.

Within the last two weeks alone, Palestinians have clashed with Israeli troops across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem in response to all-too-familiar Israeli aggression in East Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.

Some Palestinian officials warn that continued Israeli violations against Al-Aqsa – and Palestinian Muslim worshippers therein – risk sparking a Third Intifada.

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