With US President Donald Trump declaring Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the signs of the third Palestinian intifada are already appearing. Here's the impact of the last two intifadas.

Palestinian protesters wearing traditional keffiyeh headdress throw rocks at IDF soldiers during the first round of intifada  1988.
Palestinian protesters wearing traditional keffiyeh headdress throw rocks at IDF soldiers during the first round of intifada 1988. ( AP )

Could this be the third intifada?

Tensions in the Middle East are usually high but after US President Donald Trump’s recent speech where he revealed the United States would move their embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, talk of a third intifada is back on the streets of Palestine. 

What is the intifada?

The intifada is a grassroots uprising that first begun in 1987 after years of Palestinian passiveness in the face of Israel’s occupation. It started a new era in Palestinian resistance moving from non-violence to, at times, full-scale rioting. It was made up of regular people off the street, to unions and organisations. 

Although the word intifada means an uprising, Palestinians adopted creative methods to defy Israeli occupation. For instance, they rejected Israel’s daylight saving time, as activists opted to work on their own time. 

The intifada was not without severe consequences. Israeli reaction included deportations and killings of Palestinian residents, the closing down of universities and mass arrests which sparked an uprising in the Gaza strip that lasted for five years.

According to the Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, BTselem, 1,124 Palestinians lost their lives in the first Intifada. 

A further 16,000 were imprisoned and many were tortured. While fewer than 50 Israeli civilians were killed.

The second wave of dissent 

The second intifada was less than a decade removed from the first. It began on September 28, 2000 after the Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon walked in Al Aqsa mosque with his security guards. 

A fight broke out between patrons of the mosque and the security guards. Seven Palestinians were killed during the fight, triggering the second intifada, Al Aqsa Intifada. 

The visit and subsequent killings of seven Palestinians led to rising discontent among Palestinians in the self-governed territories. The fact that the Oslo agreement didn’t bring about better economic conditions contributed to the mounting resentment. 

The intifada spread in two days across Palestine. And once again, the consequences of discontentment were severe; by the fourth day of the uprising, the body count began to rise. At least 20 Palestinians were killed, including 12-year-old Mohammad al Dura, whose death was caught by TV cameras. Dura was killed by the Israelis while he desperately tried to hide behind his father. 

Hamas signalled a "day of rage” on October 6, 2000 urging action from Palestinian residents to attack Israeli army outposts in the occupied areas. 

A number of Palestinian resistance groups, Hamas, The Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade started sending out suicide bombers whose mission was to blow themselves up in Israel, taking as many people as they could with them.

By the following year, March 7, 2001, Sharon had been elected Prime Minister. He pointed to terrorism as the cause of the region's disharmony using a military campaign in the self-ruled Palestinian territories to eliminate armed Palestinian factions.

The attacks did not spare civilians in the areas targeted. One attack in Gaza saw an Israeli F-16 warplane fire a missile into a Gaza city neighbourhood, killing at least 11 people, including children and wounding 100 more. Their target was Hamas leader Salah Shahada. 

Young Palestinians rest in the shade of a building destroyed during the second intifada in 2005.
Young Palestinians rest in the shade of a building destroyed during the second intifada in 2005. ( AP )

In an effort to restore peace, Saudi Arabia called for a peace plan that would see Israel withdraw from all occupied Arab land in exchange for the normalisation of ties with all Arab states and an end to the war. 

The plan was universally agreed in an Arab League summit in Beirut. However, hours after the agreement was made Israel opted to launch a widespread attack on Palestinian territories, killing and injuring many Palestinians.

The second intifada caused more than 4,000 Palestinian deaths according to BTselem, while more than 900 Israelis died. 

Why should we care?  

The sheer violence and casualties of both intifadas tell us a third one would lead to nothing but more body bags. The two combined saw more than 5,000 Palestinians and just under a 1,000 Israelis killed. 

The conflict has the potential to affect millions, and further heighten tensions in the Middle East. It’s a statement from Donald Trump, despite the international community's overwhelming warning, that he doesn’t want to aid peace in the Middle East but assist chaos. 

Source: TRT World