In this episode, we explore the increasing violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories as the Cold War ends. It covers the First Intifada starting in 1987 after a tragic incident in Gaza, highlighting the Palestinian unrest and Israel's security-driven response. The narrative then shifts to the Oslo Accords and the rise of Hamas, especially after Israel's 2005 Gaza withdrawal. It touches on the Second Intifada's extreme violence in 2000 and the ongoing challenges faced by both sides, including rocket attacks and efforts to protect civilians. The episode sets the scene for discussing a major attack by Hamas in October 2023, illustrating the complex and unresolved nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
As the Cold War was drawing to a close, a new and violent era was opening in Israel.
An Intifada is a period of Palestinian unrest or uprising, often marked by protests, violence, suicide bombings, stabbings, kidnappings, rocket attacks, and resistance against Israeli counter-operations in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem.
In 1987, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was moving toward more violence. Since the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel had controlled the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. The Palestinians felt this was an unjust arrangement, often using the word “occupation” to describe Israel’s posture toward them and these territories.
On the other side, Israel believed they were not “occupying” Palestinian land but were exercising rightful governance over these territories based on historical, security, and political reasons. They argued that the territories came under their legitimate control as a result of the Six-Day War in 1967 and were crucial for Israel's defense.
Israel believed that controlling the Palestinian regions was essential for security because, in the past, they had faced unprovoked wars and conflicts with neighboring Arab nations, in addition to violence with Arabs inside their borders. The geography of the region placed Israel in a vulnerable position, and having control over these territories offered more secure borders and strategic depth.
The triggering event for the First Intifada occurred in December 1987 when an Israeli army truck collided with a Palestinian vehicle in Gaza, resulting in the tragic deaths of four Palestinians. This incident ignited widespread protests and violent clashes across the Palestinian territories.
As the First Intifada unfolded, Palestinian militants resorted to various forms of violence, including rock-throwing, Molotov cocktails, and eventually bombings targeting Israeli civilians. These attacks added to Israel's security crisis. Israel's response to the Intifada, including military measures and checkpoints, was driven by the need to protect its citizens from ongoing violence and threats.
The First Intifada, which started at the end of ’87, lasted for about six years, with the most intense period of violence occurring during the initial years. Hamas was founded in 1987 during the first intifada. It effectively concluded with the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.
These agreements were a series of secret negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian representatives that led to the formal recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) by Israel and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA). The accords set the framework for limited Palestinian self-governance in parts of their territories and outlined a process for achieving a comprehensive peace agreement.
While the Oslo Accords did not result in a final resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this represented a de-escalation of the conflict and a shift towards a diplomatic approach. However, the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict persisted.
The Second Intifada, which began in 2000, was a period of intense violence and terrorism directed against Israel. This uprising was marked by a series of unprovoked attacks and bombings by Palestinian militants targeting Israeli civilians. The roots of this conflict can be traced back to the breakdown of peace negotiations and the rejection of a generous peace offer by Israel at the Camp David talks that same year.
The triggering event for the Second Intifada was Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in September 2000. Although Israel maintained that the visit was a peaceful and legitimate act, it was seized upon by Palestinian leaders as a pretext for violence. In the following months, Palestinian militants, such as Hamas and others, initiated a wave of suicide bombings, shootings, and attacks against Israelis. These attacks caused significant loss of life and created a climate of fear and insecurity among the Israeli population.
Attacks deliberately targeted Israeli civilians in buses, restaurants, and public places. Israel, once again, faced a dire security crisis, and its response included military operations, checkpoints, and the construction of a security barrier to protect its citizens from further attacks.
The Second Intifada lasted for approximately five years and gradually subsided by 2005. It did not have a clear and formal resolution.
The Rise Of Hamas
In 2005, Israel made a controversial decision to withdraw all its troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip. Since 2005, until recently, there has been no military presence in Gaza. Israel abandoned Gaza entierly.
This move was seen by most as a gesture towards peace and an attempt to give the Palestinians more control over the region. This withdrawal was challenging due to concerns about security. Israel had been facing ongoing rocket attacks from Gaza before the withdrawal, and there were fears that removing its presence could lead to even more violence.
After Israel's 2005 pullout, Palestinian Authority, led by Fatah, initially controlled Gaza. However, tensions between Fatah and Hamas escalated. In the 2006 legislative elections, Hamas won a surprise victory.
This intensified the power struggle between the two groups. By June 2007, after a series of violent clashes, Hamas effectively ousted Fatah forces and took full control of the Gaza Strip. This led to a de facto division between the West Bank, controlled by the Palestinian Authority, and Gaza, controlled by Hamas.
Hamas in Gaza had been launching rockets indiscriminately towards Israeli cities and towns for years.
One troubling tactic employed by these militants was and still is, the use of human shields, launching rockets from civilian areas, such as schools and residential neighborhoods. They deliberately placed military assets among civilians to deter Israeli retaliation.
Now in addition to their militant action, they attempted to find legitimacy as a national entity. Hamas’ strategic connection to Iran has further strained the already explosive situation. Iran has long supplied weapons and support to Hamas, along with other militant groups who oppose Israel in the region.
In response to Hamas’ terrorist attacks over the years, Israel has taken extraordinary measures to minimize harm to civilians during its retaliatory strikes. They often have employed precision-guided munitions and even provide advance warnings to civilians in targeted areas, allowing them to evacuate to safety before any military action.
This commitment to minimizing civilian casualties demonstrates Israel's moral and humanitarian concerns in the face of these ongoing attacks while they strive to protect their own citizens from harm.
Some individuals and commentators have used the term “the third intifada to describe the rising tension in 2015 and beyond. Hamas played a key role in inciting violence during this period.
The Intifada witnessed sporadic acts of terror, including stabbing, shootings, and car-ramming attacks by individual Palestinians targeting innocent Israeli civilians.
The Third Intifada did not have a clear and formal resolution like some of the previous conflicts. Instead, the violence and unrest gradually subsided over time. Israeli security measures, including increased intelligence efforts, checkpoints, and law enforcement actions, played a role in reducing the frequency of terror attacks.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has remained a deeply entrenched and unresolved issue. While some periods of relative calm up until 2023 have occurred, the underlying tensions and grievances have persisted.
The recent explosion of violence from Gaza’s Hamas underscores the situation’s complexity. Next, we will look at the events of October 2023 when Hamas launched the most deadly attack in decades against an unsuspecting Israeli population.