What started the al-Aqsa intifada in September 2000?
“I knew that the end of September was the last period (of time) before the explosion, but when Sharon reached the al-Aqsa Mosque, this was the most appropriate moment for the outbreak of the intifada…
....The night prior to Sharon's visit, I participated in a panel on a local television station and I seized the opportunity to call on the public to go to the al-Aqsa Mosque in the morning, for it was not possible that Sharon would reach al-Haram al-Sharif just so, and walk away peacefully. I finished and went to al-Aqsa in the morning....
…We tried to create clashes without success because of the differences of opinion that emerged with others in the al-Aqsa compound at the time...
….After Sharon left, I remained for two hours in the presence of other people, we discussed the manner of response and how it was possible to react in all the cities (bilad) and not just in Jerusalem. We contacted all (the Palestinian) factions.
In the evening of the same day, Barghouti traveled to the Arab Triangle inside Israel where he was to participate in a conference.
While we were in the car on the way to the Triangle, I prepared a leaflet in the name of the Higher Committee of Fatah, co-ordinated with the brothers (e.g., Hamas), in which we called for a reaction to what happened in Jerusalem.
Marwan Barghouti in an interview with the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat (September 29, 2001),
Marwan Barghouti, head of the Tanzim <pf_current_marwan_barghouti.php>,
“Whoever thinks that this [war] started as a result of Sharon's despicable visit to Al Aksa is in error. It was planned since Arafat's return from Camp David [where he] firmly stood up to Clinton and rejected the U.S. terms.
The intifada has little to do with Sharon's visit, and everything to do with the Palestinian Arabs' political agenda.” Imad Falouji, the Palestinian Authority Communications Minister, at a rally in Lebanon on March 3, 2001
[The Intifada] did not break out in order to improve our bargaining ability in the negotiations, nor as a reaction to Sharon's provocative visit to Al-Haram Al-Sharif: this was only the spark. It was accumulated in the depths of our people and was bound to explode in the face of Barak's government because of the political problem that was put off for more than a year and a half -- the problem of independence.
Sakhr Habash, a member of the Fatah's Central Committee, in an interview with the Palestinian Authority newspaper.
On September 29, Palestinian Arabs staged large demonstrations and threw stones at police at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Police used rubber-coated metal bullets and live ammunition to disperse the demonstrators, killing 4 persons and injuring approximately 200.
Palestinians began violent demonstrations against IDF soldiers, settlers, and other Israeli civilians throughout the occupied territories; these demonstrations and ensuing clashes became known to Palestinian Arabs and many Israelis as the "al-Aqsa intifada".
"The Palestinian people is the strong half of the international equation. It is the secret code and the key to any stability and peace not only in the Middle East, but in the world..."
"You can be sure that your stay here is temporary. We will not allow any force to raise any issue detrimental to the Right of Return to Palestine. I congratulate President Emil Lahud who has said countless times that there will be no solution for the Palestinians that does not include their return to Palestine. To him we respond: ‘Yes.’ This position has the consensus of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership...
…We emphasize that the Palestinian leadership will not sign a peace agreement without guaranteeing Palestinian rights, and first and foremost the Right of Return, the liberation of Jerusalem and its return to full Palestinian sovereignty. These are our fundamental Palestinian principles, to which we hold fast and for which we fight."
"The Al-Aqsa Intifada emphasizes these principles and axioms. Whoever thinks that the Intifada broke out because of the despised Sharon’s visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, is wrong, even if this visit was the straw that broke the back of the Palestinian people. This Intifada was planned in advance, ever since President Arafat’s return from the Camp David negotiations, where he turned the table upside down on President Clinton. [Arafat] remained steadfast and challenged [Clinton]. He rejected the American terms and he did it in the heart of the US."
"My visit here in South Lebanon is a clear message to the Zionist enemy. We say: Just as the national and Islamic Resistance in South Lebanon taught [Israel] a lesson and made it withdraw humiliated and battered, so shall [Israel] learn a lesson from the Palestinian Resistance in Palestine. The Palestinian Resistance will strike in Tel-Aviv, in Ashkelon, in Jerusalem, and in every inch of the land of natural Palestine. Israel will not have a single quiet night. There will be no security in the heart of Israel...."
"The Palestinian people are patient, but when they take action - no one can stop them. When the Palestinian people are seized with rage, the world [becomes] familiar with it."
"We say to the Zionist enemy and to the entire world: ‘We will return to the early days of the PLO, to the sixties and seventies; ‘the Fatah Hawks’ will return, as will the ‘’Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades’ [the military wing of the Hamas] and the ‘Red Eagles’ [the military arm of the ‘Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’].’ A new stage will continue until the rights are returned to their owners... we will strike whoever blames us for the failure of the negotiations, because President Yasser Arafat’s patience was greater than Job’s. Arafat has become the Job of the twentieth century, because of what the US and Israel lay on him..."
Al-Faluji, PA Communications Minister, at ‘Ein Al-Hilweh
"The PA had begun to prepare for the outbreak of the current Intifada since the return from the Camp David negotiations, by request of President Yasser Arafat, who predicted the outbreak of the Intifada as a complementary stage to the Palestinian steadfastness in the negotiations, and not as a specific protest against Sharon’s visit to Al-Haram Al-Qudsi [Temple Mount]."
"…The Intifada was no surprise for the Palestinian leadership. The leadership had invested all of its efforts in political and diplomatic channels in order to fix the flaws in the negotiations and the peace process, but to no avail. It encountered Israeli stubbornness and continuous renunciation of the [Palestinian] rights... The PA instructed the political forces and factions to run all matters of the Intifada..."
Al-Faluji, December 2000.(Reported by Raed Lafi at a Gaza Symposium.)
"In light of the information, [after] analyzing the political positions following the Camp David summit, and in accordance with what brother Abu Ammar [Arafat] said, it became clear to the Fatah movement that the next stage necessitates preparation for confrontation, because Prime Minister Barak is not a partner who can respond to our people’s aspirations. Based on these assessments, Fatah was more prepared than the other movements for this confrontation. In order to play the role given to it, the Fatah coordinated its administrative, civilian and sovereign apparatuses, and was not surprised by the outbreak of the current Intifada... The Fatah movement believed that the phenomenon of comprehensive struggle would appear at the final settlement stage..."
Fatah Central Committee member, Sakhr Habash Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), December 7, 2000
H.E. Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General, The United Nations New York,
I would like to update you on the tragic events that have taken place in recent days in Jerusalem and in the West Bank and Gaza.
The events in these areas represent the latest and most severe developments in a wave of violence that has been building over the past few weeks. The attacks began with the throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails in the vicinity of the Netzarim Junction on 13 September. This was followed by the killing of an Israeli soldier by a roadside bomb on 27 September, and the murder of an Israeli police officer by a Palestinian policeman in a joint patrol on 29 September.
The events of this past Friday on the Temple Mount represent a further escalation of the Palestinian violence. Muslim worshippers, out of a desire to violently confront both Israeli police and civilians on the eve of the Jewish New Year, hurled rocks and other objects at Jewish worshippers gathered at the Western Wall below. Israeli police attempted to turn back the protesters through non-violent means, but the mob persisted, attempting to force its way out of the Temple Mount area and through the Mughrabim gate to the Western Wall plaza. At this point, Israeli forces, who had been deployed outside the perimeter of the Mount, were compelled to enter the area to push back the charging mob. The stone-throwing mob continued in its violence for a period of more than four hours.
Regrettably, the wave of Palestinian violence did not stop there. During the last 24 hours alone, there have been over thirty incidents of unprovoked live gunfire directed against Israeli civilians and security forces. One Israeli civilian was shot and killed at close range when dropping his car off at a Palestinian-owned garage in the village of Maskheh.. A soldier was killed, and a civilian moderately wounded, in a shooting near the town of Beit Sahour. Two Israeli policemen were wounded in gunfire from armed Palestinian security forces near Jericho and Palestinian attackers opened fire on a school bus near Shiloh. Meanwhile, the mob violence continues unabated.
Let there be no doubt, we are not faced with peaceful demonstrators. There have been numerous instances of live fire emanating from within protesting crowds, in a fatal phenomenon encountered throughout the PA territories. Let me stress that in all the cases mentioned above, Israeli security personnel returned fire only when absolutely necessary and when faced with an imminent threat to life and limb. Israeli forces exercised all possible restraint in their efforts to restore calm and security, and only took action as a last resort, in order to protect the lives of civilians, police officers and Israeli soldiers, as any government would be obligated to do.
We must stress that the responsibility for this distressing escalation lies squarely with the Palestinian Authority, not only due to its failure to take action to halt these events, but also for its incitement of the population through inflammatory rhetoric and calls to violence. Furthermore, Palestinian Authority policemen and security forces have taken an active role in the events, including the use of live ammunition against Israelis.
Most disturbing for Israel is the wholesale violation of signed agreements regarding the use of weapons by Palestinian policemen and paramilitary groups such as the Tanzim group of Arafats own Fatah faction. The Palestinians have turned these weapons against the same Israeli soldiers with whom they were meant to carry out joint security tasks.
It is regrettable that at such a sensitive time in the Middle East Peace Process, the Palestinians have once again decided to resort to violence for political gain. Experience has repeatedly shown that the Palestinian Authority’s willingness to incite popular violence as a means to elicit concessions in the negotiations, serves only to divert the peace process from its course and to hinder our ability to arrive at a final settlement. We call upon the Palestinian leadership to do their utmost to calm the situation and to create a climate conducive to the advancement of peace negotiations. Specifically, we call upon the Palestinian Authority to act responsibly, and to put an immediate halt to the unrestrained use of gunfire by Palestinian police, to collect the illegal weapons in the hands of the Tanzim, and to distance Palestinian protesters from Israeli positions, as is their obligation under our agreements.
I must reiterate that Israel, for its part, remains committed to achieving a peace settlement with our Palestinian neighbors, even in the face of such violence. We call upon Chairman Arafat to cease the incitement and bloodshed and to return to the negotiating table in earnest. For our part, we will continue the search for peace with the same determination that we use today to confront the violence and restore security.
In closing, I would like to express my sorrow at this tragic loss of life. It is precisely this human suffering that our peace efforts are meant to eliminate. I would be grateful if you would have the text of this letter circulated as a document of the General Assembly, under agenda item 40, and of the Security Council.
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