IDF Spokeperson: Overview of the Violence in the Territories 9 September -9 November 2000 (posted 20.11.200)
First posted in English on 20 November 2000
The ongoing Palestinian violence in the territories, having burst out a
month and a half ago, shows no sign of reaching an end. The conflict is now
estimated to be a protracted one.
In the past six weeks there has been unprecedented violence in the
territories - not a night has passed without shooting incidents at a variety
of flash points in the territories, some turning into full-scale gun
battles. Jewish settlements have been targeted; the Jerusalem neighborhood
of Giloh has been under fire for over a month. To give perspective on the
scope of the violence: in the last seven years until the current outbreak,
there were a total of 793 recorded incidents of fire against IDF and
civilians in the territories; in the last 6 weeks alone there have been over
1,300 incidents of fire on IDF and Israeli civilians. As of November 9, 12
Israeli servicemen and 10 civilians have lost their lives, and 213
servicemen and 71 civilians wounded.
Among the Palestinians the casualties are much higher:
As of the writing of this overview, there has already been one terrorist
attack at Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market and the threat of terrorism has
grown dramatically, after top Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists were
released from Palestinian prisons.
Since the beginning of the disturbances there have been repeated attempts at
a cease-fire. Israel complied with all its obligations after each agreement,
but the Palestinian violence continued unabated.
However, perhaps, the gravest and most significant dimension of the
disturbances is that they show that the Palestinian Authority sees the use
of unbridled violence as a legitimate and effective means of advancing their
objectives. In this way the Palestinians have undermined the basic concept
of the peace process, which was not resorting to violence as a means to
achieve political goals: these should have be achieved through negotiations
at the negotiating table, not through violence and terror.
The disturbances that put the region in turmoil began on 29 September, the
eve of the Jewish New Year. After Friday morning prayers, Palestinians
stoned Jewish worshipers praying at the Western Wall and attacked Israeli
police with rocks and firebombs, compelling the police to forcibly disperse
the crowd. Dozens of Israeli police were injured, seven Palestinians were
killed and scores of others were injured. This incident sparked massive
disturbances throughout the territories, as well as among Moslem Arabs
within Israel, under the slogan of "saving" the Al Aksa mosque (from a
fictitious danger of being destroyed by Israeli government).
The Palestinians claim that the disturbances were triggered by a visit by
Likud leader Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount, on 28 September, which they
viewed as a provocation. However, before this visit there had been a marked
rise in tensions. These tensions had previously manifested themselves in
attacks on Israelis for several days.
Actually, the causes of underlying Palestinian dissatisfaction and
frustration can be traced back over a much longer period of time. Over the
months preceding the disturbances, there was a growing sense of frustration
among the Palestinian public, a sense exacerbated by an extended period of
economic and political stagnation. Particularly disgruntled were the
grassroots members of Yasser Arafat's Fatah organization and a paramilitary
subgroup within the Fatah, known as the Tanzim. These groups felt they were
not receiving adequate treatment from Arafat and the Palestinian Authority.
That is to say, they were not included in the Palestinian security apparatus
and were not given positions within the Palestinian Authority.
Following the Camp David talks, when the Palestinian delegation presented
its uncompromising position on final status issues, the position of the
Palestinian Authority vis-a-vis its public became even more untenable. The
Palestinian people saw neither a final status agreement nor any improvement
in their day-to-day lives. Additionally, idealisation and mythologisation of
the "shahid" figure, the martyr who wins eternal glory by striking the
"Zionist enemy", as reflected in both media and speeches of key politicians
in the PA, helped establish the terrorist attack as an instrument for the
improvement of personal status in the society.
On this backdrop, a Palestinian ambush took place on 27 September against an
IDF patrol at the Netzarim Junction in the Gaza District. An Israeli soldier
was killed in the incident. The next day another ambush was launched against
an IDF patrol, but no one was injured. In fact, throughout the month of
September, there were warnings by the IDF's Southern Command regarding
deterioration in the security cooperation with the Palestinians, especially
at the Netzarim Junction. This location later served as a focal point of
heavy fighting between IDF soldiers and Palestinian gunmen. On 29 September,
a Palestinian policeman on a joint Israeli/Palestinian patrol in Kalkilya
opened fire without provocation and for no particular reason on his Israeli
counterparts, killing an Israeli border policeman.
Following the 29 September disturbances on the Temple Mount, and due to
mounting Palestinian casualties, disturbances quickly spread throughout the
West Bank and Gaza, as well as in Arab towns within Israel (such internal
incidents are handled by the Israel Police). This recent outburst of
violence is the worst the territories have known since the beginning of the
peace process. It represents a blatant and fundamental violation of the Oslo
Agreement, in which the Palestinian Authority undertook to prevent violence
in areas under its control.
Attempts at Peace
Since the outbreak of disturbances, there have been repeated attempts to
reach a cease-fire. To date there were three official cease-fires declared
and agreed on - on top of dozens of statements of understanding between
ranking IDF officers and their Palestinian counterparts. In each case,
Israel implemented its obligations under the agreements, but the
Palestinians continued the violence.
The first agreement was reached on October, 5 in Paris with Prime Minister
Barak, PA Chairman Arafat and US Secretary of State Albright. At the last
moment, Arafat refused to sign the agreement, but gave his oral commitment
to abide by it. Israel fulfilled its part -- withdrew the tanks it deployed,
lifted the closure between Palestinian towns - but the Palestinians
continued the violence.
The second cease-fire agreement was reached at Sharm E-Sheikh on October, 17
under the auspices of US President Clinton, Egyptian President Mubarak and
Jordan's King Abdullah. Here too, Israel complied; the Palestinian continued
The third cease-fire agreement was reached on November, 2 after three IDF
soldiers were killed in clashes with Palestinians between Minister Peres and
Arafat. Again, Israel carried out its part, but when it came time for a
simultaneous declaration on an end to hostilities, Arafat refused to make
the declaration. And the violence continued at almost the same level as
before. Ironically, as Israel was waiting for Arafat to publicly declare the
details of the agreement, a terrorist attack near the Mahane Yehuda Market
in Jerusalem killed two civilians and wounded ten.
Violations by the Palestinians Authority
The Palestinians have violated almost all their undertakings in the various
accords. The fundamental violation is the wanton and unabated use of
violence - which contradicts the main Palestinian undertaking in the peace
process: to negotiate all matters and never to resort to violence.
Another severe occurrence during these disturbances was the rampant use of
automatic weapons by the Palestinians. This includes the use of weapons held
illegally, ones that the Palestinian Authority pledged to collect as part of
their agreements with Israel. In addition, weapons issued to the Palestinian
police by Israel were used in attacks. These weapons were meant to assist in
keeping public order and not to attack Israel. In a number of cases,
Palestinian gunners fired with automatic weapons directly into Jewish
Almost as blatant as the actual violence in undermining the peace agreement
in letter and in spirit is the relentless incitement to violence against
Israel in the Palestinian media. The Palestinian media has made great use of
disinformation to incite its populace to violence. Clear calls to kill Jews
are broadcast on Palestinian radio and television.
One of the most disturbing incidents during the first weeks of the violence
and one that seriously undermines any remaining Palestinian credibility,
were the events at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus.
At the onset of disturbances, Joseph's Tomb, a recognized Jewish holy site
under Israeli control, came under a ferocious shooting attack by the
Palestinians. On October 1, the second day of violence, a border policeman
on duty at the site was shot and wounded. The IDF was unable to rescue him
and he died of his wounds.
On October, 6 Prime Minister Barak, following a recommendation of the IDF,
ordered the temporary evacuation of Joseph's Tomb, leaving it under the
protection and full responsibility of the PA, which pledged to protect it.
The decision to evacuate the Tomb was based on the desire of both sides to
avoid bloodshed and lower the level of violence in the area.
The PA pledged to return the Tomb to its original state after the
evacuation, and after the violence settled down. They also pledged to look
after the site and prevent any vandalism. This pledge was brazenly violated
about two hours after the evacuation, when a Palestinian mob entered the
Tomb compound and began to systematically destroy everything in sight,
including all remnants of the study hall, the furniture, and books that were
left behind. The Palestinian police failed to prevent any of these violent
activities, despite their pledge to guard the Tomb. The following day, the
Palestinians began to rebuild the site - as a mosque.
In addition to Joseph's Tomb, the other Jewish holy site in an area under
full Palestinian control is the Shalom Al Yisrael synagogue in Jericho. On
October, 12the synagogue was set on fire by Palestinians.
The Heavy Toll
The IDF employed maximal restraint in containing the violence. Standing IDF
orders stipulate that the use of fire is called for only when fired upon, or
in life-threatening situations. Furthermore, despite the repeated attacks,
IDF forces remained stationary within their defensive positions.
It must be stressed that, under the agreements, Israeli forces are primarily
located outside of Palestinian populated areas. The Palestinians (civilians
and police) are purposely seeking and engaging Israeli soldiers and border
police who are maintaining defensive positions. This passive approach has
been employed by the IDF with the aim of not escalating violence
The IDF has repeatedly warned parents not to allow their children to
participate in the violence. No child doing his homework at home or studying
in school has been injured. On the other hand, youngsters throwing firebombs
or shooting at IDF soldiers risk being shot at. Parents should exhibit more
responsibility and not let their children join the riots. The Palestinian
leaders should not be inciting the youth and encouraging them to join the
violence. It may also be worth noting that the Palestinian leadership is not
sending their children to the areas of the riots. As always, it is the
poorest, least educated who are most easily incited to join the violence,
and pay the price.
Women and children have also been placed among the rioters, exposing them to
life-threatening situations, in an effort to gain world sympathy and tarnish
Another particularly disturbing tactic is the one being use by the
Palestinian militiamen in Beit Jala. Beit Jala is one of the few Christian
towns near Bethlehem that traditionally has been quiet and its residents
have not been involved in attacks or violence.
Since the outbreak of violence, Beit Jala has been used by the Tanzim to
launch shooting attacks at residents of Jerusalem's Giloh neighborhood. Just
like the PLO did in Lebanon, the Palestinian militia is now trying to drag
peaceful Palestinian residents into the conflict. They shoot from homes of
residents and sometimes from churches. In this way they take advantage of
residents, who suffer when Israel returns fire into the town and foments
hostility toward Israel.
Chronological list of events
Sep 27 - An ambush in Netzarim Junction. IDF patrol caught in Palestinian
fire, one soldier killed.
Sep 29 - The "official" beginning of disturbances. After Friday prayers on
the Temple Mount, Palestinians stoned Jewish worshipers praying at the
Western Wall and attacked Israeli police with rocks and firebombs,
compelling the police to forcibly disperse the crowd.
Oct 2 - Evacuation and Desecration of Joseph's Tomb.
Oct 12 - Lynching of 2 Israelis in Ramallah. Two Israeli reserve soldiers
driving in a car on their way to their base mistakenly turned into a
Palestinian controlled area near the city of Ramallah. The two found
themselves surrounded by a Palestinian mob, were dragged out of their car
and beaten. Palestinian police eventually brought them to a Ramallah police
station. Shortly after, a Palestinian mob took over the police station and
viciously murdered the two reservists, mutilating their bodies. The body of
one soldier was then dragged from the back of a car through the streets of
Oct 19 - Shooting on civilians on an outing. A bus with men women and
children were on a tour in the West Bank. The group stopped at a vantage
point near Nablus and was shot at by Palestinians. It took hours to rescue
the group as the Palestinians kept on firing at the civilians, and could
only be evacuated under cover of darkness. In the incident one Israeli was
killed and 4 were wounded.
Nov 1 -- Serious gun battles in the West Bank, near Bethlehem and Jericho,
killing 3 IDF soldiers. Also widespread shooting on the Gilo neighborhood -
some 16 apartment buildings were hit.
Nov 2 -- Terror attack near the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem.
A car with 10 kilograms of explosive blew up on a side street near the
market. Two Israelis were killed and 11 injured. The terrorists managed to
SUMMARY OF ISRAELI CASUALTIES
IN THE WEST BANK AND GAZA
29 September- 9 November
Killed: Israeli Security Forces 12 Israeli Civilians 10
Wounded: Israeli Security Forces 213 Israeli Civilians 71
ISRAEL CIVILIANS AND SOLDIERS KILLED SINCE THE START OF DISTURBANCES
A border policeman, Joseph Tabaja, on a joint patrol in Kalkilya was shot
A border policeman, Madhat Yousef, was killed at Joseph's Tomb
An IDF soldier, Max Hazan, was killed at the Shdema junction, in the West
An Israeli civilian, Vyacheslav Zaslavsky, was murdered in Meskha in the
The body of a Jewish resident of the territories, Hillel Leiberman, was
found near Nablus
An Israeli civilian, Jean Bechor, was driving when his car was stoned near
Jissr E-Zarka (a village on the way from Tel-Aviv to Haifa) and he was
2 reserve soldiers, Joseph Avrahami and Vadim Nurzich, were lynched in
A Jewish resident of the territories, Rabbi Benjamin Herling, was killed
when Palestinian fired on a group of Jewish civilians on an outing in the
West Bank near Nablus
The body of an Israeli civilian, Marik Gavrielov, was found in his burned
car near Bitunia, apparently lynched by a mob
The body of an Israeli, Amos Machluf, was found near the village of Beit
Jala, near Jerusalem
An Israeli civilian, Aish-Kodesh Gilmore, working as a guard at the National
Insurance office in east Jerusalem was shot and killed; another guard was
3 IDF servicemen, Maj. (Res.) Amir Zohar, Lt. David-Chen Cohen and Sgt.
Shlomo Adishina were killed in 2 separate shooting incidents in the West
Two Israelis, Ayelet-Hashahar Levy (daughter of National Religious Party
leader Yitzhak Levy) and Hanan Levy, were killed and 11 wounded in a terror
attack at Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda's market
An Israeli woman, Noah Dahan, was shot and killed while driving to work at
the Rafiah (Rafah) border checkpoint in the Gaza Strip.